Brad Bailey, a Texas restaurateur and city councilman in the Houston suburb of Nassau Bay, is a Republican.
But in the early stages of the 2012 presidential campaign, when Mitt Romney was telling the country that "self-deportation" was a reasonable solution to the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants living the United States, it became difficult for Bailey not to view politics through the eyes of his Hispanic employees, who were mortified at the Republican Party's tone-deaf language on immigration policy.
"Our party had been hijacked by a vocal minority," he began telling people at the time.
Before the campaign was even over, Bailey launched something called "The Texas Immigration Solution" to lobby Republicans on the need for reform and to "sensitize conservatives about the rhetoric on immigration."
With financial backing from his neighbor, the Republican mega-donor Bob Perry, a fervent supporter of immigration reform, the group got off to an auspicious start.
In 2012, Bailey helped push activists in the Texas Republican Party to soften the immigration language in its official platform, adding a plank calling for a temporary guest worker program.
And after President Barack Obama won Hispanic voters by a nearly 3-1 margin, a demographic drubbing that startled GOP tacticians everywhere, Bailey embarked on a public relations blitz that landed his message in national outlets like NPR, The Huffington Post, Politico and RedState.com.
By the time the Senate took up the issue in the spring, comprehensive immigration reform finally seemed to have momentum.
A brick wall
With an assist from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a tea party aligned Cuban-American, the Senate passed a sweeping bill that would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, raise the cap on visas for high-skilled workers, and boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But the legislation hit a brick wall in the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner, hamstrung by a bloc of unruly conservatives in his caucus, has refused to bring the comprehensive bill up for a vote, instead urging Congress to pass a series of smaller fixes.
An immigration stalemate in the House, a graveyard for Obama's legislative agenda since Republicans re-captured the chamber in 2010, was predictable.
But here's what almost no one saw coming: a late-summer diplomatic chess match over whether to launch missile strikes against Syria that chewed up valuable calendar time, and now, the looming threat of a government shutdown over a budget gambit -- surprisingly endorsed this week by House GOP leadership -- that would defund the president's health care reform law. After that, another high-stakes showdown over raising the country's debt ceiling is on the docket.
Today, time is running out to pass immigration reform.
Republicans like Bailey who lie awake at night fretting about their party's weak standing among Hispanic voters are worried that nothing will happen before the 2014 elections suck up the nation's political oxygen.
"The calendar just keeps getting more stuff put on it," said Bailey, who saw his group's funding dry up after Perry, his top financial backer, died in April. "Kicking the can down the road does no good. One day I might be optimistic, but the next I'm kind of pessimistic."
Going back to the failed 2005 and 2007 overhaul efforts by then-President George W. Bush, the GOP's stasis on immigration reform has crystallized the party's existential dilemma.
Torn between its hard-line right flank and the urgent need to boost its standing among general election voters and one of the country's fastest-growing voting blocs, Republicans have been caught in what Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina calls "a demographic death spiral" as Democrats continue to rack up huge margins among Hispanic voters at the polls.
Among the GOP's pragmatic set, there are mounting fears that Republicans, consumed with budget battles and procedural wars in do-nothing Washington, will have little to say to Hispanic voters by the time the 2016 presidential race arrives.
"We need to find solutions to these problems, not just continue to find the problems in every possible solution, thereby supporting nothing and ensuring the status quo remains the same," said Rich Beeson, the political director for Romney's presidential campaign.
Beeson lives in Colorado, a state where Obama won a stunning 75% of Hispanic voters.
"This is one area where most people expect both parties to come together and find a solution, not stand in the corner and shout at each other," Beeson said.
Matt David, a Republican operative who managed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's unsuccessful Republican presidential bid, said "we can't make gains with Hispanics subliminally; we have to demonstrate publicly that we will fight for them."
"Democrats will make immigration an issue, and we should welcome it, fight for it, and denounce anyone in our party who doesn't support it," David said.