Opinion

Republicans ignore immigration reform at their own peril

Will it really be a year of action from all of us?

In this week’s official address to the American people, President Barack Obama declared that “restoring the idea of opportunity for all requires a year of action from all of us.” While it is unlikely that “all” of Washington will respond to the president’s call to action, it’s a fact that voters will reward the party that does respond. For this reason, both parties should eagerly try to respond to the president’s call to action. However, it is the Republican Party that stands to gain the most by following President Obama’s advice. One of the main issues that President Obama is referring to is immigration reform, a topic that has always sparked intense partisan debate. A year of action would do wonders to help Republicans accomplish their goal of appealing to a broader base and could translate into victory in the midterm elections, which makes Speaker of the House John Boehner’s reluctance to peruse immigration reform seem counterproductive to his party’s goals.

The fact of the matter is that politicians on both sides of the aisle have broken their silence and admitted that it is time to reform our immigration system. Boehner himself expressed optimism about immigration reform earlier this year. However, a week after expressing optimism about immigration reform, Boehner issued a statement changing his position, expressing doubt that an immigration bill would pass in 2014. His new opinion seems to be an attempt to appease the right-wing faction of his own party and effectively tables discussion on immigration reform, most likely until after the midterm elections.

Regardless of Boehner’s true opinions on the merits of immigration reform, he must be aware of the public relations crisis that he is creating. Even though publicly refusing to consider immigration reform will satisfy the fringe members of his party, it will damage the Republican Party’s image as a whole, at a time when it can’t afford bad press.

In the wake of its 2012 defeat and Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments, the Republican Party is desperately trying to rebrand itself as a party of inclusion as it heads into the 2014 midterm elections. This statement reverses recent strides Boehner has made toward inclusiveness by alienating the ever-expanding Hispanic electorate, which demonstrated its influence by playing a large part in Obama’s 2012 victory. Poll data from the Pew Research Center indicates that Obama received 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, with Latinos comprising 10 percent of the electorate for the first time in American history. Clearly, the Republican Party cannot ignore the interests of the Hispanic population and expect success in the future.

In addition, Boehner electing to appease the fringe members of the Republican Party is counterproductive in itself, as many Americans do not identify with the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Many Americans blamed the Republicans for the government shutdown, a stunt orchestrated by the far-right. Boehner would entice more undecided voters to the ranks of the Republican Party by taking a more moderate stance and demonstrating strong leadership of his party.

In a political climate in which seemingly every move is calculated, it’s hard to believe that the Republican Party would move toward temporarily closing the door on immigration reform after acknowledging their own need to attract new voters.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.