Republicans are this week making slow and incremental progress on handling immigration reform in their efforts to attract Hispanics before the 2014 election cycle. The White House sees this happening and is now attempting to throw up roadblocks before the GOP can seriously make inroads with this important and growing voting bloc.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus kicked off the week by unveiling an "autopsy" on Republican branding and the 2012 elections and called for the GOP to make every effort to welcome Latinos to the party. This is obvious—Republican lost last year's Hispanic vote by near record levels.
Over in the House of Representatives a group of eight members have been meeting in secret to strike a deal on immigration reform. The four Republicans and four Democrats are close to an agreement that the speaker has endorsed. "They're essentially in agreement over how to proceed," Boehner told reporters at a press conference this week. "But this is just the beginning of the process. There's a lot of education that needs to be done, because more than half of our members have never dealt with the issue of immigration reform, both on the legal side and on the illegal side." He went on to say that "there's a lot of issues here that have to be dealt with," adding that, "I think what the bipartisan group came up, frankly, is a pretty responsible solution."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., this week joined another tea party favorite, Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., by unveiling his ideas for an immigration reform proposal at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington and later on a conference call with reporters and opened the door for illegal immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship. "If they want to be citizens, I am open to debate as to what we do to move forward," he said. That's a significant statement from a top tea party leader. What is more significant is that tea party groups praised Paul's approach and slapped him on the back for tackling the issue even if it is unrelated to their main mission, tackling the rising debt.
While the GOP continues to try to thread the needle over amnesty, pathways to citizenship and a guest worker program, the White House made a politically brilliant move which could help keep Republican poll numbers in the gutter. President Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, to be the next Secretary of Labor which has provoked a fight with some Senate Republicans about voting rights, immigration and discrimination.
Perez would be the only Latino and the first Dominican-American in the Obama Cabinet. Republicans have every right to question the conduct of Perez during his controversial tenure at the Justice Department. However, they must get their messaging strategy straight or walk right into the trap that Obama has waiting for them. If a senator does indeed place a "hold" on the Perez nomination, the Obama spin machine is going to accuse Republicans of being racially insensitive and out of touch with Hispanics. Senate Republicans might want to focus on the fact that Perez's lack of private sector economic experience may leave him unqualified to help foster job creation. That is a debate that all Americans, including Hispanics, could understand during confirmation hearings.