1. While immigration reform alone won’t make most Hispanics switch from D to R, it is the gateway policy needed before conservatives can begin to make their case to that community. And even though future Republican presidential candidates could conceivably win doing as poorly among Hispanics as Mitt Romney did — at least for another election, maybe two — such a weak showing leaves little margin for error and makes a large, Reaganesque GOP win improbable.
2. Immigration reform would nudge conservatives and Republicans to move beyond an economic agenda — both in terms of policy and messaging — that’s been focused almost exclusively on a) debt reduction, and b) directly meeting the needs of business and entrepreneurs. Keep all that stuff, of course, but what about education and healthcare reform and the tax code’s anti-parent bias? A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them.
3. Even if it will be initially hard to move the Hispanic vote rightward, Immigration reform sends a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party.