by Moses Apsan, Esq.
Now that the healthcare debate is over, the immigration reform debate will soon predominate American politics. How the Republican Party handles immigration reform will have a significant effect on the viability of the Republican Party in the future. Republicans historically been divided on the issue of immigration, especially illegal immigration. Some Republicans support a platform that permits foreign workers and easing citizenship guidelines while others within the Republican Party support stricter immigration laws. In 2006, the Senate passed with support of Republican President George Bush comprehensive immigration reform that would have allowed millions of illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens. The House, taking an enforcement-first approach, turned down the opportunity to go along with the Senate, thereby creating insurmountable problems for the party in the 2008 election.
This fracture in the Republican Party may eventually prevent the two groups to coexist and maintain the importance of the Republican in the future. In the fall of 2008, in part due to it’s position on immigration reform, the GOP lost control of Congress and this week the Party was defeated in it’s first big battle with the Democrats; health care reform.
The division between the pro-immigrants and anti-immigrant republicans is wide. On one side there are those interested in the supply of cheap labor and support open borders and increased immigration quotas. The other half, fears the lawlessness of the illegal immigrants sneaking into our country, benefiting from our resources and taking away the jobs that American need in difficult economic times.
This is not a new divide, a new fight or a new issue; it is a struggle that has been going on for more that 40 years. Ideological differences rooted in economic and cultural roots make it difficult for these two camps to come together and unite as one party.
George Bush recognized the problem and attempted to re-connect the party. Realizing the potential problems in alienating the growing immigrant community, he declared himself a "new kind of Republican,” He made numerous attempts to reach out to these new Americans. His approach was not successful when even after a tremendous effort he was unable to get passage of a Comprehensive Immigrating Reform through the House. Devout anti immigrant representatives, such as Tom Trancido managed to bully the House into denying immigration reform thereby projecting the image that the Republican Party is not much more that a powerful anti-immigrant, anti- family unity party. By doing so, it confirmed through the media that most Republicans, notwithstanding Bush, continue to be anti-immigrant.
Republicans have to make a stand today. Instead of further destroying the party’s image and chances of success in 2012, they should embrace the concept of comprehensive immigration reform. In this way, the party can re-unite and ready themselves for not only the midyear election in November, but also the ultimate battle in 2008. If the republican party does not come together in support of immigration reform, in 2012 they may find them selves relegated to a second tier party and never again reach the pinnacle once held by Ronald Reagan, who was in a large part responsible for the Amnesty law of 1986. In his words “I . . . have thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land . . . [A]nd the price of admission was very simple . . . Any place in the world and any person from these places; any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here . . . I believe that God in shedding his grace on this country has always in this divine scheme of things kept an eye on our land and guided it as a promised land for these people."