President Obama greets supporters after speaking on immigration policy in El Paso last year.
In the wake of their 2012 election defeats, Republicans have an important choice to make when it comes to immigration.
Will GOP policymakers continue to refuse to work constructively -- in part because of their far-right vision and in part because they don't want to hand President Obama a major victory -- regardless of the electoral consequences, or will they come to their senses?
Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, there was reason for optimism.
Sean Hannity said Thursday he has "evolved" on immigration and now supports a "pathway to citizenship."
Hannity told his radio listeners Thursday afternoon that the United States needs to "get rid of the immigration issue altogether."
Just a couple of hours later, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told ABC, "This issue has been around far too long. A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all." (The choice of words here was critical: Boehner not only endorsed acting on the issue, he called for a "comprehensive" approach.)
And about two hours after the Speaker's comments, none other than Rupert Murdoch said it's time for Washington to approve "sweeping, generous immigration reform," making "law-abiding Hispanics welcome."
This is not to say passage will be easy -- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Congress' leading anti-immigrant members, is already throwing a fit -- but Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue seem very encouraged, and with GOP leaders like Boehner and Hannity on board, the prospects for comprehensive reform haven't been this good in years.
"The best thing about Republicans losing is that it will likely force them to cut an immigration deal," former Bush aide Mark McKinnon said yesterday.
Postscript: I should add one key caveat. When Hannity said he's "evolved" on the issue, he also said he wants to see officials "control the border first." This is often used as an excuse to kill good legislation.
Remember, as far as President Obama was concerned, he took unprecedented steps on border security in the hopes that it would persuade Republicans to work with him on a reform plan. GOP leaders ignored the administration's efforts and refused to cooperate.
But if Republicans say they won't act until the border is 100% secure, nothing will ever happen. This Arizona Republic piece that ran a couple of years ago continues to resonate, offering a serious, sober look at the political dispute when politicians say they want to "secure the border first," and then talk about immigration reform."
Anyone with a minimal knowledge or understanding about the nearly 2,000-mile swath of land between Mexico and the United States realizes that requiring a secure border establishes an impossible standard. [...]
Tom Barry, director of the Transborder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., said the demand for a completely secure border is a ploy by those opposed to immigration reform to prevent new policies.
"No matter how much enforcement you have, there will always be people coming through," he said. "Since that is true, opponents to immigration reform will always be able to say the border is still not secure ... and therefore we cannot pass immigration reform."
Something to keep in mind.