Immigration Standoff Continues in New Congress

Momentous changes have been in the works since November’s mid-term elections swept Democrats from control in the House of Representatives, and chipped away at their Senate majority. The effects of these changes will begin to be seen this week, as members of the 112th Congress are sworn in at the Capitol. Some things are not likely to change much, though: immigration policy is widely expected to remain gridlocked, much as it was in the last Congress. The only real change is one of degree – it’s a harder freeze this time around.

As the Washington Post points out, both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, continue to assure the party faithful that immigration reform remains a priority for the next two years, while GOP leaders promise to focus greater attention on immigration enforcement, both at the federal and state levels. (See Immigration Impasse Ahead, Washington Post editorial, 29.Dec.2010.) According to the Washington Post, we should expect to see more state legislation modeled after Arizona’s S.B. 1070, along with calls for mass deportations from the more extreme elements of the political right. Attempts to strip “birthright citizenship” from the 14th Amendment are also considered a near-certainty, although the Post notes that they have little chance of success in the Senate, or in the unlikely event that they actually reach the President’s veto pen. The paths to citizenship envisioned by the DREAM Act and the Ag Jobs bills are likely to remain on the drawing board, with little chance of passing in the House.

If we see any movement at all on immigration, it’s likely to be on small, self-contained legislative measures, rather than the sweeping, ambitious policy overhaul that the last three Congresses have failed to produce, according to a recent article in The Hill. (See Bleak Prospects for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Near Future, by Mike Lillis, The Hill, 30.Dec.2010.) Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, expected to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to emphasize workplace immigration enforcement and other measures he says are both popular and designed to protect American jobs, The Hill reported.

It remains unclear whether the GOP will make any attempt to soften its hard-line stance on immigration, with a view to bringing more Latino voters into the fold, in advance of the 2012 presidential election. It will require a delicate balancing act to keep core GOP constituencies happy, while courting the broader electorate, particularly where controversial issues like immigration reform are concerned. We will keep our readers posted, as the situation evolves.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.