Immigration endgame: The GOP's in a tough spot

As it stands, two pieces of (currently nonexistent) legislation are likely to provide the framework for a comprehensive reform plan that President Obama and Senate Democrats could ultimately accept: the so-called KIDS Act, which would offer citizenship to younger immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, and another proposal rumored to be in the works that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship through existing legal channels, which reportedly has the support of influential Republicans such as Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) and Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). Given the furious extent to which big business groups are lobbying for an immigration-reform bill, and the GOP’s own political insecurities on the issue, it is not inconceivable that a majority of House Republicans could end up backing such a proposal, even if the conservative base revolts.

Senator Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), a member of the Gang of Eight, recently said as much in an interview with the Arizona Republic, arguing that a proposal that stops short of the “special pathway to citizenship” in the Senate bill could give House Republicans the political cover necessary to advance immigration reform. The plan has also been tentatively embraced by prominent Gang of Eight supporters such as Frank Sharry of America’s Voice and Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum.

Should the House introduce these proposals, Democrats would be unlikely to oppose them, given that they would represent the best chance for an immigration-reform bill to be signed into law. Passing legislation dealing with other issues, such as border security, would become a mere formality, and the political momentum to negotiate a final compromise would only increase.