On Immigration Reform, GOP Can Take Lessons From Defeat

Paul Brown, considered one of the most influential coaches in football history, once said, “You can learn a line from a win and a book from a defeat.” So my good friends from Resurgent Republic, a conservative nonprofit, which gauges public opinion about public policy through national polls and focus groups, have done an excellent job at learning from the defeat of last year’s presidential election.

Republican primary voters align with the values of legal immigration and favor reforms to make the legal process more efficient and less arduous.

— Rosario Marin, Former U.S. Treasurer

In their latest poll they went to two seminal conservative states: Iowa and South Carolina, and polled primary Republican voters about the issue of the day — Immigration. Their findings should give our conservative congressmen and senators not only cover, but encouragement.

In previous Resurgent Republic research, it was made clear that immigration reform should not be viewed as a one-step solution guaranteeing Republican inroads among Hispanic voters. Yet it is a very important if first step of a long-term effort.

It was learned from their post-election analysis that majorities of Latino voters in swing states believe the Republican Party does not respect their values and concerns. This opinion is the result of rhetoric from a small, but vocal, number of Republicans that has characterized past immigration debates.

What I could gain from the answers of these voters was heartening. For them, immigration policy should encourage the values of the American Dream. On this point, participants volunteered descriptors such as "freedom," "opportunity," "hard work," and an ability "to make a better life for themselves."  It is precisely what immigrants come searching for.

Republican primary voters align with the values of legal immigration and favor reforms to make the legal process more efficient and less arduous. Senator Marco Rubio has been very eloquent about this particular issue.

It is also telling that for these voters, securing the border is of paramount importance before implementing an earned citizenship process.

The research also laid bare that massive deportation of undocumented immigrants is viewed as an impractical solution in fixing the immigration system, that this kind of universal deportation creates more problems than it solves.

In addition, for these voters a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is acceptable if it is an earned process and fair to those who are already legally in the system with the following caveats: pass a criminal background check (those with a criminal record will have to be deported), pay a fine, pay back taxes, continue to pay taxes, demonstrate a knowledge of the English language and American history, go the "back of the line" and do not receive preferential treatment in becoming a citizen.

Another point that was abundantly clear by the Republican base was the recognition of the need for the party to broaden its support in order to remain politically relevant. And so it comes to mind that while there are no easy solutions, defeat has opened our eyes. Maybe we have already learned a book from our loss, and maybe we can open our hearts now.