(Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
House Republicans have been debating whether they should pass immigration reform this year or wait until later. Either choice contains benefits and risks. Here are the pros and cons of delaying immigration reform.
Obama may not enforce it anyway.
If Republicans pass immigration reform, there is no guarantee that President Barack Obama will implement that law as it is written. This is the reason Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) says his caucus is considering delay, and it is not without merit.
Obama has already shown that he will deal with the immigration issue however he wants, regardless of the will of Congress. In 2012, he implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program was an executive action version of the Dream Act, which failed to pass in Congress. In other words, Congress debated the Dream Act, voted on the Dream Act, and rejected the Dream Act, but Obama implemented it anyway.
Actions like that, and other similar actions that Republicans say are an abuse of executive power, make them deeply concerned that any bill they pass with not be faithfully implemented.
(Note: During the George W. Bush administration, the partisan positions on executive power were flipped. Republicans generally defended executive power while Democrats accused the president of abusing executive power.)
Republicans could win the Senate.
Another advantage to waiting is that Republicans have a chance of taking control of the Senate in 2014. If they are able to take control of the Senate, GOP strategists must be saying behind the scenes, they should be able to craft immigration reform more to their liking in 2015.
It hurts outreach to Latinos.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, often explains to his fellow Republicans that many Latinos can be mobilized to vote Republican, but only if they address the immigration issue. Latinos will not listen to Republicans, even on the issues where they are more conservative, if Republicans fail to fix the broken immigration system.
Immigration is "not the most important issue for Latinos, but it's a gateway issue. If we don't get this issue right, they're just not going to listen to us," Aguilar told Republicans.
Latinos are the fastest growing of any large race or ethnic group in the United States. Plus, they comprise a large portion of the population in the four states with the highest number of Electoral College votes (California, Florida, New York and Texas), and the swing states of Colorado, Florida and Virginia.
Looking ahead, the Republican Party will not be able to become the majority party in the United States without successfully mobilizing a sizable portion of the Latino vote into its ranks, and it will not be able to mobilize Latinos without passing immigration reform.
There is no guarantee that waiting will produce a better bill, or even a bill.
Waiting to get a bill that Republicans will like better contains dangers as well. Suppose Republicans do take control of the Senate this year. They could craft a reform bill more consistent with Republican principles. A majority of the Senate would then support that bill. But with the Senate's filibuster rules Republicans would still need some Democrats for the 60-vote threshold, and they would still need a bill that would be signed by Obama.
What about waiting until 2016 and hoping for a Republican president? It is too early to tell whether 2016 will be a good year for Republicans. Plus, with the ebb and flow of American politics, Republicans may not even control the House after 2016. The only guarantee of getting immigration reform with significant Republican input is to pass immigration reform this year.