Barack Obama's second order of business, right after he negotiates a new, cliff-averting budget deal with House Republicans, must be immigration reform. It's the biggest unfulfilled promise of his first term and the most politically urgent issue of the many that now face Republican leaders.
Republican Mitt Romney won less than 30 percent of the Latino vote in Tuesday's election, which is less than what John McCain won in 2008, which is less than what George W. Bush won in 2004 and 2000. Somehow the GOP has failed to grasp, or chosen to ignore, the meaning of that trend. Bush recognized it but was slapped down by his own party. He knew that we can't and won't deport 12 million illegal immigrants, and that the consequences of leaving them in limbo because "they broke the law" are substantial, just in economic terms.
Sara Taylor Fagen, White House political director during Bush's second term, said as much in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: "Had President Bush gone after immigration, we may be sitting in a very different position as a party."
Instead, the GOP listened to the wrong people -- people whose empty, self-defeating cries of "first secure the borders" have gotten us nowhere. Sure, secure the borders in as complete and fiscally responsible a way as possible, but in the meantime don't wait to move ahead on other, more crucial elements of reform, including a path to citizenship.
Immigration reform serves Obama's agenda and halts Republicans' political free-fall toward irrelevancy. But it is also the sane, logical and humane thing to do for immigrants who are contributing to our economy.