Republican operative Rob Jesmer argues that Republicans should pass “immigration reform” now. It won’t depress Republican turnout in 2014, and it will help the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.
Regarding 2014, Jesmer says, “The idea that someone who is sitting at home mad at the president about Obamacare is going to wake up in October and say, ‘I’m really mad that Republicans voted to solve the immigration mess, so I’m not going to vote’ — I just find that to be ridiculous.” Well, sure, that would be ridiculous, since somebody who thought about the immigration bill that way would not be mad about it. But I don’t find it at all ridiculous that someone who generally opposes Obama might be so appalled by a Republican vote for an immigration bill that he sits out the election. I have no idea whether this effect would be large, but Jesmer provides no reason to think it would not.
The article in which Jesmer is quoted simply assumes that passing a bill would help Republicans in 2016. I don’t find that claim ridiculous, but it does seem to me implausible. If the bill passes this year, it will pass under a Democratic president and with more Democratic than Republican support. Why would a Hispanic voter who finds this issue important be moved to choose the Republicans after watching that? And why wouldn’t Democrats in 2016 still be able to use the citizenship issue (or other features of the bill) to portray Republicans as anti-Hispanic? And shouldn’t we have seen some evidence that “immigration reform” helped Republicans among Hispanics after the 1980s amnesty, or after Republicans nominated its chief Senate sponsor in 2008?
Finally, does the content of reform matter to Jesmer’s political case? If what Republicans need to do to court Hispanic voters is to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, must they also vastly increase the number of low-skilled legal immigrants we take in this year? What’s the argument for that?