Congressional Democratic leaders are being pressed by latino groups to pass an immigration reform bill within the first 100 days of the new Congress. The House Democratic leadership sounds open to the idea; they don't really have any plans after the first 100 days, apparently:
Pelosi and other House Democrats have said little about what legislation they will take up after completing their 100-hour agenda, a collection of relatively uncontroversial bills over which Democrats have reached consensus.
Beyond the first 100 hours it’s hard to speculate” about what Democrats will focus on, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. Hammill said Pelosi has discussed immigration reform with President Bush and that both have agreed it should be a “priority...”
Hispanic leaders are making two clear statements: Reform should include a path to legal residency for the 12 million illegal immigrants now working in the U.S., and a guest-worker program supported by President Bush, which would require foreign workers to return home after several years, is inadequate. They also oppose the building of a fence along the Mexican border intended to stem the flow of immigration.
“Immigrants have dedicated themselves to this country through hard work and determination and America has benefited accordingly,” Rosales and Rodriguez-Lopez wrote. “[T]hey deserve an orderly pathway to legalize their status in the U.S. so they can emerge from society’s shadows into the light of day...”
But in recent months House Democrats have shied away from the issue for fear of angering conservative-leaning white voters, whom Republican strategists hoped to court in 2006 by pushing strict and punitive immigration proposals.
House Democrats did not mention immigration in “A New Direction for America,” the broad agenda document they made public shortly before the election. The omission drew angry responses from congressional leaders such as Reps. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force.
“I’m very sad and disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform is not a key and pivotal point for the Democrats,” Gutierrez told The Hill in September.
Political strategists who have concentrated on Hispanic outreach say that Democrats have a golden opportunity to capitalize on the increased political attention of Hispanics because of last year’s immigration debate, but that chance could soon pass.
It will be interesting to see if Congressional Republicans are any softer on immigration than they were prior to the elections. While much has been made of the pro-enforcement incumbents who were defeated, I don't get the sense that GOP Representatives and Senators are any more likely to back an amnesty.
It seems to me we're headed for a situation where Congressional Democrats join with the President, John McCain, and a rump group of Republicans to pass an amnesty. That ought to make things very interesting - particularly if the debate drags out late in the year.
Another question will be how many Senators are willing to filibuster this effort. I expect there will be at least a few, but the support of the President might keep the number down. At the same time however, relations between the White House and the Congressional GOP are not great; might that not cause a significant number of Senate Republicans to decide to block a major Presidential initiative?
Update: Fred Barnes reports that the White House is ready to work with Congressional Democrats on immigration reform:
And Bush is prepared to use them. His strategy is to join with Democrats on issues on which they agree--extension of No Child Left Behind, comprehensive immigration reform, and stepped-up funding for alternative energy--and strongly oppose everything else that Democrats are proposing. This amounts to limited bipartisanship--very limited.
That's not a surprise.
Hat Tip: David Frum
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