America needs immigration reform. Polls show a large majority of Americans want immigration reform.
That reform, to be worthy of the name, must include a clear path to citizenship — or, at the very least, legal status — for the more than 11 million human beings who now live in this country without benefit of proper paperwork. A recent Pew Research Center poll puts the number of Americans who favor a path to full citizenship at 76 percent.
But because he was considered insufficiently hostile to just that kind of reform, the second-ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives was thrown out of office Tuesday by a handful of voters in Virginia.
So even though none of Utah’s Republican members of Congress currently faces a challenge from their right wing, our own delegates are even more unlikely than they were before to push through an immigration reform bill this year.
Which means it may never happen at all.
Rep. Eric Cantor, House majority leader and widely considered the heir apparent to Speaker John Boehner, lost his primary election to a hitherto unknown economics professor who overcame the incumbent’s huge advantage in money and name recognition by accusing him of, among other things, being in favor of "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.
It wasn’t true. If anything, Cantor bore a lot of the credit — or blame —for bottling up the Senate-passed immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. That bill had a lot of bipartisan support, including from Utah’s Orrin Hatch.
But that wasn’t any deterrent to the right wing echo chamber and its talk radio ringmasters whose screeching helped get Cantor bounced.
It is apparently what Utah Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Chris Stewart fear when they resist the entreaties of such mainstream stalwarts as the Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Restaurant Association and Utah Manufacturers Association. Those groups, and others, met with the congressmen last week to explain how a lack of reform hurts businesses, consumers and the whole of the state economy.
They rang up a big No Sale for their efforts. Stewart basically brushed the groups off by telling them he didn’t see that his constituents really cared that much. Which may be true.
Immigration is one of those issues where a vast majority, who favor one path of action but don’t feel vehemently about, lose out to a much smaller, but more vocal, fringe.
That fringe ended one political career Tuesday in Virginia. Making sure they don’t go next now becomes the priority of other Republicans. Including, sadly, most of them in Utah.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.