Is immigration reform dead in this Congress, as many have suggested? Not according to GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip, who told Bob Schieffer the following on Face the Nation yesterday:
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you just quickly, and we’re just about out of time, is immigration reform dead for this year?
MCCARTHY: No. Immigration reform is going to happen. But it’s going to happen in a step-by-step method. And I will tell you the president came out and supported that the other day…We have a broken process, the immigration system, it is broken, it needs to be fixed…We need to fix this system.
The system is broken and needs to be fixed? You don’t say! How about it, then?
I don’t place much stock in the idea that reform is going to happen this year, but what continues to be striking about the immigration debate is that Republican leaders — and GOP lawmakers, too — agree the status quo is untenable. Back in July, John Boehner was asked whether House Republicans would do anything about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. He said: “A vast majority of our members do believe that we have to wrestle with this problem.”
So why does it remain unclear whether Republicans will vote on anything this year? The unfortunate truth of the matter is that polls also show that the public doesn’t view the issue with much urgency — and that’s particularly true among Republican voters.
Case in point: The new Public Religion Research Institute poll. It finds a majority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans — support a path to citizenship. But it also finds that since March of 2013, there has been no significant shift in Americans’ opinions about how high a priority immigration reform should be for Obama and Congress. In March, 37 percent reported that immigration policy should be an immediate priority. Now only 41 percent say the same.
Meanwhile, the new poll also finds that Republicans see less urgency in addressing immigration reform than Democrats and independents do:
Republicans are more likely to say immigration should be addressed during the next couple of years (48 percent) than to say it should be dealt with immediately (37 percent).
There you have it. Add to that the fact that only a handful of vulnerable House Republicans reside in districts with enough Latinos to make a difference to the electoral outcome, and there is apparently no clear incentive for them to act this year, particularly with 2014 and primary season looming.
Of course, one reason for Republicans to act to solve the immigration problem right now is that GOP leaders themselves have repeatedly said they see the current situation as untenable. Plainly, that’s not a good enough reason, though.