President Barack Obama’s reelection with a huge majority of Latino votes has punched a hole in the wall of Republican opposition to immigration reform, Arizona political participants and advocates say.
The opening for reform arose when more than 70 percent of Latino voters went for Obama, according to exit polling. Some Republican leaders responded by saying the results showed the time had come to budge on immigration, to go beyond the stance of secure the border before anything else.
The opportunity that has created wraps economics, politics and social redemption into one package, said three people interviewed for Friday’s Arizona Week broadcast.
“We need to find new ways in order to welcome more people into this country and not be talking necessarily about self-deportation,” said Bruce Ash, Arizona Republican national committeeman and a Tucson businessman. “We need to look at possibilities, in due time, to have permanent work rights here in this country.”
Ash said he doesn’t know specifics of where Republicans will try to take the issue, but he said it’s an opportunity that can be part of the economic solutions his party brings to the table.
“For Republicans, it would make a lot of sense while we’re doing a lot of economic planning … to also be talking about immigration policy as part of this overall economic recovery in our country,” he said.
The issue of immigration reform goes beyond economics, said James Garcia, chairman of the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise, which is working on immigration reform. Garcia also is a playwright whose works include immigration-themed stories.
“What we have seen on a national scale in terms of the response, particularly by the Republican Party, is that they understand very clearly that you can’t build a party, or for that matter you can’t build a nation, by alienating such a substantial part of the population,” Garcia said.
He said GOP moves toward involvement in immigration reform could help secure more Latino support, but they said it is not the ultimate solution.
“The Republican Party’s reputation among Latino voters: The only direction they can go right now is up,” he said with a laugh. “It’s really difficult for them to go much further down in the polls.”
In the social realm, increasing the quotas on legal entry for family members and enacting a version of the DREAM Act will ease uncertainty and the splitting of families, said an immigration law expert at the University of Arizona.
“In the area of family, there are caps … on the numbers of people coming in,” said Lynn Marcus, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the James E. Rogers College of Law. “Many say those caps need to be raised so that fathers don’t have to spend time away from their children and husbands from their wives.”
Will political and economic realities allow comprehensive reform to be a reality?
“I hope that there’s a reasonable prospect,” Marcus said. “There is reason for hope. I’m guardedly optimistic, but as I’ve said before, we have been here before.”