Monday, February 4, 2013

High Hopes (& High Stakes) for Immigration Reform

Last week, we saw what could be called a legislative breakthrough as a "Gang of 8" of the US Senate announced a deal on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Later in the week, President Obama responded by revealing his own CIR blueprint for CIR here in Southern Nevada. And yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed optimism over an imminent CIR consensus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he is optimistic the Senate will pass immigration legislation, suggesting Republicans will have no choice but to join the push for a sweeping overhaul.

“Things are looking really good,” the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” “Republicans can no longer stop this. They’ve tried it; it hasn’t worked.” [...]

But many conservatives, particularly in the House, remain leery of allowing the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally to become citizens.

Other issues important to Democrats – such as giving the foreign partners of gay and lesbian Americans a family preference in the immigration system – also remain major partisan stumbling blocks.

Reid brushed that issue aside. “If they’re looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one, but the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed,” he said.

So Mr. Majority Leader sounds quite happy about the chances for CIR happening this year. Does this means it will finally happen this year? Perhaps... Or perhaps not.

There are still major obstacles to CIR in Congress. Two are mentioned above. Some Republicans are already balking over including LGBTQ families in what's supposed to be a comprehensive bill. And of course, there's a matter of the "border security trigger" for earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Some Republicans don't even think that's "tough enough", while some Democrats are concerned that it may be a hidden poison pill in the bill.

On Saturday, Nevada's own Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) joined the MSNBC "Up" panel to talk CIR and all the challenges in passing it this year.

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Over the weekend, FiveThirtyEight looked at the Latin@ population in Republican held House seats to figure out who may cross over to support CIR. Surprisingly, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) showed up on their list. That's because NV-02 is 21% Latin@. But will that really matter to "Tired of the Drama" (but not of the xenophobia) Amodei?

For now, speculation is mostly centering around Senator Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) as possible Republican crossover votes for CIR. Heller already sounds amicable, but there's still been no word (yet) on Heck. Surely, he must be recognizing the importance of immigration to the Nevada Economy? And surely he must be thinking of the changing demographics of the state?


Right now, hopes are high for CIR in Congress this year. That may be due to the lack of a specific bill for the "tea party" radical right to villify. Or perhaps it's due to a real desire by leaders of both parties to conquer this traditionally thorny issue once and for all. The coming days of bill drafting, lobbying, and negotiations will be critical in determining the fate of CIR this year.

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