Our immigration system is broken.  Drug trafficking comes through our porous border.  The backlog on visas, green cards, and citizenship is a processing nightmare that incentivizes more illegal immigration. There is a unique category of unauthorized immigrants called "dreamers" presenting its own problems with moral, legal, and political dimensions.   
   
Recently, the U.S. Senate passed a mammoth immigration bill that put House Republicans in the hot seat. They could either scrap the Senate’s immigration bill, or they could cull out the more desirable parts and conference the bill. Conservatives seem to be torn over the dilemma. Clearly, there is an impetus for immigration reform, but the more stringent wing of the Republican Party is bristling in opposition.    
 
For Democrats, immigration reform is a far simpler choice. A pathway to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants will likely expand their pool of Democratic voters. Republicans, however, have a political tightrope to walk with Hispanic voters pulling on one side and constituents in safe congressional districts on the other. 
 
In 2004, Hispanics made up 6% of the nation’s electorate; in 2008, it climbed to 7.4%.  In 2012, the Hispanic share of the national electorate increased to 8.4%.  If Hispanic support for Republicans continue to drop while their share of the national electorate continues to grow, in a decade or so, swing states may stop swinging GOP.  Republican leadership appears to be showing signs of stress.  
 
Earlier last week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) drew strong rebukes for a statement made to Newsmax that characterized undocumented children as drug mules.  And though there is some truth to the exploitation of immigrant children, King foolishly tried to quantitate the ratio of productive immigrants (valedictorians) to counterproductive immigrants (peddlers).  He said,
 
"For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.  These people would be legalized with the same act."
 
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) swiftly denounced King’s statement as "hateful" and "ignorant."  Of course, King being King, doubled down on his claim.  
 
King conducted a round of interviews explaining that he could prove which immigrants were drug mules based on characteristics in their musculature, a point he referred to as an "objective fact." It’s difficult to discern which part was more troubling, that King pride wouldn’t allow him to relent, or there’s such an emotional disconnect that he doesn’t know any better.
 
Boehner and Cantor’s coordinated response underscore the fraught relationship Republicans have with Hispanic voters. When asked if King’s statements made it more difficult to pass immigration reform, Boehner said, "Of course."  
 
As a conservative Hispanic, I cringe to see Republican restrictionists make headlines. Immigration reform in the House is on the cusp of failing; and if it fails, Democrats have a silver platter campaign issue for 2016.      
 
In a Wall Street Journal, the paper’s editorial board expressed concern about Republicans killing a bipartisan opportunity to do something productive on immigration.  They wrote, 
 
"The first option [not conferencing the Senate bill] would be a policy blunder and perhaps a political disaster.  The Republican-led House has tried to sell itself as a party of solutions.  To fail to fix any part of an immigration system that everyone agrees is contrary to U.S. economic interests, and after the Senate has passed a bipartisan reform, would play into Democratic charges that House Republicans are mere obstructionists."
 
Worded differently, a piecemeal approach starting with a border security bill is risky.  If it fails – either because Democrats want more or because Republicans can’t agree – the GOP will look like obstructionists fresh out of ideas. They would sacrifice a long-term outreach strategy to an growing market of Hispanic voters to keep content a static group of constituents in safe, gerrymandered congressional districts. 
 
Earlier this month, the National Review and the Weekly Standard joined forces in an editorial denying that an urgency exists to pass immigration reform. The argued that Republicans should deliver a coup de grâce to any efforts seeking to conference the Senate bill.  
  
"Are we supposed to believe that Republican Senate candidates running in states such as Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, and Montana will be hurt if the party doesn’t embrace Chuck Schumer’s immigration bill," they asked.
 
It’s a worthwhile question. It’s true that if things go well, Republicans could win the U.S. Senate in 2014. It would be a nice victory; but it’s questionable how much good it will do if we lose prime real estate in relevant battleground states in the south like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico.    
 
As the Wall Street Journal aptly suggested, Republicans don’t need to take up the entire Senate bill; they need only take up the more constructive, pro-growth measures that have broad public and business support.  They should include measures like attracting more foreign graduates in the respective fields of science, math, and technology, increasing H-1B visas for skilled immigrants, and creating guest worker programs that work to our economic benefit.  
 
There is no honey coating it; the Senate immigration bill is clearly flawed. Buried deep in its loins are exceptions, loopholes and waivers that give arbitrary powers to the executive branch. The last thing we need is a president that would whimsically forgo critical parts of a new immigration law. The House has a good opportunity to clamp down on these oversights.  
 
In most cases, incremental change is ideal. Burkean conservatism has served our country well; unfortunately, the impetus for immigration reform is strong simply because we’ve neglected it for too long. 
 
If Republicans kill the bipartisan effort, it will jeopardize Hispanic votes in years to come.