Why the Politics of Immigration Works Differently for the GOP in California

November 26, 2013

For most Republicans in the U.S. Congress, a large gathering of Hispanic voters to discuss immigration would be politically perilous - an invitation to complaints about the party's longtime resistance to measures aimed at helping undocumented immigrants.

But when Republican Rep. Jeff Denham walked into a meeting with hundreds of his Hispanic constituents at a church in California's Central Valley this month, he was met with applause, praise and a hand-lettered "Thank You" sign.

Denham, 46, is a rarity in the U.S. House of Representatives: one of only three Republicans in the chamber's 231-member majority who support a Democrat-sponsored bill that would give millions of undocumented immigrants a legal pathway to U.S. citizenship.

So far, Denham is a voice in the wilderness of the Republican Party, nationally. But in California, he is closer to the mainstream and represents a path forward for his party that begins by facing the human side of undocumented immigrants and extends to a view that immigrants can drive the economy.

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