California Republicans Lead Immigration Reform Efforts

Amid the turmoil caused by a temporary government shutdown, a pessimistic outlook for passing immigration reform in 2013, let alone during the 113th Congress, would not be farfetched. Yet, President Obama expressed optimism on Thursday for striking a comprehensive immigration deal before the end of the year.

“Even with the shutdown over and the threat of default eliminated Democrats and republicans still have some disagreements… We should pass immigration reform.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  It’s good for our people.  And we should do it this year… Now it’s up to republicans in the house to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not.”

S. 744, also known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” passed the Senate 68-32 in June. The House has been unable to reconcile differences between the Democratic proposal, which largely mirrors that of the Senate, and apprehension by many Republicans to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants.

The path to a deal in the House begins in California.

Speaking to POLITICO, U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-California) said he plans to unveil a bill next week, adding, “It’s halfway – and it always has been – halfway between full amnesty and simply rejecting people. I think if we’re going to break this logjam that’s occurred for my whole 13 years I’ve been in Congress, we have to find middle ground.”

Modeled after a 2003 proposal, the “Alien Accountability Act,”

While the rhetoric coming from other facets of the Republican Party have been hostile to any notion of giving legal residency to undocumented immigrants, an explanation behind recent efforts by California Republicans to find compromise resides in their future as legislators.

Latinos account for nearly 40 percent of the state’s population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Issa also represents California’s 49th district, which is home to nearly 53 percent non-Republican voters. Recent polling in California suggests that if the GOP wants to increase its influence in the state, it will need to take a bigger role in finding compromise on immigration reform.

Given the state has a nonpartisan primary system, representatives like Issa can no longer rely on a small partisan or ideological base to secure their incumbency. Issa must appeal to a broader electoral voting bloc to defend his congressional seat.

As mentioned in a previous article, while Issa is popular among staunch conservatives, he was one of the 8 California Republicans to vote “yes” on the bipartisan budget deal to end the government shutdown.