The last glimmers of hope that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would pass this year are rapidly fading in Washington. In place of a broad bill, advocates and policy makers are now moving toward a piecemeal approach to immigration reform that would include the passage of the Dream Act and an agricultural workers bill. At the same time, while Washington cowers to the specter of coming elections, Congressional leaders and the White House continue to invest in immigration enforcement and border militarization.
The leadership of key beltway immigration policy groups have started to publicly acknowledge that comprehensive reform is not going to move this year.
Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, for example, told The Hill, "If you're talking about the whole comprehensive reform, I think we can probably write it off before the elections at this point."
The acknowledgment from advocates follows months of back and forth by Congressional leadership and the White House over whether an immigration bill will be prioritized. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled that reform was unlikely this year when last week he sent a letter to Democratic committee chairs making clear that the Senate would move forward with a climate bill, leaving little space for immigration, considering the tight time-line and the upcoming elections.
Yet in a particularly disingenuous move, Reid suggested that immigration reform still has a chance but placed the responsibility on pro-reform beltway advocates. Reid's spokesperson Regan Lachapelle told The Hill, "The groups were given a couple a weeks to get some Republicans to cosponsor immigration reform and we're waiting to hear from them."
The suggestion that immigration reform advocates have not been doing enough rings empty considering the massive immigration marches that riled the country in March and the continued pressure that's come from across the country.
Even without a comprehensive reform package, Washington continues to invest in immigration enforcement, which is already more robust than it's ever been. As I wrote recently, Obama has moved steadily to the right on immigration, agreeing to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico Border. This week John McCain is expected to demand an additional 6,000 troops be sent to the border.
The calls for increased border security are a a political move, pure and simple. Calls to flood the region with military personnel come as the FBI released new data that shows that major border cities, including Phoenix, El Paso and San Diego have particularly low rates of violent crimes compared to other major U.S. cities.
Some good news could emerge out of this mess if the Dream Act and an agricultural workers bill move forward. The bills would open pathways to documented status for millions of immigrants in the United States.
Photo: The National Guard