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Francis Wilkinson

Republicans Can't Pass Immigration Reform

The Republican base doesn't want an immigration deal. They want deportation.
Not in the mood for a deal.

Not in the mood for a deal.

Photographer: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The White House is preparing the nation for ambitious executive action on immigration by President Barack Obama. If Obama follows through (and not to would be political suicide), controversy will rage. Behind the shouting, the expected move will make some Democrats nervous. But it will prove especially vexing to Republican leaders. The reason is simple: Republicans must answer to the Republican base, and the only solution acceptable to the base is noxious to everyone else.

This month's midterm election featured historically low turnout and a far more Republican electorate than 2012 produced, or than 2016 surely will. Yet even in a conservative electorate, exit polls showed that 57 percent of voters agreed that “illegal immigrants working in the U.S.” should be offered a way to gain “legal status.”