Thursday, January 30, 2014

If not now, when...

Will this be the year that we finally have immigration reform? 

It feels like it, but it also felt like it last year when the Senate passed S.744 and the House looked like it might give in to pressure and pass some form of H.R.15. So what reason do we have to think it will happen this year? How do we escape this myth of Sisyphus?

1. President Obama recommitted himself to the issue during his State of the Union address and Michelle Obama invited activist Cristian Avila from Fast for Families to the event as one of her guests. Now obviously the House has a penchant for defying President Obama purely for the sake of defying him, but the President's statements and the First Lady's action mean the same attention will remain on the issue that almost made it happen last year. It's possible that pressure will finally get to the House Republicans.

2. The House Republican leadership revealed a 'statement of principles' on the subject of immigration reform earlier today that might be the precursor to legislation should pressure continue to mount. The one-page document is a big step, with Republicans seemingly willing to concede legal status to undocumented immigrants already living in the US. The idea of a path to citizenship remains a sticking point, however, and it's just a piece of paper until House Republicans act on the issue.

3. Latino voters could play a big role in the 2014 election cycle. Latinos constitute the fastest growing minority group in the US, so if they wield their collective electoral power they could effectively punish the GOP for continuing to obstruct immigration reform. The statement of principles is pretty clearly an attempt to avoid such a situation, but it might not be enough. Latinos, and really other voters as well, shouldn't let it be enough.

4. Activist groups will no doubt continue to put the pressure on House members. For example, the Fast for Families group, who drew a lot of attention with their National Mall fast, will be travelling the country to speak to different groups and bring the pressure to congress members in their home districts.

5. Conservative groups are among those who have been and will continue to push for reform. These include prominent groups like the Farm Bureau and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately, even given the above, there is still plenty of opposition among Republicans to properly addressing our broken immigration reform this year or any time soon.

I think what that ultimately means for me and other who support comprehensive immigration reform is that we need to work and fight as if there is no tomorrow, as if this year is our last chance. And then at the same time we need to be ready and willing to pick up again next January if it doesn't happen. Perhaps that's just how it is with the important stuff, the stuff that matters.

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