Unevolved: Meet The Prominent Conservatives That Haven’t Budged On Immigration

Since the election, top Republicans have implored their own party to “evolve” on comprehensive immigration reform in order to finally reflect the public consensus.

A number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have embraced a Senate framework with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Parts of the Senate proposal appeal to conservative calls for increased border security, employment enforcement, and visa tracking (enough to even temporarily convince Rush Limbaugh). However, a string of groups that helped defeat immigration reform in 2007 are already ready and eager to derail any bipartisan talks.

Echoing the 47 percent rhetoric that plagued Mitt Romney during the election, immigration opponents have panned the Senate framework for a tough road to legalization as “amnesty” or a “pointless” attempt to attract Latinos to the Republican party.

Many of these groups played a role in defeating the last attempt at immigration reform in 2007. Numbers USA, a group founded by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, slammed the Senate discussions as “amnesty 2.0” and pledged to defeat it, while another of Tanton’s groups, FAIR, directed membership to tell Congress “how ridiculous it is.”


The National Review rejected immigration reform as “pointless” in a staff editorial, where they claimed Hispanics would never be welcomed in the Republican party:

While many are in business for themselves, they express hostile attitudes toward free enterprise in polls. They are disproportionately low-income and disproportionately likely to receive some form of government support. More than half of Hispanic births are out of wedlock. Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies. Low-income households headed by single mothers and dependent upon some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with Paul Ryan and Pat Toomey. Given the growing size of the Hispanic vote, it would help Republicans significantly to lose it by smaller margins than they have recently. But the idea that an amnesty is going to put Latinos squarely in the GOP tent is a fantasy.

Erick Erickson opposes it for somewhat different reasons, calling it a plan “based on faith in government, not free enterprise or the American people.” According to Erickson, this is a debate “Democrats can use to get the GOP to fight itself,” ignoring that even a majority of Republicans embrace a pathway to citizenship.

Some Republican lawmakers have rejected reform, as well. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) “naive” and “nuts” to allow a path for legalization, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took a predictably similar hard line. As the House begins to craft its own plan, longtime reform opponents Lamar Smith (R-TX), the former House Judiciary Chair and Lou Barletta (R-PA) claimed it amounted to “amnesty.”

While parts of the Republican party remain unchanged on the issue, the national and political momentum clearly backs a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.