Immigration reform, the Hispanic vote, and the path to citizenship

During an interview with Liz Cheney on Fox yesterday, Charles Krauthammer reiterated his view that Republicans need much more effectively to court the Hispanic vote, and should do so by supporting amnesty for illegal aliens. The approach Krauthammer recommends would entail full legal normalization, just short of citizenship, in return for full border enforcement.

I have no strong objection to such a resolution of the immigration reform debate. But as a practical matter, it would not constitute a resolution. The Democrats would still insist on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants now in the country. Even if Republicans agreed to everything short of such a path, the Democrats would still be able to tar them as the anti-immigrant Party.

This illustrates the broader problem Republicans face in courting the Hispanic vote. There will always be something else — some extra benefit — that the Democrats seek on behalf of Hispanics and that conservatives are loath to grant. If Republicans resist the demand, they will stay on the wrong side of Hispanics; if they agree, they will become less and less of a conservative Party.

However, as a way of marginally improving the Republican position with Hispanics, Krauthammer’s approach makes good sense. Given the new political reality, Republicans are well-advised not to say “hell no” to amnesty. Rather, they should agree to normalization of the status of illegal immigrants, short of a path to citizenship, in return for full border enforcement.

But Republicans should also understand that, if they stick to their insistence of no parth to citizenship, there probably will be no immigration reform, and Hispanics will blame Republicans for its absence.

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