Monday, June 10, 2013

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Faces Numerous Challenges in the House

If immigration reform's fate were based on securing a simple majority vote in the Senate, then it would easily pass. But of course sixty votes is now needed to pass anything in the Senate. Further complicating the task in the Senate, immigration reform supporters are looking for more than sixty votes. Seventy seems to be the magic number. This supermajority serves no purpose other than to provide momentum for the much tougher battle looming in the House.

The path to passing immigration reform in the House has never been completely clear. Here are three of the major obstacles:

1) Path to citizenship. Even with a 13-year wait period, many conservatives cannot stomach any form of amnesty. Yet this path to citizenship is non-negotiable for many Democrats, which puts Speaker Boehner in a difficult position as he tries to corral his members. (Although Boehner has been largely silent on immigration reform, he has recently made several references to a timetable for marshaling a bill - or multiple bills - through the House.)

2) Border Security. Even in the Senate, this continues to remain an extremely contentious issue. It all comes down to setting a way to determine whether the border is "secure," which will be a trigger for the path to citizenship. Senator Rubio plans to propose an amendment that will require a 90 percent apprehension rate of individuals crossing the border illegally. Putting aside the difficulty in assessing the apprehension percentage, 90 percent sounds like an unfeasible threshold. And immigration advocates have been quick to point this out.

But if this is an unrealistic percentage, then Democrats must concede that tens of thousands of people will continue to illegally enter the United States every year, even if the bill passes and increased border security measures go into effect. And if such entries take place over a significant numbers of years, down the road there will again be a sizable number of unauthorized immigrants in the country. Thus, immigration advocates who claim that the current bill is a solution to illegal immigration are incorrect. The bill is a proposed solution to the present circumstances. As noted in previous posts, immigration is not a problem that will be "solved" in any sustainable way. To do so would require changes to people's innate desire and drive to pursue greater opportunities for themselves and their families. (Or it would require a draconian convergence of technological advancements and privacy infringements in the name of security.)

3) President Obama. Plain and simple, the prospect of President Obama being perceived as "winning" if immigration reform passes is a pretty substantial roadblock. This has nothing to do with policy or the bill itself. It's all politics. There is a contingent of House Republicans who do not want to be seen as supporting a bill that would positively contribute to Obama's legacy. Period.

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