In at least three recent polls, about two-thirds of Republican primary voters support immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship so long as it provides stringent border security provisions, according to analysis by a Republican strategist this week. This is exactly the structure of the Senate bill passed in June. That bill includes a pathway to citizenship 13 years after the border has been secured. House Republicans have said that they will not take up that bill.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Republican strategist Whit Ayres points out that when polls described fleshed out immigration reform proposals, Republicans tend to be supportive. It is only when surveys ask simplistic and misleading questions such as whether they support citizenship generally that Republicans disapprove of reform. Ayres adds, “Some Republicans’ views have softened as they have gotten to know families that contain undocumented immigrants whom they respect for their hard work and devotion to family.”
Those Republicans include college-educated women and suburban moderates. White college-educated women especially may be the key to passing immigration reform because they do not want to associate with politicians who espouse racist, intolerant views. 2012 exit polls found that only about half of all college-educated women voted for Romney. As the Republican party ages out, House Republicans would likely do better to adopt a more tolerant view towards this demographic.
Other voices are urging Republicans to compromise. Only last week, Republican donors, businesses, former Republican staffers, and at least 26,000 law enforcement officials wrote letters of support for immigration reform that provides a legalization pathway for all undocumented immigrants.
But perpetuating the disconnect between House members and their constituents, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) indicated on Sunday that the House will not take up the Senate immigration bill. The Senate bill not only garnered the support of 14 Senate Republicans, but has the support of a majority of Americans. There has been no clear indication that a House bill will include a legalization pathway for anyone other than a small subset of undocumented immigrants.