Saturday, May 18, 2024

Senators Revisit Talks on Immigration

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have renewed their partnership and are giving immigration reform another try; though this time they are playing their cards differently.

Instead of directing their efforts on members of Congress who have long supported a bipartisan immigration bill, they are setting their gaze on a combination of both conservative and liberal constituencies that according to Graham, could potentially offer a “safety net” of support, as reported in Poltico.

The pair has begun a series of initial conversations with a number of advocacy groups explaining that a new effort is underway.  Schumer and his staff have also begun reaching out to some debatable players in the Senate, including Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who won her reelection as a write-in candidate last fall without the support of the Republican Party. 

“What we’re doing is beginning these preliminary talks, particularly with outside groups, to try and regain the consensus that was pretty nicely formed last year,” Schumer said. “And who knows, we might surprise everyone and get something done. We realize it is a tough thing to do, but it is very important, and it’s worth a shot. We’ve been getting interesting, positive responses — from places you wouldn’t expect it.”

Though the task at hand won’t be a walk in the park, advocates of reform are hopeful.

The outcomes of last fall’s elections in key states like California, Nevada, Colorado and Washington, where Latinos turned out in record numbers suggest that if Republicans can’t reduce their sharp rhetoric on immigration they can forget about winning the White House in 2012. 

Graham’s willingness to revisit the issue of immigration reform after dropping out of talks last spring, upset by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to move immigration reform ahead of climate change, restores an important bipartisan tone to the conversation.

Still, the Schumer-Graham partnership is limited in its ability to put together a wider support net within the chamber.

According to GOP aides, the issue will need more Republican heavy weights like Senators McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona to step forward if the bill is set to earn serious consideration. 

Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform suggests, “There need to be some new faces that carry.”

McCain stated he won’t engage in any immigration talks until Congress approves a 10-point border security plan that he introduced last year with Kyl, and the governors of the states adjoining Mexico confirm their borders as secure.

“The smart move for the country and the administration would be, take McCain-Kyl and make it law,” Graham said. “Let everybody know we are putting resources in the border and we’re going to fix it. And then move on to the other parts.”

“It would be a real enhancement of border security that will make it easier for those who want comprehensive reform to talk about it,” Graham added.

Schumer stated his staff members have been working with Graham’s staff to “try to come up with something that he and I and many of the outside groups can agree on, and then we will try to sell it to our colleagues.”