- Pass nothing. Immigration reform rewards lawbreakers and makes millions of new Democrats.
- Legalize undocumented immigrants, but don't grant citizenship. We don't want to make millions of new Democrats.
- Just pass the damn amnesty so we can stop bleeding support among the fastest growing demographics (Latinos and Asians)!
As you can imagine, the third group is the smallest. Republicans are right to worry about legalizing the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants. That's about the population of the state of Pennsylvania, the sixth largest state in the union. On the other hand, they can't keep losing Latinos by 40 points and more and have a chance at winning national elections in future years. Their bigotry has boxed them in, and they desperately need a way out to maintain long-term relevance.
Thus, the Senate's immigration working group has proposed a sort of hybrid of the first two options above—legalize everyone immediately under certain (reasonable) conditions, but don't make citizenship a possibility for at least 13 years (and subject to border security provisions, giving Republicans more opportunities to drag that out). Apparently the internal GOP hope is that they can, as a party, evolve past their bigotry over the next decade and make a play for these new voters when they finally get the chance to vote.
The bill's Republican backers in the Senate are talking optimistically:
The Senate will be first to act this year, and the bill needs 60 votes to pass. With [Marco] Rubio supporting it, [Lindsey] Graham says it can get 70 votes, including half of the 45 Republicans. He suggests passage by 48 Democrats and 22 Republicans.House conservatives will try to kill the plan by delay, bottling up the legislation in committee and larding it up with poison pill amendments to strip out Democratic support and muck up any Senate-House conference committee. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner and Paul Ryan have both said encouraging things about immigration reform, suggesting they won't stand in the way. It could be posturing, part of their cynical attempt at "rebranding," or it could be genuine concern that their House majority—built on gerrymandering—won't hold if they don't start making inroads with non-white voters.
Speaking of rebranding, however, just wait until the House starts debating "amnesty." If you thought talk of wetbacks and sinking ships was bad enough, just wait until bigoted House Republicans have to focus on the issue for an extended, dragged out period of time.