Just what it is about Congressional Republicans and immigration?

So, for the time being, reasonable immigration reform is bottled up in the House by the crazy wing of the Republican caucus.  But the thing is, even among hard-core, i.e., Tea Party conservatives, outside the halls of Congress, there’s high levels of support for immigration reform.  It’s quite exasperating.  Here’s Tomasky:

This, my friend Greg Sargent, is in my view the answer to the question you pose. Sargent writes up a new poll showing that 60 percent of Republicans support either the Senate bill as is or the Senate bill with toughter border security. Sargent writes:

It’s been widely accepted at face value that House Republicans can’t support comprehensive immigration reform because they will face a massive backlash from their voters and even will face primaries and all but certain political destruction. (Buzzfeed’s John Stanton has been one of the view to challenge this conventional wisdom.) But is it even true? The above poll suggests a solid majority of Republicans want action on reform, even including citizenship under certain conditions. and that only a minority of Republicans support reform without citizenship or no action at all.

The idea that Republican voters won’t stand for anything approaching comprehensive immigration reform is shaping the entire immigration debate. Can’t some crack polling guru type get to the bottom of whether it’s even true or not?

But see, both things are true. Not all rank-and-file Republicans are nutso extremists. In fact it may well be the case that most aren’t. But they have no voice, and the guys’n’gals on the Hill listen to and fear only the nutos extremists. Whether Boehner ever permits a vote will depend ultimately on him deciding that he’s just fed up with that and is going to change it.

But here’s what’s really frustrating, even Tea Party supporters are plurality in favor of allowing a path to citizenship.  Here’s the 2012 NES data for Republicans (and leaners) only:



As you can see, about 45% of Tea Party supporters favor this (as opposed to 32% opposed) and that it’s actually about the same as among non-Tea Party supporters.  Yet, it’s a minority of a minority that is somehow driving this policy question.  There probably are some districts in American where a Republican can lose in a primary by voting for comprehensive immigration reform, but the balance of the evidence seems to suggest that it is not a rational fear of right-wing nutsos (though that doesn’t rule out an irrational fear), but perhaps simply being a right-wing nutso that is holding up sensible policy reform.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Just what it is about Congressional Republicans and immigration?

  1. Deborah Ferry says:

    I fear immigration reform will go the way of more comprehensive gun background checks. Remember that nearly 80% of the electorate supported that one. Until we get rid of the extremists in the House, I don’t think anything of importance can pass.

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