Republicans keen on winning back the surging Latino vote will need to get behind the far-reaching immigration reform set out by a group of bipartisan senators yesterday -- or risk being pummeled again at the national polls, political observers said.
"We have this demographics time bomb ticking, and we have to stop being the party of the angry white guy," Alex Patton, a GOP consultant in Florida, told the Herald yesterday, adding that a Republican shift on the issue is "critical" if the GOP is going to compete in the 2016 White House race. "Any bipartisan approach is welcome at this point," Patton added.
The landmark proposal was trotted out by U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle, led by Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida. It was short on details, but sketched out a plan to give more than 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while stepping up border security.
Together, the senators vowed to push the legislation through the Senate and into the House, where it could face stiff opposition in the GOP-dominated chamber.
It's not the first time lawmakers have made this type of push. In 2007, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy helped craft comprehensive proposal for immigration reform that even had the backing of President George W. Bush before ultimately failing.
But several Republicans yesterday pointed to President Obama's lopsided victory in November -- when he walloped former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney by winning 71 percent of the Latino vote -- as the difference-maker for Republicans embracing the hot-button issue.
McCain called immigration the "pre-eminent" issue Republicans need to tackle to recoup Latino support.
Bay State Republican Richard Tisei, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress, echoed that sentiment.
"Good policy is interwoven with good politics," Tisei said. "I'd rather see the Republican party be part of the solution and modernize an immigration system. I think that will be a benefit moving forward than just being a party that objects to everything."
Local immigrant advocates, as expected, cheered the proposal for its breadth and bipartisanship. They also said they'll be watching closely tonight when Obama lays out his own plan in Las Vegas.
If passed, the plan should benefit both parties, said Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of the Bay State-based ¿Oiste?
"The way this immigration debate has been dictated by negativity on the Republican side and silence on the Democrats' side, the previous elections showed us a couple things," she said. "The Latino vote and the Asian vote are significant and can affect an election. That has spoken to Republicans about reaching out to the Latino vote. But I hope it speaks to the Democrats, too, about not taking that vote for granted."
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