Earlier this month, the influential Texas Federation of Republican Women adopted a resolution urging the federal government to take on comprehensive immigration reform. Wright pointed to the action as the latest example of the divide in the state party.
Part of the division is driven by the desire of GOP leaders to attract the growing population of Latino voters to ensure long-term competitiveness with Democrats.
“The Republicans in Texas are in a short-term, long-term dilemma,” Jones said.
“In the short-term, if they push for a comprehensive immigration reform that involves what would be called amnesty by many, they run the risk of antagonizing their base and thereby suffering in primary elections,” Jones continued. “But in the medium- to long-term, if Republicans’ share of the Hispanic vote continues to drop, which it’s likely to until this immigration reform issue is removed from the front burner, then they are destined to return to the status of a minority party here in Texas, potentially as early as 2018, but certainly sometime in the 2020s.”
Jones said that the 18 and over Hispanic population in Texas, including the undocumented, will make up 43 percent of the population by 2030.
Immigration reform advocates hope the changing demographics will sway Republicans and Democrats to support policy changes.
Frank Sharry, executive director of left-leaning immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said he was hopeful that the changing demographics would ultimately push Cornyn and Cruz to support the proposal.
Sharry noted that Cornyn has opposed comprehensive reform efforts in the past and compared him to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who also faces re-election in 2014 but is a member of the group of eight senators.
“Cornyn is cautious to a fault, and Graham may be courageous to a fault,” Sharry said, highlighting the fact that Graham could also face a primary challenge.
Nevertheless, he said Graham “uses every ounce of his political capitol for the causes he believes in and Cornyn uses every moment to carefully guard what little political capital he has.”
“Its just a very different approach,” Sharry said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.