Now that the Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House has the opportunity to address the issue. What will the House do?
It appears that, in the short term, there is little political incentive for House Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Of the 435 voting members in the House of Representatives, Republicans hold 234 seats, while Democrats hold 201. As Janet Hook reports in the Wall Street Journal, of the 234 Republican members of the House, only 38 Republican members represent congressional districts that have Latino populations of 20 percent or higher. And only 28 Republican members face even a small risk of a serious challenge by Democratic candidates in the 2014 House elections. As a result, it seems that, for now, House Republicans would have little to gain politically by voting for an immigration reform package. Moreover, many House Republicans would stand to face criticism from their congressional districts and possible election challenges from more conservative candidates, if they were to vote for a comprehensive immigration package.
Long-term demographics, however, may play a role in the voting decisions of some House Republicans. It appears that some states, including Texas and Arizona, that currently tend to vote for Republicans in local, state, and national elections, will likely be shifting over time towards electing Democratic candidates. If, and when, such shifts will occur is anybody’s guess. But some House Republicans might take these factors into account and consider the increasing electoral clout of Latinos and other immigrant groups. Although currently most House Republicans face few serious electoral challenges from Democrats, they likely will face such challenges in the next 3 to 5 electoral cycles.
For now, it is impossible to predict whether or not the House of Representatives will pass comprehensive immigration legislation. It is also impossible to predict whether, if the House passes legislation, the Senate and President Obama will agree to sign such legislation.