Comprehensive immigration reform will most likely pass in Congress this year due to the political reality facing the GOP in presidential politics.
America is quickly becoming a browner nation, and GOP national leadership knows that it can never win a presidency again by alienating people of color, save gerrymandering and voter suppression on steroids.
Given that Latinos are the largest immigrant demographic nationwide, Republicans are casting their bets that championing immigration reform will make them appear less xenophobic. Thus, they hope to win substantially more brown votes in 2016. There are few assumptions, however, in this political calculation.
Such a calculation assumes that this one issue will trump other concerns that many Latinos have with the GOP’s platform on education funding, gun (non)control and reproductive rights. Latinos are far from a monolithic in their voting concerns nor are they one issue voters.
The immigration reform overture also assumes that Latinos will ignore racist and xenophobic rhetoric that has come overtly but more often subtly from the GOP, which targets other minorities. I’m not sure how many Latinos will buy that there has been fundamental change in a party whose national leadership was mum while making boogeymen out of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians during the whole anti-sharia bill movement that has swept across America in the past two years.
The GOP needs a complete tone recalibration from its posture since 9/11 if it hopes to slowly convince people of color that they are indeed an inclusive party. Having a Latino face here and a Black face there in the party doesn’t equal inclusion for the masses. This means Republicans should have zero tolerance for birtherism, anti-Muslim fear-mongering and code language which alienates Black Americans if they indeed wish to look more inclusive, a la New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The tone around comprehensive immigration reform thus far has been civil. Will the GOP continue this for the next three years to win back Latinos and other people of color at the polls is the real question.