Window Closing On Immigration Reform

[ Posted Thursday, May 29th, 2014 – 16:19 UTC ]

The window of opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform to pass Congress is getting narrower, and is about to slam shut until (realistically) the year 2017. More accurately, if John Boehner doesn't allow the House to vote on a bill before the August congressional month-long vacation, then there is little-to-zero chance of immigration reform passing before our next president is sworn into office.

That sounds grim, because it is. If the House doesn't vote in the next few weeks, the chances of immigration reform passing get smaller and smaller, as time goes on. After August comes September and October, when Congress will be completely consumed with the upcoming midterm elections. That's a very polite way of saying "nothing will get done, folks." Certainly not something as contentious as immigration reform, right before people vote.

There is a pipe dream (among some in the chattering classes) that the lame-duck Congress will return to Washington and magically pass immigration reform before year's-end, but this is not a very realistic scenario, to put it mildly. What would motivate them do to so? The only reason House Republicans would immediately push a contentious issue, right before the incoming Congress is sworn in, is if they thought it was their last chance to do so. In other words, that Democrats had taken control of the House and it would be House Republicans' last chance to have any input on such a bill. Few, though, expect this to happen. The safe money this November is on Republicans retaining control, and perhaps even picking up a few seats. If they're going to be stronger in 2015, then why would they rush through immigration reform before that happens?

Which brings us to the next two years. Now, granted, if Democrats did take the House and retain control over the Senate, this would set up a great chance of getting a bill passed and signed into law which would closely resemble what the Senate has already passed. But, again, Democrats taking the House has to be seen as the longest of long shots at this point. Democrats, at this point, would likely be happy (or relieved, at least) to maintain something resembling the status quo: Republicans hold the House, Democrats hold the Senate. Even if the numbers shift slightly in either house, the power dynamic will be essentially the same. There's a good chance, however, that Republicans will not only hold the House but also pick up the six Senate seats they need for control.

If Republicans do manage control of both houses, however, they will likely (at best) try a "bait and switch" approach. They will put a bill together (likely in the House) which they will call "comprehensive immigration reform" which will not, in fact, be comprehensive immigration reform. What it will be is "all enforcement, all the time." House Republicans will get into a contest to see who can propose the highest wall ("Twenty feet high!" "No, fifty feet!") and the most daunting border patrol ever imagined ("Moats, with alligators!" "How about electric fences?!"). It will have no "path to citizenship," and it will likely not even have any sort of path to any legalization at all for the 10-million-plus people already here. At most, it might allow the Dreamers some sort of papers. But it will fall far short of what the Senate passed last year, and it will fall far short of doing anything meaningful about the problem at all.

It also won't help Republicans politically with Latinos, that pretty much goes without saying.

If Democrats at least manage to hold onto the Senate, then they're going to have to start over in 2105. Having a new Congress means all previous bills die (this happens every two years). But this time around, Senator Marco Rubio will be on the other side of the fight, as he prepares to run for president. Any bill which makes it through the new Senate will likely be weaker than the bill they already passed with a bipartisan vote (if Democrats lose seats, as expected, then they'll have to round up that many more Republicans to break a filibuster). The incoming House will be just as fractured as it is now, with Democrats in the minority and the Republicans split between the "We can't vote on any AMNESTY bill ever!" folks, and the more rational "This issue is killing our party demographically" representatives. But so far, the rational group has not been able to convince John Boehner to vote on any bill. The chances they'll do so in the run-up to a presidential election shouldn't be seen as all that great, either.

There are really only two windows for immigration reform to happen before 2017 brings a new Congress (and a new president) to town. If Republicans really do want to move on immigration reform (a debatable question), then they could do so either in the next few weeks (after most primary elections have taken place, so Republican House members wouldn't have to worry about "being primaried" by Tea Party candidates), or they could choose to do so very early in the next Congress -- in January or February of 2015. But once you get past the first months of the new Congress, the presidential nominating contest is going to loom very large, and the Republican candidates will all be firing up their base with "No amnesty -- ever!" promises.

The best chance is really now. The Senate has already passed a bill, meaning that after the House votes they can very quickly have a conference committee and hammer out a deal that can make it through both houses. Which all could happen before August. I have no idea what the actual chances are of that happening (you'd have to read John Boehner's mind to truly know), but what I do know is that the chances of any comprehensive immigration reform are going to shrink pretty fast if nothing does happen by August. A lame-duck vote just isn't going to happen, and the incoming Congress is going to have to deal with the atmosphere of a presidential campaign.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “Window Closing On Immigration Reform”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    It hadn't already?

  2. [2] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    The House Republicans won't even allow discussion let alone a vote and Immigration Reform is not on the current House agenda so it won't happen this year. Nor will anything happen until... 2105? That seems a long way off, almost a century. Oh well, maybe you think it's because Republicans will control all three arms of government for the next 89 years. Certainly Republicans believe they will. They control two of them already.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:


    Amnesty for illegals will do nothing but make this country's leadership Democrat for the rest of my lifetime..

    Personally, I don't think this country will survive...

    Look how low this country has sunk just in 6 years of Democrat rule...


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Nor will anything happen until... 2105? That seems a long way off, almost a century.

    Yea, I think that has to be a typo.. :D

    I think CW meant 2015.. He must have been feeling a little dyslexic... :D

    He's a dyslexic agnostic insomniac...

    He lays awake at night, wondering if there is a DOG... :D

    The problem with Immigration reform as the Democrats want it is that it simply opens the gate and says, "Ya'all come!!"....

    There is NO ENFORCEMENT mechanism that Obama can be trusted to enforce...

    As I said above, the ONLY reason Democrats are pushing for amnesty for illegals is that they want to mint millions of fresh new Dem voters...

    The Democratic Party is the FREE RIDE Party, the FREE STUFF Party...

    Republicans can't compete with that, nor should they try...

    Let me close with the funniest statement I have ever heard regarding illegal immigrants..

    "By and large, illegal immigrants obey the law"...

    That sums up the total illogic and unreality of those who push Immigration "reform"...

    It's like saying "By and large, murders obey the law." or "By and large, rapists obey the law" or "By and large, drunk drivers obey the law"...

    Their very existence precludes them from being law-abiding...


  5. [5] 
    LewDan wrote:

    By and large Americans obey the law. In spite of the fact that the vast majority will cheat on their taxed if they think they can get away with it. Steal if they think they can get away with it. Do drugs illegal drugs if they think they can get away with it. Or violate the Constitution if they think they can get away with it. And, of course beat EVERY law in court if they can get away with it.

    Congress and the President promulgate thousands of statutes and rules each year, some of them thousands of pages long. No be in this country even knows what all the laws are!--But you go right on trotting out your delusions that any immigrant who broke the law is an obviously irredeemable unAmerican.

    Now when Republicans break the law its a whole different story! Go Bundy!

    For some reason you think people will see your hypocrisy as principled instead of just bigoted, ad it really is.--Hate to burst your bubble but--Not gonna happen! The only one deluded enough to mistake your bigotry for moral superiority--is you!

    You rig immigration law so European countries thousands of miles away with total populations of less than five thousand people get the same quota of legal immigrant applications as our next door neighbor with a population of eighty million. And then pretend how unfair it is to all those countries who aren't hurt on the least by the immigration rules that strangle Mexicans that they obey the law when so many Mexicans and Latinos don't.

    You claim obeying the law is a moral imperative.--Unless its a law YOU don't want to obey!-- Like, say, it being illegal to torture people?!

    The only thing superior about you is your intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy. If you can be a citizen the moral bar is low enough that just about anyone qualifies.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    You claim obeying the law is a moral imperative.--Unless its a law YOU don't want to obey!-- Like, say, it being illegal to torture people?!

    Which Congress authorized so, therefore it was legal..

    It's funny to hear YOU, of all people, talking about obeying the law..

    When it's your guy, Obama, who is constantly ignoring the laws that don't suit his agenda...

    All of your fancy personal attacks ignore one simple fact.

    These people are CRIMINALS... PERIOD..

    And you Democrats want to give them amnesty, solely and completely so it will mint fresh new Democrat voters.

    That is the beginning and end of the discussion..


  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Congress and the President promulgate thousands of statutes and rules each year, some of them thousands of pages long. No be in this country even knows what all the laws are!--But you go right on trotting out your delusions that any immigrant who broke the law is an obviously irredeemable unAmerican.

    WOW.. NICE StrawMan argument. You knocked down that argument quicker than anything, eh!! Congrats...

    Too bad, it's not the argument I am making..

    NO ONE in their right mind would equate some obscure "road kill law" with immigration laws...

    Illegals KNOW that it's illegal to enter this country without going thru proper channels..

    Giving all these criminals amnesty is a slap in the face to EVERY immigrant (especially our own Mrs Grand Poobah) who went thru the proper channels, paid all that money and waited all the proper time to become citizens..

    Now Obama and the Democrats just want to HAND citizenship over to anyone who wants it.

    And the ONLY reason that Obama and the Democrats want to do this is to mint fresh new Dem voters.

    It's completely and utterly pathetic...

    Democrats KNOW that they are going to lose and lose BIG this election.. This amnesty push is a Hail Mary to hold onto power..

    And ya'all would concede that if ya'all weren't so enslaved and beholden by Party dogma and ideology..


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