Signs of Life for Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

There’s something downright gothic about the current state of immigration reform. Perhaps it’s the season – Halloween is just a few weeks off – but CIR is looking more and more “undead” these days, a creature of the same twilight realm as zombies and vampires: not quite alive and kicking, but in the words of the Monty Python troupe, “not quite dead yet,” either.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to find CIR in this liminal state, since the budget and debt-ceiling fights have huffed up most of the available air inside the Capitol. The question is whether CIR still can be revived when all this is over.

The White House seems to think so, but it’s not taking any chances. According to, the Obama administration will soon “launch a major fall blitz for immigration reform,” one that carefully hedges its bets by putting pressure on the GOP to pass immigration reform. Politico says the White House wants to keep GOP members on the hot seat for the lack of progress toward immigration reform, so that frustrated immigration activists won’t blame the administration – a strategy Politico says is “more about partisanship than partnership with Republicans.” [See White House Preps Fall Immigration Push, by Reid J. Epstein and Jonathan Allen,, 27.Sep.2013.] That said, even this gambit may yet pay off, and lead GOP lawmakers to work out an immigration deal.

For their part, House GOP leaders have indicated they might be willing to revive the immigration debate once the various fiscal battles are over. In late September, House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) extended an olive branch to Latino immigration activists, offering assurances that he and his committee will soon have several immigration bills ready for floor consideration in October. [See House Republicans Say They’ll Act on Immigration Reform This Year, by David Nakamura, Washington Post, 22.Sep.2013.]

House Democrats are likewise making an effort to keep hope alive for CIR this year. According to, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce a bill that would splice together the Senate-passed CIR bill with a border-security measure wrought by the House GOP. [See Nancy Pelosi May Introduce Immigration Reform Bill, by Seung Min Kim and Jonathan Allen,, 23.Sep.2013.] But even if – in substance – the Pelosi bill meets all or most of the House GOP’s requirements, one wonders whether any measure with Ms. Pelosi’s name on it would ever pass muster with House conservatives, whose personal animosity toward her is legendary.

It’s too early to say whether any of these efforts will yield a “live” bill, capable of getting through both houses of Congress and onto the President’s desk, or just more zombie legislation. We should have a better idea once the budgetary fights are behind us – which may take a while yet.

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