Immigration Reform has passed the Senate, and now it only needs to pass the House. If the last presidential election has taught us anything, it is that the Hispanic community cannot be ignored. Their numbers are growing, and with it their political pull. Without that simple truth, Immigration Reform would be a pipe dream. However, passing the House will be anything but simple. This is because while the nation has been growing more diverse, GOP districts have become more conservative. According to the Cook Political Report, after the 2012 redistricting, the GOP as a whole represents 6.6 million less minorities today than it did in 2010. On average, GOP districts are approximately 75% white, while democratic districts are around 50%. Because of the once in a decade redistricting, many House seats are safer now for the GOP than they have ever been. The Cook Political Report shows that fifteen years ago the GOP had 148 safe seats, while today they have 186. This means that 80% of House Republicans only have to worry about primary challenges, rather than general election fights. And given that GOP districts have tended to become more conservative, and their base constituencies oppose a pathway to citizenship by a 2-1 margin, it is pretty clear that any solution from the House will be different from that which has come from the Democratic Senate.
This can be seen in the statements of Bob Goodlatte. A Republican congressman of Virginia, he serves as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. At a recent town hall meeting, he answered a number of questions which can shed insight into how the House will approach Immigration Reform. He said that the House’s priority should be to “reform immigration the right way to show how it should be done, even if it doesn’t go all the way through to be signed by this President. Because I have a hard time, like you do, envisioning him signing some of these things.” While admitting that the House’s response may not produce results, he clarified that “It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem that we have in our country.”
Mr. Goodlatte further explained what the House response might be. Come September, the House will meet again after summer recess. According to Mr. Goodlatte, they will start with individual bills concerning border security, work verification and interior enforcement. Most importantly, he rejects any notion of a “special” path to citizenship. Specifically, he said “we understand what you want but we think a legal status in the United States but not a special path to citizenship might be appropriate.” While there is agreement between both parties on a number of issues (the Senate’s bill provides for increased border security, workplace enforcement, and legal status/citizenship for children brought to the country illegally by their parents), we have seen that when these items are broken up into single issues, such as with the DREAM Act and the KIDS Act, consensus has been elusive. When Congress is back in session, we can expect the House to put forward a number of individual bills, which will be hotly contested. For watchers of immigration reform, it will be a very interesting fall.