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Driver's licenses for undocumented and new immigration reform bill shows sea of change in US views

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Senator Marco Rubio
The recent decision by Illinois to grant driver's licenses to the undocumented is an indication of how dramatically the immigration issue is changing in the U.S.

Now there is a bill before the Massachusetts legislature on granting licenses, with hopes that New York will follow suit.

Just a few years back such bills would have been heavily defeated; indeed, attempts to process legislation in seven states failed.

The driver’s license issue is just the tip of the iceberg, though. There has been a massive change almost overnight on the issue of immigration to United States.

It is the best example yet that elections have consequences. President Obama’s victory certainly has shown that.

Whatever else about politicians, they can always read the results of elections. Put simply, the GOP can never win another presidential election unless they win a larger share of the Hispanic and minority turnout.

The old days of a white majority are gone forever, and Republicans have suddenly woken up in a different universe as the party of old men.

This is no country for old men only. Arguably the greatest catalyst for change in America in the past century was the 1965 Immigration Act which ensured that Hispanics would quickly grow to become the largest ethnic group in the U.S.

Hispanics now get to decide elections in key swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. Soon they will begin to impact heavily in Texas and Arizona too.

Republicans are looking at their ultimate nightmare, an electoral lock across the U.S. by Democrats who are already guaranteed about 240 electoral votes before they start if the current support they enjoy lasts.

California is a lesson in Republican overreaching if ever there was one. The state was always competitive until a Republican governor, Pete Wilson, decided it was time to crack down on undocumented and took aim at the Hispanic community with Proposition 187 in the 1990s which sought to exclude the undocumented from state services such as schooling and health care. The party has not won a presidential election there since and only one gubernatorial race since 1994.

The California-zation of many other states will proceed quickly unless the GOP does something quickly.

This is why we are witnessing a sea change among Republicans who have realized late in the day that insulting, deporting and generally slamming Hispanics is not the way to win elections.

There have been voices of moderation such as Jeb Bush and indeed his brother, former President George W. Bush, but they were crying in the wilderness as the anti-immigrant lobby held sway.

Now all has changed. Senator John McCain, for long a principled advocate of reform, has found his voice again on this issue, and more importantly he has been joined by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the two rising stars in the GOP who see their future prospects dim unless this issue is dealt with.

In the overall scheme the Irish are bit players, but a bill that passes and legalizes our estimated 50,000 undocumented and helps more future flow come to America would have a profound impact on the community.

Amazingly that now seems in sight after a dark period where anti-immigrant legislation was the norm. This time it looks for real.

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