This was a heady week for those of us who have dreamed immigration reform dreams for the last thirteen years. Here were my five takeaways from the news on reform which seemed to be breaking almost hourly since last Friday:
1. This thing is moving fast (for now). Immigrant rights supporters better awake from their post-holiday slumber because the next five months are going to be this decade’s critical showdown on comprehensive reform. The first hearing on reform will take place in February. A Senate bill is likely in early March. If there is no Senate bill by then, expect the Obama folks to push their own legislation. A vote will occur before the August recess, maybe even by the Fourth of July.
2. Conservatives are scared of the growing Latino and Asian vote. One of the most striking things about the reform push this week is how muted the anti-immigrant chorus in Congress has been. Apart from some folks on the radical fringe, almost no one has attacked the Senate proposal which is arguably more liberal than the 2007 “Grand Compromise” backed by President Bush that so many conservatives prided themselves on destroying.
3. Marco Rubio’s support is an asset. Many of my friends are angry at having Rubio as an ally, for obvious reasons. However, we need to pick up as many as ten Republicans in the Senate and two dozen in the House. Rubio, who is on the far right of his party’s Senate caucus provides more moderate legislators cover from fire from the Tea Party.
4. The House of Representatives is still dysfunctional on immigration- The rumor is that the House has a counterpart to the Senate’s Gang of Eight, but no one knows who they are. That means that any deal making that is going on is being done totally in secret and trial balloons are not being floated to stakeholders. Hence, the House could come out with a “compromise” that is so flawed that it will get whacked like a piñata at a five-year-old’s birthday party.
5. A young community organizer told me Monday that if we don’t get immigration reform now, we can always try again in the second term of the next Democratic president. 2021 anyone? Choosing not to push now means we are relegating millions of undocumented immigrants to lives of misery for eight more years.