Opinion: The Door Opens for Bipartisan Immigration Reform

"We will get immigration reform. The Democrats want it, and the Republicans need it."

CNN political analyst David Gergen spoke those words well before any polls had closed on Election Day. But now they ring loud and clear.

Long before Tuesday, President Obama knew that Latinos were crucial to his reelection prospects. "Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community," the president said in an Oct. 23 interview with the Des Moines Register.

A sizable majority of Americans across the political spectrum agree with Latinos that we need a new way forward on immigration.

In an exit poll of 19,728 voters on Tuesday by Edison Research, almost two-thirds said that "most illegal immigrants working in the U.S." should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.

Conservative leaders and pundits can read the writing on the wall: Democrats and Republicans must come together to work on a bipartisan immigration process.

Take, for example, the prescient words of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. At a Midwest immigration summit in October, Norquist cautioned that hostility to immigrants is a vote loser, and he placed immigration at the center of economic concerns.

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"Immigration is the most important thing to focus on if you're concerned about America as an economic power," Norquist said. "It's not only good policy to have more immigrants to the United States "¦ [and] a path forward for those people who are here; it's also good politics."

One day after watching key battleground states slip out of his grasp because Hispanic voters went to Obama, Mitt Romney would agree.

Ana Navarro, a Republican political contributor at CNN and CNN en Español and National cochair of John McCain's Hispanic Advisory Council in 2008, quipped on election night that Romney "self-deported from the White House" thanks to his harsh immigration rhetoric during the campaign.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spoke of Republicans' need for "a period of reflection and recalibration" in the wake of Tuesday's election results, which also preserved a Democratic majority in the Senate.

As Republican representatives prepare for the 113th Congress in the context of such remarkable demographic change, they need an immigration proposal based on conservative values.

From a free-market perspective, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wrote this week, "The [immigration] system should be driven by economic demands and provide a chance for law-abiding people to earn a share of the American Dream."

And, speaking to the moral need for reform, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said earlier this year, "It's time for the elected leaders to quit acting like politicians concerned about the next election and start acting like statesmen concerned about the next generation."

In short: To be concerned about the importance of immigrants to our nation's future is to be concerned about the next election.

Obama must fulfill his campaign promise and work with congressional leaders to create a commonsense immigration process that treats all people with dignity. And Republicans must choose pragmatism over extremism on immigration, putting forward practical solutions that create a road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans. 

Democrats want it. Republicans need it.

With enough pressure from Americans of all political stripes, they'll get it done.

Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.