EDITORIAL: The immigration trap

Republicans should think twice before adopting another amnesty

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The Republican National Committee’s postelection “autopsy” report issued Monday suggests that comprehensive immigration reform could improve the party’s sagging fortunes with Hispanic voters.

Readers of the conclusions of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” are looking for reasons why Republican presidential candidates lost the past two elections. The pathologists observe that George W. Bush, who championed comprehensive immigration reform, “got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote [in 2004], a modern-day record for a Republican presidential candidate.” Some exit polling from 2004 suggests that figure may be overstated, but the Democratic nominee nevertheless won a solid majority.

Over the past four decades, the Democratic nominee has never won less than 56 percent of the Hispanic vote. Even the 2008 nominee, John McCain, the most prominent Republican immigration-reform advocate, won only 31 percent, just 4 percentage points more than Mitt Romney, who took a much tougher line on immigration, garnered last year.

There’s no clear connection between the party platform on immigration and the election results. “You can support immigration reform for moral reasons, for philosophical reasons or for economic reasons,” says Republican strategist Mike McKenna. “But if you are a Republican and support it for political reasons, you are an idiot who cannot read or understand survey data.”

An electorate growing ever more dominated by minorities is the demographic reality, and Republicans must adapt. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should support putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and eventually onto the voter rolls. If patterns hold, most of the immigrants would vote Democratic anyway, digging deeper the hole Republicans are trying to climb out of.

The GOP pathologists’ report offers alternatives. “If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity,” say the pathologists, who offer 15 recommendations to increase Hispanic support. Those range from hiring Hispanic communications directors and political directors “for key states and communities across the country” to promoting “positive policy proposals to Hispanic communities that unite voters, such as school choice.” The party could also make greater use of Hispanic elected Republican officials at all levels as surrogates and spokesmen.

They’re all sound suggestions. As for comprehensive immigration reform, the party would best follow the lead of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and five other Republican senators, who on Tuesday urged “a step-by-step approach [rather] than trying to deal with these complex and emotional issues in one massive piece of legislation.”

These senators are concerned that the Senate will return from the Easter recess ready to force through the overstuffed immigration bill concocted behind closed doors by the “gang of eight.” Obamacare taught us the folly of passing a bill to learn what’s in it. This is doubly true for immigration.

Republicans must hold fast against the siren song of “compromise” that tries to sell amnesty as the ticket to electoral success. If it were, Senate Democrats would be the last to propose it.

The Washington Times

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