Marchant represents Dallas, Texas, where there are estimated to be thousands of undocumented people residing. His district is 24 percent Hispanic. Yet, he was quite straightforward when explaining that these numbers worked against him, and informed his opposition to reform:
“It’s hard to argue with the polling they’ve been getting from the national level,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, referring to signs of serious problems for Republican presidential candidates if immigration laws aren’t rewritten. “I just don’t experience it locally.”
The proposed immigration overhaul “is very unpopular in my district,” said Marchant, who represents suburbs west of Dallas. “The Republican primary voters, they’re being pretty vocal with me on this subject.” Besides, he said, “if you give the legal right to vote to 10 Hispanics in my district, seven to eight of them are going to vote Democrat.”
Marchant’s website explains that the Congressman “is strongly opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens because amnesty rewards those who choose to break our nation’s laws, and only serves to encourage and incentivize the flood of illegal immigration plaguing our nation today.” But his comments make it clear that he isn’t just in it for the morality play.
Of course, Marchant is not alone; the article also references several other members of Congress who oppose reform for self-serving reasons. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said that getting to a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform “can cause you a big problem in your primary” because it requires getting “a deal with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president.” Meanwhile, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) said flat-out, “Every member in the House is looking at the immigration debate through a prism of what’s of concern in their district.”
Of the 232 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, only 40 Congressmen represent districts with a Hispanic population at or larger than 20 percent, and only 16 have districts that are more than a third Hispanic. “In all,” Nate Silver writes, “84 percent of House Republicans represent districts that are 20 percent or less Hispanic.” This gives little electoral bargaining power to the communities that would be most affected by a change in immigration policy.
On Tuesday, National Journal reported that Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) was similarly worried about the political repercussions of a pathway to citizenship. In a closed-door meeting with Republicans, Burgess apparently joked about the “11 million undocumented Democrats” who could get to vote if a pathway were enacted.