As Congress takes up a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) has come under pressure from a divided Republican Party on how he will vote on the topic.
“He is under pressure from both sides,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “The stalwarts that don’t want any kind of immigration package or the others who say we’ve got to do something, so he’s just kind of caught in the middle a little bit.”
When asked Friday about how he intends to vote on the bill, Isakson said, “We’re not going to prejudge what the final version is going to be until it’s marked up, debated and amended — so any question that precludes that process taking place is premature.”
A pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here is going to be highly controversial in certain key circles of the Republican Party, Swint said.
“The tea party and others are going to resist anything like that tooth-and-nail. They’re going to fight it tooth-and-nail, and that’s the kind of pressure that he’s under,” Swint said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s a reasonable guy, and I think he knows that the Republican Party is at a real crossroads, and they’ve got to do something, but doing something comes at a cost, and a lot of people on the right are going to say doing anything like that is unacceptable. You know, it’s ‘selling out’ or ‘giving up’ or whatever you call it.”
But, at the same time, the Republican Party must start winning at least a portion of Hispanic and female votes if it wants to be competitive, Swint said.