Immigration Reform: No Flatline Yet; None Anticipated

Published on December 15th, 2013

Comprehensive immigration reform advocates greeted Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s joint announcement that a budget deal had been reached with unabashed joy. [“Republicans Go Vitriolic against Ryan-Murray Budget Accord,” by E.J. Dionne, Anchorage Daily News, December 11, 2013]

The Senate and House Budget Committee chairs’ joint statement revives the possibility, still slim, that amnesty might pass before Congress gets too deeply into 2014 mid-term election campaigning. Proponents also have taken heart in House Majority Leader John Boehner’s staff appointment of amnesty hawk Rebecca Tallent who co-authored the failed 2006 and 2007 immigration bills. Vice President Joe Biden’s “guarantee” that the Senate bill will eventually pass also encourages immigration lobbyists, as does the likelihood that President Obama will make S.744 one of his State of the Union speech’s central objectives. [“Biden Guarantees Victory on Immigration Reform,” by Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times, December 12, 2013]

Assume Congress makes a budget deal – no sure thing. If it does, shortly after Congress reconvenes in early 2014, less time would be spent debating the budget and, theoretically, immigration would move up on the agenda. Otherwise, if Congress gets bogged down in the budget war and it eats up most of the first quarter, time will have run out. The first realistic chance for immigration reform’s revival would be post-election during the lame duck session. As long-time observers know, most incumbents and challengers avoid mentioning immigration while they’re stumping. Further diminishing their appetite to talk about immigration, most get an anti-amnesty earful from their constituents.

Even after the longest, roughest year in immigration reform history, how it will all end is still anyone’s guess. What’s clear, however, is that whatever may happen in 2014, the fight will carry on. If patriots prevail and no bill passes, in 2015 we’ll be right back where we started. But if proponents win, we’ll still be fighting because no matter what’s contained in the legislation’s final version, it won’t be enough to satisfy them. Nothing ever is.

In 2011, Remapping Debate, which describes itself as an original reporting organization dedicated to asking the “why” and “why not” questions rarely posed in the mainstream media, spoke separately with three major immigration advocacy groups. In sessions that lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, none of the pro-immigration spokespersons was willing to give even the vaguest reply to three questions:

  1. What level of enforcement, if any, would be acceptable?
  2. How many total immigrants should the United States accept?
  3. Assuming comprehensive immigration reform passes, would your lobbying efforts end?

Instead of giving direct answers to direct questions, each organization repeatedly emphasized the “inhumanity” of the current immigration system.

The interviewer concluded that:

I was not able to discern any specific limitations that any of the advocates was prepared to affirm; to the contrary, the key arguments for opposing enforcement today appear to be fully applicable to a post-legalization world.

Looking ahead, and as discouraging as my prediction is, the battle for sensible immigration reform will continue for the foreseeable future.

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