‘Watershed moment’ or ‘wholesale sellout,’ immigration reform has momentum
June 11, 2013
Momentum is building for immigration reform in the Senate, thanks to the Judiciary Committee’s 13-5 vote in favor of the bill this week.
The House, however, is another story.
That’s where immigration reform stands as Congress takes a week off for Memorial Day. Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform are gearing up to turn their success at the committee level into passage by the full Senate next month. Opponents still hope to block the bill or at least modify key provisions, but their best hope of success is in the House.
The Judiciary Committee’s approval of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act was a “watershed moment,” said Angela Kelly, vice president of immigration policy for the Center for American Progress.
The bipartisan compromise crafted by the Senate’s so-called “Gang of Eight” remained largely intact, and three Republicans joined Democrats in sending the bill to the Senate floor.
“You really can feel in the air a sense of progress being made,” Kelly said.
Supporters of the bill hope to keep that momentum going over the Memorial Day break. A coalition calling itself Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform will hold events in six states over the next two weeks. Coalition leaders will come to Washington, D.C. June 12 to lobby for the bill, just as the Senate begins debate on the legislation.
“The economic survival of countless businesses depends on a stable, reliable workforce, supported by policies that recognize the importance of immigrant labor, human dignity and the rule of law,” said Mike O’Neal, a BBB leader who is president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and former speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives.
Opponents of the bill, however, think they still have a chance to defeat the bill in the Senate.
“The bill now headed to the Senate floor is not immigration reform,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It is about satisfying the demands of political interests for amnesty for illegal aliens and vastly increasing the flow of foreign labor to the United States.”
“As the American public discovers that this bill is nothing but a wholesale sellout of their economic, security and social interests, pressure will grow on members to oppose this disastrous legislation,” Stein said.
Even if the bill sails through the Senate, it’s not clear how immigration reform will fare in the House.
Yesterday, House Republican leaders made it clear that they wouldn’t simply take up the Senate bill.
“While we applaud the progress made by our Senate colleagues, there are numerous ways in which the House will approach the issue differently,” House GOP leaders said in a joint statement. “The House will work its will and produce its own legislation. Enacting policy as consequential and complex as immigration reform demands that both chambers of Congress engage in a robust debate and amendment process.”
In other words, the House bill likely will look a lot different from the Senate bill. While the House has its own “Gang of Eight” negotiating a comprehensive bill, House leaders seem to prefer taking up individual pieces of immigration reform and voting on them one by one. That would mean some elements of the Senate bill — such as expanding visas for highly skilled workers and making E-Verify mandatory for employers — may pass the House, but other pieces of the Senate bill — providing a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S illegally — might not even be considered.
This could make for difficult negotiations between the House and the Senate, even if both chambers pass immigration reform bills.
So while immigration reform has the wind in its sails, there will be plenty of squalls to navigate through.