by Clarence Page
Immigration ironically has become the sort of wedge issue for Republicans that Republicans used to inflict on Democrats.
Back when liberal Democrats dominated Washington in the 1960s, Republicans like Richard M. Nixon divided their opposition with issues like racial quotas, welfare reform and "crime in the streets." Their success showed up in the "Reagan Democrats," among others who helped the
But six years ago we saw President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, among other Republicans, abandon their push for comprehensive immigration reform against stiff opposition from their party's right wing. To the right, Bush' "pathway to citizenship" looked like Ronald Reagan's amnesty from the 1980s, which led to today's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It also led to a lot of demagogic rhetoric about "illegals," border fences and self-deportation in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries that led to nominee Mitt Romney's defeat, according to the post-election "autopsy" report ordered by party leaders.
"If Hispanic Americans perceive that a
Romney won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared to President Bush's modern-day record of 44 percent in 2004, which also happened to be the only presidential election in the last six in which the Republican nominee won the popular vote, the report noted.
As former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, now a tea party movement leader, was quoted as saying in the report, "You can't call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you."
Suddenly comprehensive immigration reform came back to life as Republican leaders sounded ready to try everything short of putting on sombreros and singing "La Bamba" to court the Hispanic vote.
But as a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" brought a compromise bill to the
Republicans lawmakers found themselves on the horns of a demographic dilemma: Should they support the bill and risk challenges from even farther right in the next primaries? Or should they oppose the bill and risk the
A "border surge" amendment negotiated by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota would spend more than
But House Republicans already were making noise about how security wasn't strong enough on the borders to please them, much to the frustration of such prominent conservative voices as the
Opponents were not sufficiently impressed with the Congressional Budget Office assessment that the immigration overhaul would reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars -- or with the recent Gallup Poll that found 87 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship, a proposal at the heart of the
The wedge issue of immigration has opened a wider divide in the
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"Immigration Wedge Issue Splits GOP"