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What does Eric Cantor's Primary Loss mean for Immigration Reform?

Posted by Matthew Green | Jul 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

It was a loss that no one really saw coming: Rep. Eric Cantor lost in the Virginia primaries. In response, the current House majority leader said he would step down from his post. This loss was a surprise to many who were following the race. Now, not only are conservatives working on replacing him, but there is also the question as to what this means for the future of immigration reform.

Cantor lost to tea party challenger, David Brat. Many believe that one of the reasons Brat beat Cantor was because Brat had gone after Cantor about his stance on immigration reform, even though Cantor was known for being unwilling to speak strongly on the issue, one way or the other. However, Brat said that Cantor was a “supporter of amnesty” for immigrants who are in the U.S. without documentation.

In the end, Cantor made one last statement about immigration reform. "My position on immigration has not changed. It didn't change from before the election, during the election, or the way it is today. You know, I have always said the system is broken, it needs reforms. I think it is much more desirable and frankly doable if we did it one step at a time, working towards where we have common ground and believe things in common," he said.

While Cantor, himself, called the loss “a personal setback,” it left many pro-immigration reform advocates wondering what to do next. President Obama has already commented on the issue, saying that he “fundamentally rejects the notion” that Cantor's loss means that “tackling immigration legislation is now out of reach.” Obama went on to say that “[i]t's interesting to listen to the pundits and the analysts, and some conventional wisdom talks about how the politics of immigration reform seem impossible now.”

With Cantor's loss, many feel that it will be harder to get anything done, this includes immigration reform legislation. John Feehery, a man who used to be a top Republican congressional aide, said the “defeat throws the GOP conference into chaos.”

Similarly, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen noted how surprising the loss was and went on to foreshadow the death of immigration reform. However, in contrast, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who is known to be a strong pro-immigration reform advocate, said that “[i]mmigration reform is not dead. It might just be moving to the White House for action if none comes from this House.”

Although Cantor was often hesitant to discuss immigration reform, he did publicly back “proposals giving Dreamers the chance to receive some type of legal status, however he voted against the broader Senate measure.” In a statement to CNN, Gutiérrez said that he “ignored the advice of every Republican pollster and tried to be wishy-washy on immigration.” This ultimately contributed to his downfall.

What are your thoughts on how this will affect immigration reform going forward? Does Cantor's loss mean an end to immigration reform talks and any proposed legislation in 2014? What does the future look like for immigration reform policy and procedure?

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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