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July 23, 2013 5:05 PM The Sisyphian Task of Making GOP Latino-Friendly

By Ed Kilgore

It’s pretty obvious that the sudden interest in House GOP circles in some sort of DREAM Act-ish accommodation of the children of undocumented workers is closely related to the growing unlikelihood that the chamber will accept any sort of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. House Republicans aren’t anti-immigrant or anti-Latino, you see, they just have an old-fashioned attachment to the theory that people shouldn’t be rewarded for breaking the law.

The “Kids Act” makeover, however, isn’t likely to work, argues Greg Sargent, because Latino media are very attuned to the dynamics of the immigration debate, and can’t be fooled by half-measures.

There’s another problem, though: House Republicans can’t keep their own members in line in peddling the Reform Lite message. Consider Steve King, who introduced a successful amendment to revoke the president’s enforcement amnesty for “DREAMers:”

Iowa conservative Republican Congressman Steve King said in an interview with Newsmax that for every valedictorian DREAMer who has been brought to this country by his or her family, “…there’s another 100 out there who, they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

Nice, eh? Now do Latinos “understand” King is just the south end of a north-bound brontosaurus, and not representative of House Republicans generally?

Nope. A recent survey from Latino Decisions tested a number of abrasive Republican comments about Latinos and immigration reform by House Republicans—two, as it happens, were from Steve King—and found that two-thirds of Latino respondents figured that “many” (as opposed to “only a few”) Republicans in Congress felt that way.

Besides, why should anyone consider Steve King an outlier? He’s treated with great respect by his colleagues and conservative opinion-leaders as a highly distinguished “constitutional conservative, and he is far and away the most popular GOP elected official among the activists who attend the Iowa presidential Caucuses and thus play a massively disproportionate role in national Republican politics. He’s not about to shut up, either; he thinks the GOP should move in his direction.

So it’s a truly Sisyphian task to “rebrand” the Republican Party as Latino-friendly, particularly if House Republicans cannot bite the bullet and allow a majority of House members pass Latino-friendly legislation.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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