Republicans Admit Racism Is Big Obstacle To Passing Immigration Reform


House Republicans have used a variety of excuses — citing Obamacare, sequestration, Syria, or the drug war — to explain their reasons for not passing a comprehensive immigration bill. But a Republican congressman cited one reason for the stalemate the GOP won’t admit publicly. The Southern congressman told BuzzFeed it is a matter of race.

“Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the lawmaker, who remained anonymous. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that race and demagoguery have always been a factor when it’s come to U.S. immigration policy, and it certainly is one now. “There’s nothing new going on today that’s gone on before,” Graham said. “This isn’t the first time that there’s been some ugliness around the issue of immigration.”

Ever since President Obama’s second-term push to pass immigration reform, the anti-reform caucus has used coded language and even racial insults to make a case against a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The GOP’s attempt to appear as a more welcoming party is still undermined by its nativists. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has spoken about young immigrants being “drug mules” with “cantaloupe-sized caves,” as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach continues the drum-beat for self-deportation. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) made a case against multiculturalism, saying, “there’s only one race here, it’s the American race.”

Even generally pro-reform Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), have used racial epithets for Hispanics to make a case for immigration action. This hateful debate has splintered the Republican party, enough to drive some away entirely.

The opposition puts Republicans at odds with Americans’ overwhelming support for immigration reform and a path to citizenship.