The twists and turns of the immigration debate

THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE…. As a rule, congressional Republicans have absolutely no interest in taking up immigration reform this year. That’s understandable — the issue would likely help Democrats, especially Western incumbents like Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, and Michael Bennet, while splitting Republicans, as it did when George W. Bush tried a few years ago.

But the GOP’s reluctance is not universal. Dave Weigel notes today that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who still holds considerable influence in GOP circles, has lent his name to “an under-the-radar conservative campaign for federal immigration reform this year.”

On Thursday, Bush will headline a “nationwide strategy call with key business and Evangelical leaders to share convictions around the need for immigration reform this year,” according to Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Bush — who’ll be joined on the call by Carlos Gutierrez, his brother’s Commerce Secretary during the 2006/2007 immigration debate — has long favored some sort of comprehensive reform that bolsters border security while allowing more immigrants to attain citizenship.

Will this change the way Republicans approach the issue? We’ll see, but it’s worth watching the trajectory of the curveball.

In the meantime, Dems, when considering the issue on a purely political level, seem to like the implications of tackling the issue.

Making a genuine attempt at a comprehensive immigration plan that includes a pathway to citizenship has dual potential to help Democrats politically — they motivate Latino voters and labor unions who have long championed the issue, and they can portray unwilling Republicans as anti-Hispanic. Demographic shifts in the West have helped Democrats scoop up more Congressional seats and win electoral college battles in recent years. […]

“Either we do it for political show or we get a bill done. Either way we win,” [a Democratic House committee staffer familiar with the immigration debate] said. “If Republicans block us they will forever cement themselves as rural, white angry party, and that’s fine either way. Hispanics will see on Telemundo and Univision the angry white people in the Republican blocking the American dream. Who wins? Democrats do.”

Part of this is proving to Latino voters that Dems made a good faith effort to get reform done — and then blaming Republicans if it comes up short.

And while this issue barely existed on the national radar a month ago, the ridiculous new law in Arizona has clearly changed the game.