1 November 2010
With one day to go before the 2010 mid-term elections, the immigration debate continues to take a back seat to the issues of jobs and the economy. What was thought to be a major thorn for immigration reform supporters and an opportunity for immigration repressionists has turned instead into a dud.
While analysts will debate the hows and whys of this diminished role of immigration reform in national campaign debate, the issue now is what path to follow with the expected changes in the composition of Congress and the fact that the 2012 Presidential campaign will begin as soon as the final ballots have been counted for the 2010 election.
With the chances of immigration reform success in the next Congress bleak at best, the best opportunity for reform will come over the next seven weeks. The Lame Duck session – the special sitting of Congress between Election Day and the early-January swearing-in of the newly-elected Representatives – could be the answer to years of frustration over missed opportunities and dashed hopes for millions of individuals living in the shadows across America.
This cannot happen – this will not happen – on its own. Individuals and Americans across our country must focus and work harder than ever starting on Wednesday, November 3, if they hope to get Congress to move on this issue. Immigration reform is in everyone’s interest – Democrats, Republicans, native born, immigrants, businesses, churches, communities, schools, etc. – and the time is now to pass immigration reform.
Why is the Lame Duck session the best opportunity to pass immigration reform? There are at least four reasons:
1. It is difficult to turn a vote in the Lame Duck into a campaign issue. The next election will not be for two years (2012), and there will be many other votes and issues between now and November 2012 for the voters to focus their attention.
2. Many supporters of immigration reform are likely to be voted out of office on Tuesday. These Democratic Party lawmakers have nothing to lose and they should be more willing to vote for what is best for their country rather than have to vote for what is best for their reelection.
3. Both Democrats and Republicans need the immigrant vote – especially the Hispanic vote – for their long-term viability. Republicans are set to elect Hispanic candidates to major positions in Florida and New Mexico, and Democrats do not want to be left behind. Success for President Obama’s reelection, and the re-taking of the House, in 2012 could rest with the Hispanic vote. If the Democratic Congress does not pass immigration reform, Hispanics may feel that they will be better served by Republicans.
4. Democratic Party leaders, including the President, Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, promised to pass immigration reform. They missed their chance prior to the election, and the only opportunity left to them is the Lame Duck session.
The immigration reform package passed by Congress will likely not be full CIR bill that will take care of all issues. More likely it will be a combination of initiatives (DREAM Act, EB-5 expansion, additional immigrant visas for those in line for EB-2 and EB-3 adjustments, H-2B reform and other specific issues). It will also include language regarding border and internal immigration enforcement. This leaves the thorniest issues – the path to legalization for those out of status, and the future flow of immigrants – as the biggest question marks. Will Congress demonstrate the courage and intestinal fortitude to pass legislation that helps bring millions of deserving individuals out of the shadows and into the mainstream of society?
Get ready, folks. The time for immigration reform to pass Congress has FINALLY arrived.