What the GOP Sweep Means for Immigration Reform

In hindsight, it seems appropriate that Dia de los Muertos and the mid-term election fell on the same day. The national Republican sweep means that any meaningful effort for immigration reform is probably dead (for now). Candidates around the country who demonized Latinos and campaigned on little else beyond securing the border won seats, and were rewarded for their demagoguery. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer’s “papers please” bill won her another term in office, and in Georgia Republican state Rep. John Yates who advocated for killing people on sight if they cross the border illegally won his election handily.

Meanwhile, here in the Lone Star state, conservative Republicans secured a large majority in the House. This could mean the Legislature dissolves into ideological bickering over immigration, Voter I.D. etc.  The hope is that House Speaker Joe Straus, a more moderate Republican from San Antonio, will not allow ideologues like Debbie Riddle and Leo Berman to waste precious legislative hours debating ways to punish  “terror babies” and “illegals.” After all, there is an estimated $20 billion budget shortfall, teacher layoffs and a beleagured social service system to tackle among other things. However, if Straus goes down that rabbit hole, or a more conservative Republican takes the gavel we’re in for a long bumpy road. We’ll spend the entire regular session on illegal immigration bills and Voter ID, then the Legislature oh, somewhere around the 2nd special session will get around to finally doing something about the budget. It will be a long and hot-winded summer.  Another ideological meltdown in the making is Rick Perry running for higher office. Perry tried not to immigrant bash during the guberanatorial race, focusing all of his comments instead around amorphous “border security” sound bites. If he runs for national office, his Tea Party supporters will want more than “boots on the ground” and “secure our border” sound bites. They’ll be asking for a “papers please” bill along the lines of Arizona’s (never mind that it was written by the private prison corporations.)

So, why didn’t Latinos turn out for Democrats in Texas? And what is the Democratic Party going to do about it? Those are the big questions to ponder after November 2. There is some good news, however, in a few states like California and Nevada.  Why did Latinos turn out for Harry Reid in Nevada, helping defeat his opponent Sharron Angle, and why did they give Meg Whitman a defeat in California? Pehaps, the Texas Democratic Party should take a trip out to the Golden State for some pointers.

The Republicans have the largest majority they’ve had in Texas history, but will they squander it on immigrant bashing and empty political theater this legislative session for short-term political gains, or will they take the long view and actually pass some meaningful public policy?

Melissa del Bosque is a staff writer and a 2015-16 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.

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Published at 9:06 pm CST