Dems to Tackle Immigration Reform Next?


Defying expectations, the Democrats could be moving ahead with a comprehensive immigration reform bill as soon as next month, despite a crowded legislative agenda and warnings that the issue would be too politically risky in an election year. The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Barack Obama called Massachusetts’ new Republican senator, Scott Brown, from Air Force One today to deliver some news: Democrats are moving forward with an immigration overhaul in a month.

Brown…said the president, who also discussed financial regulation, was giving him a heads-up that immigration was coming down the pike and he should give it some serious thought. The senator promised to look closely at the bipartisan bill that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are trying to produce.

But other reports deny that Obama had given Brown a specific timeline for the bill, confirming only that Chuck Schumer would drop his bipartisan reform proposal next month. According to Politico, Harry Reid promised House leaders that he would move ahead this year on immigration, repeating a promise he made last week. And given the political climate and congressional agenda between now and November—including financial regulatory reform, a climate/energy bill, and the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice—it’s difficult to see how a comprehensive immigration bill will make it on the agenda before the fall election.

Still, even preliminary movement on a bill could build momentum for a real reform effort—and would certainly cheer the immigration advocates and Latino voters who’ve been disappointed with Obama’s inaction on the issue, given his unfufilled promise to tackle immigration within the first year of his presidency. Moreover, the potential short-term and long-term gains for Democrats in terms of gaining Latino voters could end up outweighing the risks—particularly given the Republicans’ own vulnerabilities on the issue. Given the worrying state-level developments in the absence of a comprehensive bill—most notably, the resurgence of nativist hardliners in Arizona—there’s even greater urgency to tackling the issue on a federal level.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.