House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday dismissed passing immigration reform until “trust” is gained in President Obama, leaving the timeline for the passage of immigration reform up in the air.
But there’s another — and perhaps more significant — reason House Republicans are balking at reform: More than 60 percent of House GOP members (143 of 232) represent congressional districts where Latinos make up less than 10 percent of the population.
In addition, Republicans don’t really face serious Democratic opposition in 80 percent of the districts (71 of 89) with more than 10 percent of Latinos, meaning their biggest threat to re-election comes from an intra-party primary. As a result, more than nine in 10 of House Republicans will be nearly unfazed by any possible pro-immigration-reform backlash heading into the November election.
“[House] Republicans don’t have to worry about the Latino electorate,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst and senior fellow at the University of Southern California. “They don’t have to listen to them very much.”
By contrast, First Read has identified just 22 House Republicans in difficult re-election waters this November if Latino voters in their districts blame the GOP for not passing immigration reform.
A majority of these 22 members have publicly said they are open to immigration reforms that Latinos have widely advocated for. Several, including those who rode into office as Tea Party-backed members, have flipped their positions to more immigrant-friendly policies. But after Boehner’s statements, their hopes for movement on immigration measures that could attract support from the Latino community are unsettled.