On one side is the Republican base, which tends to be older, whiter and more conservative than the rest of the nation. This is the side that sees red everytime immigration reform is mentioned. To these Republicans, the Senate bill was nothing more than “amnesty,” a giveaway to undeserving “illegals,” the dehumanizing term that is frequently employed by the hard right.
On the other side sit the pragmatists, who see where the demographic trends are leading. As the nation’s Hispanic population grows in the coming decades, these Republicans fear being stuck in a trap, dismissed by Latinos and others as nothing more than a “white man’s party.”
The pragmatic side won out in the Senate, where a bipartisan group of senators wrestled over the issue for several months.
However, pragmatism’s prospects look bleak in the U.S. House, where Republicans hold a majority and where electoral prospects are measured in two-year cycles and not over decades. Also, as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, there are only 38 House districts held by Republicans where Hispanics amount to at least one-fifth of the population. That’s 38 out of 234 Republican-held seats.
The more immediate danger for Republicans in the House is supporting the Senate’s version of the bill and losing a more conservative candidate in the 2014 primaries.