Saturday, June 22, 2024

Advocates Still Push for Immigration Reform

Immigration advocates are gearing up for a battle in the Senate in the coming weeks, despite the fact that health care continues to dominate, lessening the chances for immigration reform.

One veteran Senate lobbyist said that “immigration is deader than a doornail”. Further adding to advocates frustration is that fact that President Obama devoted only a single sentence to immigration in his 71 minute State of the Union speech last week, in which he ranked health care and an energy bill as his top legislative priorities.

But despite this lack of perceived momentum on the complicated issue of comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama has stressed several times that it remains a top priority for his administration.  Most recently, the President renewed his promise during the State of the Union speech, where he stated: “We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system.. And ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who introduced a House bill favored by immigrant groups, said there was “disillusionment” among advocates across the country.

Gutierrez said of the President, “He was very weak on immigration, lackadaisical.”

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said, “I had very low expectations, but he [the president] surprised even me with how little he said.” Sharry and other advocates are pushing to legalize many of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, strengthen enforcement of immigration laws and provide a mechanism to control the flow of immigrant workers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), are drafting a their version of a bill and reassured immigrant advocates and Latino groups that they were still working with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) to find Republican backers for a bipartisan bill.

Reid, who did not offer a date yet, said, “It’s something we’re committed to do, and we’ll do it as soon as we can.”

A White House official said Obama’s mention of the issue meant that it was on the agenda for the year: “What he said in the speech was that we should move the process and legislation forward this year.”

Several stakeholders said immigration reform is possible only if Schumer strikes a deal with at least two Republican cosponsors. Adding to the pressure is the need to make a springtime deadline to move a bill in the Senate.  Any major legislation is unlikely after that time as midterm elections draw near.

Opponents of immigration reform say they see little political will in Congress to help illegal immigrants at a time when unemployment is near 10 percent, and jobs are such a critical issue for the American people. In a poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the public rated the importance of immigration near the bottom of a list of issues.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks reduced immigration said, “The chances that potentially vulnerable congressmen and senators will want to vote on legalizing illegal aliens is now zero.”

Washington Post