July 30, 2013
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The fate of comprehensive immigration reform is still, somewhat, in the air. House Speaker John Boehner is adamant that he won’t introduce a bill without the support of a majority of House Republicans, which is a high bar to clear: Many, if not most, members of the GOP caucus are either skeptical of immigration reform on the merits — they view it as tantamount to “amnesty” — or aren’t convinced of its political benefits. This, despite growing evidence that immigration reform is necessary if Republicans want to make gains with Latino voters; it’s a way to show the party’s commitment to substantive policies that help Latino voters. Without reform, immigration remains on the table as the issue that defines Latino political identity, which places the GOP at a distinct disadvantage to the Democratic Party.

It’s why the fundraising core of the Republican Party remains committed to passing the bill. They correctly see immigration as an issue that needs to be off the agenda if Republicans are ever going to make inroads with Latinos and other immigrants, like Asian Americans (who also trend Democratic). Indeed, as the New York Times reports, more than 100 “big name” GOP donors have signed a letter urging House Republicans to support an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws:

The letter, which calls for “legal status” for the 11 million immigrants here illegally, begins with a simple appeal: “We write to urge you to take action to fix our broken immigration system.”

The effort was organized by Carlos Gutierrez, who was secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush and was a founder of a “super PAC,” Republicans for Immigration Reform. The letter is the beginning of a campaign to lobby Republican lawmakers in favor of a broad immigration bill as they return to their districts for the August break.

The problem with this letter — and other, similar efforts — is that it doesn’t break the dynamic which has pushed congressional Republicans to oppose reform. Namely, that the bulk of Republicans are supported by voters who are absolutely opposed to any immigration compromise. And while donors can threaten to withdraw cash support, it doesn’t mean much for those members who enjoy safe seats in heavily gerrymandered districts.

House Republicans have nothing to fear. Absent a huge public backlash, they’re not in risk of losing their seats or their majority, and so they see no reason to act. Unless Boehner decides to hold a vote without support from a majority of Republicans — and thus pass the bill with Democratic votes — the most likely outcome for comprehensive immigration reform is that it dies, killed by GOP intransigence.