What are the chances for immigration reform?

Now that the Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House has the opportunity to address the issue.  What will the House do?

 It appears that, in the short term, there is little political incentive for House Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Of the 435 voting members in the House of Representatives, Republicans hold 234 seats, while Democrats hold 201.  As Janet Hook reports in the Wall Street Journal, of the 234 Republican members of the House, only 38 Republican members represent congressional districts that have Latino populations of 20 percent or higher.  And only 28 Republican members face even a small risk of a serious challenge by Democratic candidates in the 2014 House elections.  As a result, it seems that, for now, House Republicans would have little to gain politically by voting for an immigration reform package.  Moreover, many House Republicans would stand to face criticism from their congressional districts and possible election challenges from more conservative candidates, if they were to vote for a comprehensive immigration package.

 Long-term demographics, however, may play a role in the voting decisions of some House Republicans.  It appears that some states, including Texas and Arizona, that currently tend to vote for Republicans in local, state, and national elections, will likely be shifting over time towards electing Democratic candidates.  If, and when, such shifts will occur is anybody’s guess.  But some House Republicans might take these factors into account and consider the increasing electoral clout of Latinos and other immigrant groups.  Although currently most House Republicans face few serious electoral challenges from Democrats, they likely will face such challenges in the next 3 to 5 electoral cycles.

 For now, it is impossible to predict whether or not the House of Representatives will pass comprehensive immigration legislation.  It is also impossible to predict whether, if the House passes legislation, the Senate and President Obama will agree to sign such legislation.

 

Call for Obama to improve the immigration system

The New York Times has called for President Obama to use his powers as President to fix some of the most pressing problems in the immigration system.  Among the issues that President Obama could address are the following:

  • End the “Secure Communities” program, which many law enforcement officials have criticized.  The program was aimed at removing dangerous criminals from the United States, but appears to be used instead to remove many who have clean records.
  • Grant relief from deportation for those individuals who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
  • Allow immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the United States.

Please click here to read the New York Times editorial.

Former USCIS official criticizes Obama Administration and Congress

Roxana Bacon, a former top counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), sharply criticized the Obama Administration and Congress for failing to act on immigration reform measures while at the same time engaging in harsh enforcement of current immigration laws.

In a recent article published in an Arizona law journal, Bacon stated, referring to the nation’s capitol, “I know that D.C.’s collective ostriching is not a viable strategy. . . . The reasons — demographic, national security and economic — are all around us.”

“We need visionary thinking and incisive analysis grounded on economic truths to create the functioning immigration policy the nation needs,” Bacon wrote. “None of this is likely to come from this Congress, or from this Administration.”

Bacon criticized the enforcement of immigration laws against certain people brought into the United States illegally when they were children, through no fault of their own.  “Punishing them is like jailing a one-year-old for not wearing a seat belt,” Bacon wrote.  Referring to the failed effort in Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a proposal to create a path to legalization for these young people, Bacon stated, “Even the most reactive voices acknowledge that the Dream Act kids cannot all be deported; rather, almost all will stay here.  The only issue is whether we set them up for failure or maximize their contribution.  Remarkably, we opted for failure.”

To read Roxana Bacon’s complete article, please click here.