The immigration debate is becoming a critical issue for the Republican Party as several GOP leaders try to overcome conservative opposition to the new bill unveiled by a bipartisan group of eight senators.
After Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, the party vowed to do better, and many now believe its future depends on reaching out to the country’s biggest minority group, according to The Huffington Post
. How the party positions itself on the bill now before the Senate is considered crucial by some to how Republicans will fare in future elections.
Related: Conservative Radio Whips Up Immigration Opposition
“There’s no question it’s a huge concern,” one GOP consultant told the Post, adding “If people would rather be right than win, this may go down. But I think you’re seeing a pretty concerted effort to try to put this issue behind us.”
Henry Barbour, a member of the Republican National Committee from Mississippi agreed, telling the Post, “There is thinking in the party that we’re tired of this ‘group think’ and we’re not just going to be shouted down by the loudest voices and it’s OK to have a debate.”
But conservative objections to several parts of the new proposals will have to be addressed. Last week, the Heritage Foundation came out against the Senate legislation, which paves the way to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally.
And Ben Domenech, a fellow at the Heartland Institute, wrote Wednesday in his daily newsletter, The Transom, that the bill “is rife with problems, the chief being that it does not solve the real problems with the immigration system, it creates entirely new problems, and it will not, as currently formed, pass the House,” noted the Huffington Post.
Related: Gang of 8 Makes Case of Immigration Bill
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, however, may succeed in winning over some conservative skeptics. Rubio, a member of the gang of eight and a potential presidential contender in 2016, is using every opportunity to make his case for the bill, explaining the arduous process that undocumented immigrants will have to go through to gain citizenship.
On Wednesday, after interviewing Rubio on his radio talk show, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee reportedly said, “You know, listening to the various stages that a person has to go through, I’m not that surprised the Republicans would be for it.”
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