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In House, Signs of Openness on Immigration

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Gowdy said people in his district are suspicious about immigration policy changes that might not include strong enforcement provisions.

There are clear signals from GOP leaders that they would like to tackle immigration. Most recently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced he will give a major policy speech Feb. 5. The speech will include some proposals on immigration reform principles, a GOP source said.

But Speaker John A. Boehner and other GOP leaders are anxiously watching President Barack Obama for signs that Obama is more interested in using the issue to club Republicans than pass legislation, particularly given how his former campaign arm, Organizing for America, conducts itself.

One key issue Republicans are discussing in the House is whether passing an immigration bill will lead to any serious progress with Hispanic voters.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who has pushed for Republicans to move on immigration and do more to reach out to Hispanics generally, said helping pass a bill is no silver bullet.

“It opens the door for Republicans to begin making their case to Hispanics,” he said.

“After 1986, [George Bush] got less of a percentage of the Hispanic vote than [Ronald Reagan]. So the notion that we are just one path to legal status or citizenship away from electoral success is both historically and anecdotally untrue,” Gowdy said.

“We’re not going to get any credit for immigration being modernized. I just think it’s the right thing. And if we do the right thing, then I think political victories follow,” Labrador said.

Krikorian has a pessimistic view of Republicans’ chances on that front.

“One-third is about where it tops out because the majority of Hispanic voters are Democrats. They’re Democrats in their behavior, in their attitudes. Their demographic and economic conditions are such that they’re almost certain to be Democrats,” he said.

“When you do polling  . . .  you find 61 percent support for Obamacare among Hispanics. Pew asked people whether you support higher taxes and more government services or lower taxes and less government services. What they found was Hispanic Republicans were to the left of White Democrats on the issue of big government.” he continued.

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