Friday, November 9, 2012

Is Immigration Reform Around the Corner?

One of the emerging themes from the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election is the notion that the Republican Party must evolve to appeal to demographics other than caucasians.  More specifically, analysts say that Romney lost the Latino vote by a margin of 70% to 30%.  This is the widest margin since Bob Dole lost the White House in 1996.  Latinos are the largest growing ethnic group.  With the changing American electorate, many are saying that the Republicans must attract more Latino voters to be competitive in future elections.

The first step, according to conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, is "to get rid of the immigration issue altogether."Hannity surprised many in his audience by announcing that he has "evolved" on the issue of immigration reform.  Hannity urged that securing the borders had to be the top priority, but that there ought to be a "pathway to citizenship" for those who are already here and who do not have a criminal record.

Hannity is not the only conservative voicing a willingness to address immigration reform.  Speaker of the House of Representatives , John Boehner, stated, "A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."

On the campaign trail, Republican Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, addressing the issue of young people brought to this country as children, stated that the United States need to find a solution, more permanent than the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, that was "humanitarian," and "that solves their problem but that doesn’t encourage illegal immigration in the future."

Given these statements by leading conservatives, there appears to be a possibility that immigration reform will be on the agenda for the next Congress.  The big question is what that reform will look like.

In one of the rare instances where Republican candidate Mitt Romney addressed immigration during the Fall campaign, he stated that graduates with degrees in math and science should "get a green card stapled to their diploma."  In September, a bill written by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith, came up for a vote.  The bill would have increased the number of visas made available for graduates with advanced degrees in science and technology, but would have also eliminated the diversity visa program.  Representative Michael McCaul from Texas likewise mentions ending the diversity lottery while increasing the number of visas for graduates with advanced math and science degrees when discussing immigration reform.

The time may very well be right for comprehensive immigration reform.  But exactly what shape that reform will take, and whether it will include a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented aliens currently in the United States remains to be seen.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
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