Faced with growing unpopularity, Republicans have the option to take action on the long-debated issue of immigration reform – but how they will choose to proceed still remains unclear.
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With the question of immigration still lingering in the air after nearly a decade of deliberation (a discussion whose sense of urgency has waxed and waned over this period of time), Speaker John Boehner is continuing his pursuit of a set of “immigration principles” aimed at addressing the issue and bringing a sense of resolution by way of policy reform. President Obama is expected to highlight immigration in tonight’s State of the Union address after having already urged the House to join the Senate in taking action on legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented residents.
For his part, Boehner has begun to move his strategy forward by adding Rebecca Talentt to his staff in December. Talentt is considered a proponent of legalization and has served as the Director of Immigration Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center as well as an aide for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is himself an advocate of immigration reform.
But the Speaker of the House is encountering resistance from many in his own party. A number of legislators met in Sen. Jeff Sessions’s (R-AL) office to discuss ways of halting reform efforts. Both sides of this debate within the party seem to be aware of the GOP’s dwindling support among voters, but each has its own rationale as to how to reclaim support. Opponents of reform cite a disenchantment amongst voters with the party’s direction as of late, saying that a reaffirmation of the party’s support of the rule of law would reinvigorate the voting base.
Supporters of reform, meanwhile, point to public frustration over failed reform efforts over the past several years, despite the fact that the issue has remained central to political discourse in recent years. In addition, they reference the GOP’s dismally low level of support from Hispanic voters, 70 percent of which voted for Obama in the most recent presidential election.
Though he has not delivered on any promise of reform, it appears that Obama is preparing to make this a legislative priority for 2014. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that passage of a reform law this year would be a “huge accomplishment.”
The question here is, will the GOP be able to shed its image of being the “Party of No” and focus its efforts on crafting a balanced bill that will help integrate people that live peripherally among us, or will they continue to kick the can down the road?
Alberto González is the Associate Editor of Aleteia’s English edition. His prior endeavors have included working in political campaigns and in the United States Senate. He also maintains an active schedule as a liturgical vocalist and organist.
A native of California, Alberto graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 with a B.A. in Music and Political Science. He currently lives in the greater Washington, D.C. area.