With 19 days left on the congressional calendar, one House Republican is lashing out at his own party’s inability to come together on an immigration reform bill. In a strongly worded statement released on Friday, Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) criticized the House Republican leadership for “punting” immigration reform until the 2014 election year.
“It’s extremely frustrating and very disappointing to hear reports that the House does not plan on voting on immigration reform legislation this year,” Heck wrote. “There are bills that have passed Committee that could be brought to the floor next week, but the House Republican leadership may punt the issue until 2014 for political reasons.”
While most House Republicans don’t need Latino support to win local elections, Heck must rely on minority constituents for his 2014 reelection. Desperately. He represents a district that is 16 percent Latino and 12 percent Asian-American, and local leaders of these communities have pushed him hard on immigration reform. At least 76 percent of his constituents believe that it’s important to fix the immigration system this year, and 61 percent of voters support the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill. A July 2013 poll shows that 40 percent of his constituents, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, would be less likely to support him if he votes against immigration reform.
Looking forward to future elections, the Republican Party will need Latino support for the 2016 election. Latinos made up 11 percent, or 24 million, of the voter electorate in 2012, and are the fastest-growing voting bloc ( 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month). Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) won just 27 percent of Latino voters, and without passing immigration reform which is a top priority for Latino voters, that support would likely drop.
But even if House Republicans do churn out an immigration bill before his reelection efforts begin, Heck’s constituents may remember that he has a mixed record on supporting immigration reform efforts. He supports a piecemeal approach to immigration reform with a strong emphasis on border security, but rejects the Senate immigration bill. He supports a pathway to earned citizenship, but also backed an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), which would give federal immigration agents wider discretion to deport undocumented youths who were granted given temporary legal presence through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The warning shot over Heck’s 2014 reelection came in the form of ads by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) who cross-targeted his district with Spanish-language for “betraying” the Latino community. But as Heck should fear, the consequence of delaying on reform could likely result in his constituents “betraying” their votes for him.