What’s the Matter With Massachusetts?

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Since President Obama first broached the subject of immigration reform last summer—and devoted a whopping 39 words to the subject during last Wednesday’s State of the Union—there’s been a bit of discussion as to whether any comprehensive reforms will get the green light this year. There have been some signs of action: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops began organizing in January to push for reforms, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) has introduced reform legislation in the House. But given the myriad problems Democrats face right now, it’s difficult to imagine anything getting passed in the near future. Immigration is always next year’s problem, anyway.

To get a sense of how bearish elected officials have become on the topic, just look to Massachusetts. Yesterday Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick all but conceded defeat on his state’s version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates. Anti-immigrant backlash and calls to focus on jobs have swamped the proposal—not too surprising when you consider that stuff like this passes for intelligent debate.

If the Bay State is any indication, the November elections won’t make immigration reform any easier. Here’s how moderate GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker responded to Patrick’s decision: “This is about fairness. People who are here illegally should not get an advantage over students who have played by the rules.” He neglected to explain why children who enter the country at age two should be held responsible for breaking the rules. Indeed, libertarians like Baker are supposed to like immigration reform because it’s good economics. But in 2010, apparently, it’s just bad politics.

Follow Tim Murphy on Twitter.

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