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Monday, Oct 28 2013 11:00 PM

Denham has the right idea on immigration

By The Bakersfield Californian

Ladies and gentlemen of the House of Representatives, take a cue from Rep. Jeff Denham. The Turlock Republican took the bold step last week of endorsing an immigration plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- one of a scant few members of the GOP to do so thus far.

Expect more to follow. Slowly.

Denham hasn't merely come on board with the Senate's plan, he has opened the immigration door even wider by injecting one more avenue to legal status into the bill -- military service. Serve your adopted country, move toward achieving legal status a little faster.

Denham joins Hanford's David Valadao among the few Republicans who see the writing on the wall. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 man on the House leadership team, ought to join them. We're not investing much hope in that, though. The House needs to pass an immigration reform bill soon, and not just because growers are suffering losses because of farmworker shortages -- although, for representatives in rural, agriculture-dependent districts like Denham, Valadao and, for that matter, McCarthy, that ought to be enough.

The Republican brand has been damaged on two fronts: First, by tea party Republicans whose intransigence has alienated many moderate and independent voters, putting the GOP's House majority in jeopardy; and second, by alienating many Hispanic voters by refusing to budge on immigration reform.

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for one, believes the GOP will pay a heavy price for missing this opportunity on immigration.

"I'm hopeful that the business community in particular will be more active, and the evangelical community, and the manufacturers and the farm growers," McCain told reporters following an event in Chicago Monday.

McCain said a reform bill won't win any new votes from the Republican base, it'll just keep the Hispanic vote in play. "It will give us a playing field where we can argue for lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government, strong military, etc.," he said. "But if we don't pass it, we will not compete for the Hispanic vote."

And if they don't pass it, some Republican members of Congress will find themselves in tough straits come election day. Dunham and Valadao, at least, will have some ammo to fire back at critics. McCarthy, whose job as majority whip could be on the line 2014, might want to arm himself too.

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