Estimates vary, but there are probably between 18 and 21 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States today. Official estimates say the number is between 11 and 12 million but that estimate is heavily disputed. Very few reasonable political solutions have been offered for fixing this state of affairs. Democrats have proposed legalization of these immigrants, by offering them a legal process whereby they can become tax-paying citizens. Many Republicans, especially on the far right of the party (largely the Tea Party membership) are vehemently opposed to any path to citizenship, and favor instead mass deportation and building a huge border fence across the entire southern border of the United States. This situation has created a major problem for the Republican Party, in terms of demographic appeal, especially for its presidential candidates. The Latino minority voting population in the United States now accounts for 11 percent of all eligible voters. The Tea Party’s extreme position on immigration, which the Republican party is tied to, is extremely unpopular with the Latino voting bloc. The recent fights over immigration and the rhetoric from the Tea Party has only served to further alienate Latinos from the Republican Party.
The Republican positions on immigration create a very difficult problem for any candidate running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. In order to win the party’s nomination, candidates must appease the Tea Party wing and appear “tough” on immigration. Namely opposing a path to citizenship for immigrants and speaking in favor of this nebulous idea of “protecting the border” or some such nonsense. Without doing this, a candidate’s chances of winning the Republican primary are slim. The problem for the candidate is when they get to the general election. In order to appeal to the ever more important Latino bloc, a Republican candidate, to have any hope of winning the general election must appeal to some percentage of Latino voters. This means taking a more moderate tack on immigration. This will, of course, open them up to attacks of being a flip-flopper, and may cause many in the Republican base who are extreme on immigration to stay home on election day.
The Republican Party is increasingly viewed as the party of old white people. The recent highly publicized killings of unarmed black men by the police have highlighted just how out of touch most of the Republican Party is with the African-American community. They have succeeded in totally alienating African-Americans from the party by constantly defending egregiously violent cops at all costs, by trying to maintain the racial status quo in this country, and by constantly attacking Obama with criticisms that to many are just thinly veiled racism. Whatever hope they had of gaining votes from this critical voting group is long gone. The Republicans are about to make the same mistake with the Latino community, depending on who wins their nomination. As much as I dislike Jeb Bush, he is one of the few sane voices in the party on immigration. The Republicans, through the sheer force of demographic trends and by their own actions, have ensured that in the future they will be a permanent party minority. If that means fewer wars in the Middle East, and fewer tax breaks for billionaires, then I’m all for it.