TimF has a thoughtful post on what the immigration bill has meant and will mean to the GOP. Relatively speaking, to the Democrats, it was a matter of some indifference. Certainly Democrats had opinions, but not the white hot passionate ones that seemed to erupt in Republican circles.
In the GOP, Mr.F suggests, this opened a fundamental rift between the business conservatives that fund the GOP and the social conservatives that staff it. The business conservatives tend to benefit from an abundance of cheap labor. Social conservatives often suffer economically from this but, probably more importantly, notice keenly the change in culture that comes more quickly with a substantial immigrant population. I would further suppose that cultural conservatives have an ideological attachment to law and order above and beyond their practical devotion.
The rift has been kept in check by simply looking the other way on the immigration issue. George Bush’s failure to back off on addressing the issue of illegal immigrants in a way that business conservatives would like was probably a political blunder of the highest order. I suspect that Republicans who followed Bush’s lead on this will pay dearly. Democrats will not be above the fray entirely, but I suspect it will be less of a motivating issue for their base.