The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The divisions inside the Republican Party over “immigration reform”

Jun 26, 2006

The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives decided to hold hearings during the summer about the overhaul of the immigration laws. Effectively, this postpones until after the November election any final decision on immigration reform legislation.

This decision highlighted divisions over “immigration reform” inside the Republican Party, between the Bush administration and the Senate leadership on the one side and the House leadership on the other side.

Obviously, Congressional Republicans have their reasons for distancing themselves from Bush. As a result of loyally supporting deeply unpopular policies that favor the U.S. bourgeoisie, including the war in Iraq, the multiple tax cuts for the corporations and the wealthy, and the enormous cuts in social spending, like education and health care, they have scored lower in opinion polls than even the very unpopular Bush.

With the November elections quickly approaching, the Congressional Republicans fear that even a part of their loyal voting base, the extremely conservative religious fundamentalists, will stay home and not vote in November. They fear that not even the advantages that they have from running in very gerrymandered Congressional districts will save them from defeat.

To resuscitate their election prospects, the Congressional Republicans have tried to energize this base, by resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the book: fanning the flames of xenophobia, that is, a fear of foreigners. This was symbolized by the passage of HR 4437 that would criminalize the 12 million undocumented immigrants and those who help them. It was a virulent attack.

This position has led to an open squabble inside the Republican Party. Bush and the Republican leadership in the Senate had been trying to expand support for the Republican Party inside the Hispanic population, especially in some of the biggest states, including California, Texas, Florida and New York. And HR 4437 was a red flag in the face of the Hispanic population.

Traditionally, immigrant voting blocs have been a part of the Democratic electoral base. But in his election campaigns for both governor of Texas and president, Bush had already successfully demonstrated that it was possible for Republicans to take a part of that base away from the Democrats. This has been especially true of the increasing proportion of Hispanic immigrants who are evangelical Christians or staunch Catholics, and who were won over to the same conservative “values,” such as attacks on abortion rights, as other fundamentalist Christians. In fact, in the 2004 election, Bush gained 40% of the Hispanic vote, which constituted his margin of victory.

Of course, Bush’s proposals for “immigration reform” are just as much an attack on immigrant rights as those of the House leadership. The difference is that Bush parades them as a gift. And the Democratic Party pretends the same thing.

So the Republican Party is caught in an internal squabble today. Faced with the 2006 elections, the House Republicans are trying to shore up their most dependable extremely conservative voting base by advocating xenophobic attacks against Hispanic immigrants. The other half of the party, headed by Bush, is looking toward future elections. And they fear that the open, xenophobic attacks will undercut their efforts to broaden their extremely conservative base by making an appeal to Hispanic immigrant voters.

As for the Democrats, while they are happy to let the Republicans squabble, they are just as much the enemies of immigrant workers as both sets of Republicans.

In the end, we can be sure that all these politicians will give the ruling class in this country what it wants.