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The election of Congressman Kevin McCarthy as House Majority Leader on Thursday should have been a good sign for immigration reform, since the California Congressman is one of the Republicans who has supported it.
But you shouldn't expect much from the new leader.
McCarthy's rise from third to second in the legislative leadership is a sign of internal connections and alliances formed during the eight years he has been in Congress. But it doesn't necessarily mean that House Republicans have accepted the new leader's agenda. Chances are it's the other way around.
The issue of immigration reform continues to represent a sea of contradictions for many Republican Congressmen who are afraid that if they vote for reasonable legislation, they'll lose the support of conservatives in the next election. At the same time, they don't want to appear to be against an issue that is so important to Latino voters. That's why they say they recognize that immigration laws are outdated and need to be changed, but are also wary of President Obama precisely because they say he is not implementing those outdated laws.
It stands to reason that this logic should lead to change, to updated laws that the president will be able to implement. But instead, Republicans are resorting to politicking, which neither solves the problems with the old laws nor addresses alleged executive inaction.
Their only interest is to exploit the immigration issue for electoral purposes.
In the longterm, McCarthy's new position of leadership could mean hope for reform. But right now, he knows that his immediate future depends on not upsetting the more conservative wing of his party. And the way to do that is to save immigration reform for another time.
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