Analysis: Why The GOP Shouldn't Think it's Pandering and Embrace Immigration Reform

Granting legal status and an earned path to citizenship for undocumented workers could also bring up the often menial wages they earn. Nowrasteh estimates that the 8.5 to 9 million undocumented workers in the U.S. make 20 percent less than the average worker in their field.

"Immigration laws do not take into account economic reality, and economic reality has a way of making these laws irrelevant," said Nowrasteh.

Beyond just altering their rhetoric, cutting a deal now on immigration could give conservatives a chance to get their rule-of-law priorities (i.e. enhanced border security and immigration enforcement measures) included in a comprehensive bill.

"That may still be anathema to the GOP base, but it's becoming clear that the base's approach won't work," writes Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, a conservative blog.

(Jorge Bonilla, another conservative blogger, makes a similar point here).

A real policy shift would address many of the central concerns of Latino voters and should be considered a core part of Republicans' efforts to attract Latino support.

"It's not a pander, it's reversing decades of bad Republican rhetoric and policy on immigration that doesn't have to happen," said Nowrasteh. "It is totally consistent with conservative and free-market ideology to be pro-immigrant."

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