Most Republicans realize that passing legislation that legalizes illegal immigrants won’t win them a lot of Hispanic votes. They do think, however, that a significant number of Hispanics would be willing to listen to them on other issues once they’re no longer seen as enthusiasts for mass deportation. Hispanics won’t blame Republicans for withholding citizenship, the argument goes, because most illegal immigrants place a higher priority on being able to work than on being able to vote.
If you oppose a path to citizenship, though, you’re not going to find much to like in a path to legalization. Some opponents say it’s wrong in principle to reward people for law-breaking by giving them the very thing they broke the law to get. And for these opponents, illegal immigrants shouldn’t get the chance to work in the U.S. legally when so many people in other countries who have applied in the proper way are still waiting.
Other opponents worry that the Senate bill will act as a magnet for more illegal immigrants: Its enforcement provisions won’t work well, or won’t really be implemented, and more immigrants will cross the border illegally in the expectation that they will be legalized in some future round of reform. Again, drawing a line at citizenship won’t answer this objection.