Former Republican Senator Jim DeMint says legalizing undocumented immigrants will cost trillions of dollars, but other Republicans swiftly criticized the report. (Photo/Getty Images )

Opinion: Conservatives slamming the Heritage report on immigration is the right move for GOP

Is the GOP dead?

Some have speculated that the Republican Party is facing impending doom because of the party’s resistance to jettisoning their extremist base and their obstructionist enablers in Congress. While it may be difficult to disagree with this view, a funny thing happened yesterday when the incredible shrinking brain of the GOP — otherwise known as the Heritage Foundation — released its long-anticipated report on the costs of immigration.

The report, which Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint claimed was “peer-reviewed,” was laughed out of the room by economists before it even hit the Fox News backslapping circuit.  Respected economists on the right spent the day giving the country a lesson in “dynamic scoring” and the American Enterprise Institute turned away from the Heritage Foundation’s vilifying of immigrants and instead turned its ire towards the unsustainability of our entitlement programs.

RELATED: Conservative groups blast Heritage Foundation’s $6.3 trillion “amnesty” cost

Even conservative politicians got into the act, with Senator Flake, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Former Governor Haley Barbour dismissing the Heritage Foundation report as flawed and political.

Jim DeMint resigned his seat as Senator to head the Heritage Foundation, and his impact on the intellectual side of the conservative movement was anxiously awaited. But five months after becoming president of Heritage, it is clear from this report that Mr. DeMint is only using half his brain.

The Heritage Foundation has not released such a thud of a report since, well, its last report on immigration in 2007.  However, back then the libertarian argument was still being drowned out by the influential gasbags on the right clogging up the airwaves.

Today, the political calculus has changed.  Ideologues — driven by the shoddy research machines of folks like Heritage Foundation and Center for Immigration Studies — are losing steam. Their work is nothing more than a warm blanket for the converted and the selective misanthropes who make up the far right.

So if you thought the GOP was dead, yesterday was a sign of life, a blip on the screen that just maybe the Republicans will finally get on with the business of winning national elections.

The GOP leadership would be wise to listen more closely to their growing libertarian base, who do not have the same cultural hangups that their traditional intellectual base has over at Heritage, the Hoover Institution, and the National Review.

It’s not clear yet that the new breed of think tanks, such as Cato and Reason, will have the intellectual flexibility to advise the GOP on a wide range of issues, but it has been clear for a while that they are attracting impressive talent committed to libertarian thinking.

I certainly have my qualms with libertarians, but their arguments have penetrated the right side of the political spectrum far more effectively than anything coming from the left over the last decade.

If immigration reform makes progress this time around, Latinos should be mindful that it was this new breed of Republicans that helped make immigration reform a reality.  And Latinos should certainly be mindful that it was the current Democrat president who has deported more immigrants than any previous administration has, regardless of political affiliation.

The divide between the GOP and Latino organizations is still far too great to expect them to be indebted to these Republicans for their efforts, but it’s a start.


Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

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