Immigration Reform Still Possible This Year

With the recent government shutdown and the self-inflicted beating the Republican-controlled House of Representatives experienced resulting from it, many are wondering whether there is still hope for immigration reform this year.

The President announced immediately after the government shutdown ended the urgent need to pass a law fixing the broken immigration system. Although opposition from Republican House members continue to stall the reform bill, using the “shutdown loss” as more reason to be “less than willing” to support it, GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida indicated in an interview that there are still House Republicans who are working out a solution to legalizing the 11 million undocumented in the country.

The proposed solution involves a piecemeal approach where House Republicans could pass a separate measure dealing with border security and later on pass another measure placing the 11 million on probationary status. The legalization, however, can only move forward if E-verify is operational after five years. The goal, according to Rep. Diaz-Balart, is to command the support of a majority of Republicans.

Also, Republican House members who support reform believe that they can bring together a majority of Republican caucus to pass certain bills, thus, moving the debate to a committee of House and Senate negotiators who could try to negotiate on a comprehensive package. The final deal will ultimately address the problem of the undocumented.

So far, measures involving border security and making it easier for high-skilled workers and farm laborers to get visas have won the support of many House Republicans. The House Judiciary Committee has approved bills which address single issues on immigration but none dealing with legalization of the undocumented.

Democrat House members, on the other hand, remain firm in demanding a vote on a comprehensive reform bill similar to that passed in the Senate. According to Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, 28 Republicans have expressed their support for a path to citizenship.

Meanwhile, leaders of business, labor unions and religious organizations joined forces on October 29 to pressure the House to pass the immigration reform bill. The concerted lobbying effort involved over 600 leaders and focused on 150 Republican House members from 40 states. Sponsors included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Immigration Forum,, a political action group set up by Silicon Valley executives including the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Partnership for a New American Economy, led jointly by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, Rupert Murdoch and Bill Marriot Jr.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia expressed their support to pass their own version of the immigration bill this year. When asked whether the House can still act on immigration reform despite the fact that it has only four legislative weeks left, Speaker Boehner said, “I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed. And I am hopeful.”

As GOP-Rep. David Valadao of California pointed out, “If anybody has the power to bring it to a vote it’s him,” referring to Rep. Cantor who sets the House Calendar.

The immigration system is broken and ignoring it is not good for the country. Many studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform would expand the nation’s economy. With the intense lobbying efforts and pressure from all sectors of society, we hope that the GOP-controlled House finally address the problem and pass the immigration reform bill this year.