Despite criticism of racist remarks about Latino immigrants by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) coming from a few influential House Republicans (see my recent posts), immigration reform is still facing major obstacles in the House. Charlie Cook sums the situation up in his July 25 National Journal article: So Much for Immigration Reform as follows:

"It's hard to be optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform when you talk to House Republicans. My conversations suggest that if anything passes the House, it will most likely be small, bite-sized morsels of largely noncontroversial ideas - lowest common-denominator items that bear little resemblance to the sweeping immigration measure that passed the Senate on June 27."

Cook also writes:

"But all of this high-minded stuff - that Republicans need to get the immigration issue off the table if they want to win and hold a Senate majority or win the White House - matters little to many GOP House lawmakers who sit in very white, very conservative congressional districts and who have much more to fear from a conservative primary challenger than from a Democrat."

The reality facing reform in the House may be even more pessimistic, because Cook's comment assumes that there will be a Senate-House conference. But this is something which many anti-immigrant Republicans are opposed to in principle, as Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry showed in their recent joint editorial urging the House to "put a stake through the heart" of immigration reform.

The clear picture that emerges from this is of an immigration reform movement held hostage to race. Ronald Brownstein, in another National Journal article, writes about America's racial divisions n the wake of the Trayvon Martin Killing: Americans Are Once Again Divided by Race, July 25.

But as his own words make clear, these divisions go far beyond the reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman after a trial with only one non-white juror:

"Like a lightning flash in a stormy sky, The Trayvon Martin case has illuminated the depth of the impasse between white and nonwhite America. But a similar dynamic looms less visibly behind Washington's standoff between a Democratic coalition that relies on overwhelming support from minorities and a Republican coalition still almost entirely dependent on the votes of whites, especially older ones.

Both developments tell the same challenging story: Even as America experiences its most profound demographic change in more than a century, our society is increasingly fracturing along racial, generational and partisan lines."

Brownstein also writes:

"In their unwavering opposition to Obama on issues ranging from health to immigration, House Republicans are systematically blocking the priorities of the diverse (and growing) majority coalition that reelected him."

Even more ominous for the supporters of immigration reform is the possibility that the Republican whites-only strategy may actually work. This idea is no longer limited to the Ann Coulter far right hate fringe, but also finds support in a column by Harry J. Enten, a US political analyst for Britain's left wing The Guardian: Why the Republican coalition will still work in 2016 (July 25).

Enten's article starts off with the headline:

"Predictions of demographic doom for the GOP are wishful; polling shows that winning big with white voters can deliver"

Immigration reform supporters cannot assume that their battle was won in the 2012 election. Efforts to restrict voting by racial minorities, younger Americans and the less well off are already being redoubled in red states such as Texas and North Carolina in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision throwing out the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The fight for immigration reform is just beginning.

Posted by Roger Algase
July 29, 2013