PD Editorial: Time is right to compromise on immigration

  • This artwork by Jennifer Kohnke relates to the nationwide marches in support of immigrants' rights.

Some of the bright lines dividing Washington during campaign season are a little blurry since the election.

In budget talks, additional revenue <i>and</i> reduced spending are on the table.

Immigration may be next in line for a compromise. For the first time in many years, both Democrats and Republicans are motivated to find common ground. It's no great revelation that the immigration system is broken, but fixing it has long taken a backseat to exploiting the issue for political gain.

What changed?

Latino voters delivered a powerful message on Nov. 6. President Barack Obama captured an astounding 71 percent of the Latino vote. Latinos also helped Democrats extend their majority in the Senate and gain seats in the House.

Obama identified the game-changing potential of the Latino vote in a pre-election interview with the Des Moines Register. "Should I win a second term," he said, "a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."

But political coalitions don't last forever. Obama has twice promised immigration reform. If he doesn't deliver, he risks his party's support from a rapidly growing segment of the electorate.

For Republicans, who championed immigration reform during the Reagan administation, returning to the bargaining table is a matter of damage control.

In California, the GOP has foundered in the Latino community since 1994, when Gov. Pete Wilson built his re-election bid on an anti-immigrant platform. Republicans were more competitive in national elections. George W. Bush captured 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and 40 percent four years later.

But as Latinos started to vote in greater numbers, GOP candidates began equating immigration reform with amnesty for lawbreakers. In Congress, Republicans supported a border fence but opposed legal residency for immigrants brought here as children. This year, Mitt Romney introduced the idea of "self-deportation."

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