The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday January 26th

U.S. House of Representatives tables immigration reform

CORRECTION — Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misattributed information to a source. The article has been changed to reflect this. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

While North Carolina advocacy groups are urging federal officials to move forward on immigration reform, the U.S. House of Representatives has decided not to pursue that path this year — a decision that some say could hurt the Republican Party in the long run.

The Republican-dominated House decided to table the issue last week after a tug-of-war session with the Democrat-dominated Senate.

Dani Moore, director of the Immigrants and Refugees Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning advocacy group, described North Carolina as a “deportation dragnet.”

Immigration reform in North Carolina is especially important because the state has one of the highest immigration rates in the country, she said.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, immigrants make up 7.3 percent of North Carolina’s population, up from 7 percent in 2010.

Moore said existing immigration policies have the potential to split up family members, so there is a need for bipartisan support for immigration policy reform.

“Both parties need to respond to the crisis of what is happening,” she said.

House Republicans’ decision not to pursue reform this year could damage their prospects in the 2014 midterm elections, said Justin Gross, a professor of political science at UNC-CH.

“It’s clear from everything the last couple of years that it’s beginning to hit the Republican Party,” Gross said.

Greg Weeks, a political science professor at UNC-Charlotte, said Congressional leaders have not been able to come to an agreement on how to deal with the issue.

“The different approaches in the Senate and the House basically represent a stalemate in dealing with immigration reform,” Weeks said.

Gross said part of the difficulty in trying to get action in the House is that the Republican Party is comprised of populist conservatives — who do not support amnesty for immigrants in the country without documentation, and fiscal conservatives ­— who would support immigration because of its added benefit for the economy.

But he added that many elected Republicans are more likely to conform to the party platform during midterm election years in an attempt to garner support from voters who align closely with the party’s primary values.

Weeks said Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. now have a more negative impression of Republicans because of their stance on immigration.

“I think the perception continues that the Republican Party is anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, and this helps to solidify Latino support for the Democratic side,” Weeks said.

But he also said although the immigrant population is a growing part of the electorate, immigrant voters have a limited impact on election results.

“While it is true that the majority of the Latino population is more traditionally Democratic than the general electorate, that will not necessarily result in influencing the outcome of electoral races except maybe in a very few districts,” Weeks said.

Weeks said he doesn’t foresee any reforms to immigration policy in the near future.

“The future is not particularly bright at the moment,” he said.

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