It’s been a pretty remarkable year in immigration politics. A year ago, the Republican primaries pushed Mitt Romney to advocate “self-deportation” as his principal strategy to the immigration issue–a strategy endorsing Arizona and Alabama-type state legislation designed to make life as miserable as possible for undocumented persons. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama won the presidential election with a 40 percentage point advantage among Hispanics. The stark reality of America’s changing demographics was immediately noted by many in the losing party. This month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced Senate Bill 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the first salvo of this year’s comprehensive immigration reform debate.
We’ve been here before. In 2006 and 2007, another bipartisan Senate group also introduced comprehensive immigration reform with President Bush’s backing. It failed. Is this year any different? It’s hard to know, but certainly the early momentum seems to favor success. The most stalwart opponents of comprehensive immigration reform haven’t gone away, and while they haven’t yet raised the furor that arose in 2006, we are still early in this process. But perhaps election night 2012 revealed to enough Republicans the political reality that the combination of the growing Hispanic electorate and the successful Republican policy of Hispanic alienation would increasingly hinder the future aspirations of their party.