February 21, 2013

This afternoon, Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told NPR that he wouldn’t support an immigration bill containing a path to citizenship:

“People have a pathway to citizenship right now: It’s to abide by the immigration laws, and if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship,” Goodlatte said. “But simply someone who broke the law, came here, [to] say, ‘I’ll give you citizenship now,’ that I don’t think is going to happen.”

Ignoring, for now, the fact that the administration’s proposal (to which Goodlatte is presumably referring to) does not just give unauthorized immigrants citizenship — at the earliest, they’d have to wait eight years — it’s worth noting that not even supporting immigration reform will be enough to fix the GOP’s Latino’s problem.

The new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that 63 percent of Hispanics now approve of Obama’s handling of immigration, a near reversal from November 2011, which 28 percent approved and 59 percent disapproved. While some of this is the product of Obama’s reelection — winning tends to boosts your standing with people — my guess is that a substantial amount of the change has to do with the current conversation over immigration reform, and more importantly, the fair odds for a comprehensive bill.

It seems unlikely, then, that a GOP embrace of comprehensive immigration reform will be enough. Given the huge Democratic lean of Latino voters and their general enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda, the most likely political outcome of a comprehensive bill is higher approval for Obama, and a stronger bond between Latinos and the Democratic Party. At most, Republicans might stem the bleeding with Hispanics.

Repairing the relationship is a much larger project. It will require far more than support for a more sensible immigration regime, because Latinos disagree with Republicans on a range of policy priorities, and even when it comes to basic conceptions of the proper role of government.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at *The American Prospect*, where he writes a *blog*.