In 2012’s presidential election, 27 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Until that number increases, Republicans will have a hard time winning a Presidential race – so party insiders say it’s time to soften the GOP’s position on immigration.
For Texas Senator John Cornyn, it’s about who’s the best fit to tackle the topic. He says if Republicans are going to seriously tackle immigration policy, Texas lawmakers are uniquely qualified to take the lead.
“I happen to believe that we in Texas understand a little bit more about some of these issues than people from other parts of the country – given our proximity to the border and given the nature of our population,” Cornyn says.
Back in 2003, Cornyn authored a bill that would have created a guest worker program. But since then he’s opposed similar legislation, such as the recently-filed “Achieve Act” authored by fellow Texan, outgoing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
“Our legislation gives a legal status to these young people who really are in a conundrum,” Hutchison says. “They have grown up here. This is the country they know. But yet they are illegal.”
Hutchison’s approach focuses on keeping skilled workers in the U.S., instead of forcing them to leave after being trained in our country. And if that’s the future of Republican immigration policy, the template may come from Texas’s political past.
In early December, the new George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University held a one-day symposium on the benefits of immigration for the U.S. Former President Bush kicked off the event with a speech saying any new immigration laws should take into account the contributions of immigrants.
“Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas,” Bush said. “They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for a better life.”
Immigration advocates are cautious over the GOP’s softer position. Esther Reyes is executive director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition. She says comprehensive immigration reform must be a bipartisan solution.
“I hope that Democrats will be willing to engage the Republican Party,” Reyes says. “What I hope from the Republican Party is that they’ll go beyond their ideological perspectives on immigration … We need a good bill.”
But for now there is no such bill. A comprehensive immigration bill may have to wait until mid-2013.