Do you remember how hopeful everyone was in January? “Now is the time.” That’s what President Obama said on January 29, 2013 in Las Vegas when he introduced his four (4) part plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”). In early July, the U.S. Senate passed a marked-up and amended version of the Gang of Eight’s “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” and we were off to the House of Representatives. And that’s where we are today … still waiting for something … anything.
There’s a lot of discussion these days whether we’re ever going to have CIR (or any immigration reform for that matter). I heard an interesting piece the other morning on National Public Radio (“NPR”), where Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a strong supporter of CIR, said he’s not concerned if CIR happens before the end of 2013.
“The real clock is this session of Congress doesn’t end until next December,” said Wilkes, who predicts that the House will vote on immigration bills by April or May in 2014. “This has been a long, long process for us, well over 20 years, and we’re not so impatient that we can’t wait four more months,” he added. I suppose that’s encouraging.
But I am also hearing a lot of political chatter as to the likelihood of having CIR before next year’s congressional mid-term elections, during the 2016 presidential primary cycle, or ultimately even by the time the 2016 presidential elections take place.
In a nutshell, the analysis goes like this. Although the Hispanic population today makes up 17 percent of the nation’s population and is the fastest-growing ethnic group, they disproportionately live in congressional districts represented by Democrats. So there’s no real incentive, at this point anyway, for Republican House members running for re-election in 2014 to support CIR if it’s not going to benefit them in their own district or, worse, potentially hurt them.
On to the Republican presidential primaries, where Republic presidential candidates will be focused on placating their conservative base (i.e., the voters in presidential primaries). No chance for CIR at this point
Now we’re into 2016, where maybe a Republican presidential candidate (or dare I say the Republican party) will finally learn the lessons of 2012. (That’s three years from now in case you’re not counting.)
Speaking of lessons learned, former Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently went on CBS Morning to talk about life after the elections. During his comments, he stated that a significant shortcoming of his campaign was appealing to minority voters. (Really?) Interestingly, he took a somewhat different approach on immigration than he had during the campaign when he advocated “self-deportation.” Romney said, “I don’t think those who come here illegally should jump to the front of the line, or be given a special deal — be rewarded for coming here illegally — but they should have a chance, just like anybody else, to get in line and become a citizen if they’d like to do so.” While an admirable view, I think it’s a little too late coming from Governor Romney (but of course, we’re talking about lessons learned).
OK, so how about some potentially good news. Last week Speaker Boehner (R-OH) made a hiring choice for his own staff that hopefully speaks to his seriousness to address immigration reform in 2014. Roll Call reported that “Rebecca Tallent, who currently serves as director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), will join Boehner’s staff[.] Before joining the BPC, Tallent held several senior staff positions with Sen. John McCain, including chief of staff.”
The Roll Call piece went on to say that “[d]uring her time with McCain, [Ms. Tallent] helped the Arizona Republican draft a handful of immigration overhaul measures, including the last big push McCain made with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy … in 2007. … Before working for McCain, she worked for former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., a longtime advocate of overhauling the immigration system[.]”
CIR is very much overdue. “Now [still] is the time.” January seems so long ago, but I remain cautiously optimistic that the House will do something about CIR, albeit now likely in 2014.