Republicans have historically been a tough sell on immigration reform, unless you're talking about the kind that builds a ginormous fence along the border. Yet we've seen a noticeable shift in the last couple of days. Some Republican senators joined with their peers across the aisle to offer a proposal for sweeping reform, including a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.
Washington's own Doc Hastings, the conservative Congressmember from Central Washington, issued a statement that seems to indicate he might support the effort.
Sure it was vague. "Enacting long overdue changes to our immigration system is necessary to preserve our security, economy, and way of life," Hastings said, according to the Yakima Herald. And aside from beefing up enforcement, Hastings might just be talking about establishing a guest worker program--a favorite concept in the agricultural heartlands that comprise much of his district -and not about a path to citizenship, something Republicans often dismiss as a "blanket amnesty."
Still, he didn't automatically dismiss the overarching reform on the table, the broad themes of which President Barack Obama threw his weight behind yesterday.
Rich Stolz, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica, says that his group helped organize meetings in December between the state's Republican Congressional delegation and agricultural and business leaders supporting immigration reform. The GOP officials are "signaling an openness" to reform efforts, he says. Stolz also points to a recent CNN interview with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers , the Spokane Republican, who said that the GOP needed to become "more modern," in part by supporting immigration reform.
Now maybe Republicans have just thought through the issues and realized that an estimated 11 million immigrants, many of whom have lived here for years and have spouses and children who are U.S. citizens, aren't just going to "self-deport," in the infamous words of Mitt Romney. Or maybe Romney's crushing defeat in the presidential election, thanks in large part to the Latino vote, might have a little something to do with the GOP's change of heart.
Sen. John McCain, one of the Republicans to sign on to the bipartisan reform proposal, is warning members of his party that if they continue to rebuff immigration reform efforts, GOP strongholds like his state, Arizona, may well fall into the hands of Democrats.
McCain might want to have a chat with, say, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, whose previous huffing and puffing on the issue has included support for legislation that would "prevent illegal aliens from accessing the same benefits and services that tax-paying Americans enjoy. "
Then again, Stolz says that the former King County sheriff has to do some rethinking anyway. Last year, the 8th Congressional district that Reichert represents was redrawn, giving it agricultural lands east of the mountains. "His constituency will be putting more pressure on him" to support reform, Stolz muses, and already Reichert has indicated he's willing to talk.