Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GOP Proposes Immigration Reform; Now What?

Last week, Republican leaders from the House of Representatives circulated a one page set of principles on immigration reform among rank and file members at a retreat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  According to Time Magazine, the proposal included a pathway to legalization for undocumented aliens already present in the United States, provided border protection measures are taken and the undocumented meet certain criteria.

Time quotes that GOP leaders proposed that undocumented aliens "could live here legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families."  The Republicans principles did not include a pathway to citizenship, which the Washington Post reports may be an area where immigration reform advocates are willing to compromise.

Despite the support from Republican House leaders, whether immigration reform will even happen is "in doubt," according to Representative Paul RyanRyan has been the target of the ire of conservative talk show hosts for his support of immigration reform.  Ryan appeared on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, stating, "Security first, no amnesty, then we might be able to get somewhere."  When asked specifically if Congress would pass an immigration reform bill this year, Ryan responded, "I really don't know the answer to that question. That's clearly in doubt."

After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 Presidential elections, the conventional wisdom was that the Republicans had to support some degree of immigration reform that included the granting of legal status to the undocumented aliens already present in the country if they were to remain competitive in national elections.  This was due to the overwhelming majorities that Latino and Asian voters gave the President.  What happened since then?

In truth, House Republicans are focused on the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections.  Most House Republicans come from "safe" districts, where the election of a Republican is almost certain.  Support for any immigration reform that can be seen as amnesty would more likely result in a credible challenge in the primaries, and not in the election of a Democrat.

Add to this situation the President's recent troubles with the cornerstone of his Administration: Obamacare.  With the program becoming increasingly unpopular, there is a real possibility that the Republicans may be able to take the Senate in the mid-term elections too.

Last week, talk show host Rush Limbaugh questioned why the Republicans would push for any immigration reform that includes so-called "amnesty."  Citing an article from the Politico, Limbaugh noted that Democrat may even be conceding control of the House to the Republicans in order to concentrate electoral resources on saving the Senate.  Limbaugh speculated that if the Republicans were poised to have such electoral success in 2014, the only way to derail that success now is if the party pushed for immigration reform.  Specifically, Limbaugh claimed that if Republicans supported "amnesty," that would likely cause faithful Republican voters to stay home on election day.

With this political climate, then, the passage of immigration reform, which seemed to be a sure thing in late 2012, early 2013, is not a sure thing.  Those who may have been waiting to see if reform would pass instead of acting on legal possibilities now may be well advised to re-think that strategy.

To discuss what possibilities may be available under the law, call now for an appointment.

William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832

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