John Boehner, the Republican Leader of the House, who always looks to me like he's about to weep, has just announced that his chamber will not be taking up the Senate's immigration bill this year. They only have a measly fifteen working days left, after all, and immigration is such a thorny subject, they wouldn't want to rush into it without a great deal of deliberation.
Still, I have to say I'm surprised by how cavalierly the immigration issue is being tucked under the rug. Oh I know Republicans think Democrats are playing a cynical game-that they don't care, that they only want those eleven million undocumented folks to become citizens so they'll vote the Democratic ticket. Eleven million new Democratic voters would certainly constitute a tidal wave, I'll give you that. But there are also some thoughtful Republicans out there who argue that the GOP is shooting itself in the foot. Latinos, they contend, are the largest contingent of the undocumented, and, in the long run, they're a far more natural fit with the Republican Party. As a group, they are hard-working, law abiding, church going, and their family values lean consistently toward more conservative views than liberal.
Right now though, the GOP seems to be running on the vapors of fear instead of hope; in the short term they're betting that if they can't deport them all, they can at least get reelected one more time by holding off the immigrant tide. The problem, however, is not the short term, but the long one. It turns out, many of those eleven million people are married and have families; there are now countless children (born in the USA children-Americans, in other words) growing up seeing their parents living in the shadows, treated differently, oppressed by lower wages, threatened by police. These things have consequences. How long, do you wonder, will it be before those countless children turn eighteen and start voting to redress the injustice felt by their parents? If your mother or father were treated poorly by one political faction or another, wouldn't you be angry? Wouldn't you want to do something?
It's already starting to happen. In places like Arizona and the Central Valley in California, the shifting demographics are making Republicans nervous about the election in 2014. There's even serious talk about turning Texas into a blue state by 2016. Mr. Boehner can count the votes among his own membership, and maybe he knows he won't get a majority of Republicans to support immigration reform this year. But now is now, and then is coming. You can bet on it, amigo.