(L to R) Lorena Ramirez, of Arlington, Virginia, holds up an American flag as she cheers with her friend Lilia Beiec during a rally in support of immigration reform, in Washington, on October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty

Immigration reform at a crossroads

In theory, House Republicans decided to collectively link arms and take a big risk on immigration reform. GOP lawmakers realized popular legislation had already passed the Senate and enjoyed broad public support, but Republicans quietly came to the conclusion that they could kill the bill and pay no political price.
There was no shortage of strategists who argued otherwise. If the only thing standing between the United States and comprehensive immigration reform was a net Democratic gain of 17 House seats, why would Republicans help create the Dems’ mobilization strategy?
Because the GOP assumed reform proponents would likely grow discouraged and disengage – and there’s reason to believe Republican assumptions were right. The New York Times had an interesting piece yesterday out of Aurora, Colorado.
As the weather warms, Lizeth Chacon is anticipating a new season of registering Latino voters – yet dreading experiences like one late last year, when she came upon a skate park full of older teenagers.
“I thought, ‘The perfect age! They’re turning 18,’ ” said Ms. Chacon, just 26 herself, born in Mexico and now the lead organizer at Rights for All People, a local immigrant organizing group. But among the roughly 50 people she approached in this increasingly diverse city east of Denver, “not a single person” was interested in her pitch, including those already old enough to vote: “They were like, ‘Why? Why would I bother to vote?’”
Across the country, immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats’ advantage nationally, and in states like Colorado with significant Latino populations.
Sometimes, what Americans don’t like about politics is encouraged by them not liking it. In this case, reform proponents are frustrated by a Republican-led House that won’t even allow a vote on immigration reform, so these same proponents are prepared to stay home – effectively rewarding those who betrayed their hopes.
Looking ahead, the next question is what Democrats intend to do about it.
The Times piece added that President Obama is in a “bind”: if he uses executive-branch authority to defer action and suspend more deportations, the White House would “mend relations with Latinos and perhaps motivate more of them to vote,” but in the process he’d also ruin any chance of congressional Republicans passing a bill.
Of course, this doesn’t sound like much of a “bind” at all. As the president no doubt realizes by now, GOP lawmakers will not pass a reform measure, at least not a bipartisan bill that Obama would like to sign. If the only thing holding the president back is hopes for Republican cooperation, it’s safe to say the GOP has already made it explicitly clear that he need not wait for them.
As for electoral considerations, if frustrated pro-reform voters intend to stay home on Election Day, Republicans will be rewarded for their refusal to govern and they’ll gain seats in November. But the GOP must also keep in mind that the victory will be temporary – they’ll have pushed Latino voters, among others, even further away going into the 2016 cycle.