Where We Are on Immigration Reform

Immigration reform is far from stalled in the House.
Immigration reform is far from stalled in the House.

The House recess began this week and I thought it would be a good time to take stock of where we are on immigration reform.

According to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, we now have enough votes to pass reform. There are only four or five Democrats wavering on reform and more than 40 Republicans who support it. This means that if the Senate bill was voted on in the House of Representatives it would pass, but as we know, Speaker John Boehner is not allowing a vote. He continues to insist that only a bill supported by a majority of Republicans will be put up for a vote. In other words, he is saying that unless 70% of all representatives favor the bill he will not bring it to the floor.

This does not mean that reform is dead, or even stalled. Republicans are beginning to talk about passing piecemeal reform measures. Since these small bills will be different from the bill the Senate has already passed, this means that a conference committee made up of members from both the House and Senate would hammer out the final compromise bill. Luis Gutierrez and Chuck Schumer have both said that they think this may be a viable way to get a decent bill.

The final strategy that has come up in the last week is for President Obama to pursue Plan B. He could do this by changing the facts on the ground by extending the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) program to larger numbers of undocumented immigrants. In other words, he could offer millions of the undocumented a temporary work permit in order to create a large class of people who are legally in the United States. As these newly work authorized people enter the above-ground labor force, businesses will develop a strong incentive to see them permanently legalized and put on a pathway to citizenship.

The expectation is that by presenting the Republicans with a fait accompli, President Obama will force them to finally pass a broad immigration reform.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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