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Bloggings: Immigration Reform Advances in the Senate. But Will it Die in the House? By Roger Algase

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The conflict between the two chambers of Congress over immigration reform was summarized in two newspaper articles which appeared over the Memorial Day weekend. A May 27 Washington Post article, Conservatives stymied in attempts to weaken immigration reform law, describes the failure of intense efforts by long time immigration opponents such as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to use poison pill amendments and scare tactics over border security and alleged costs of reform in order stop CIR.


It is hard to avoid smiling over the consternation of politicians such as Sessions and the anti-immigration groups he represents over the unity shown by the Democratic and Republican Senate Gang of Eight members in turning back attempt after attempt to derail CIR in the Senate Judiciary Committee.


The Washington Post article describes the Alabama Senator's reaction to the Committee's vote to send CIR to the Senate floor as follows:


"'They announced flat out at the beginning of the process that they would rally around and defeat any amendment that would alter their agreement,' Sessions lamented of the group of four Democrats and four Republicans, known as the Gang of Eight. 'The core has held, and the bill is coming forward to the floor of the Senate with not a lot of changes.'"


And another long time immigration opponent, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, compared the reform efforts this year with those in 2007 as follows, according to the same article:


"It's a testament to the other side's greater preparation over the past couple of years...They lined up people in coalitions more effectively. That's why in general...they've done better."


But assuming that CIR supporters manage to put together the 60 votes needed to pass the full Senate, which is not at all certain, according to Senate GOE member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) - see the May 24 Huffington Post - what happens then?


A May 25 Reuters article Will immigration reform get killed in Republican-led House? offers a disheartening answer. The article points out that only 39 of the 233 Republican House members come from districts which are 20 per cent or more Latino.


The majority party in this gerrymandered and therefore undemocratically elected chamber (as more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than Republican ones in 2012) is obviously less sensitive to the need to appeal to a racially diverse electorate.


Reuters quotes one Republican, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, as follows: 


"We can't afford to give amnesty to every person who wants to illegally cross our borders...We don't have enough money in our piggy bank. Amnesty begets more amnesty."


True, not all Republicans are this blind to political reality. Reuters also quotes Ron Bonjean, a former Republican Congressional aide turned political strategist, as follows: 


"If Republicans refuse to pass comprehensive immigration reform, we will become obsolete as a party within 10 years."


Some House immigration opponents may be willing to give lip service to CIR. Reuters quotes Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) as saying:


"I think the House will pass imigration reform". But then he continues: "I doubt it will include pathway to citizenship."


However, since the same article quotes Senate GOE member Charles Schumer (D-NY) as stating that CIR without the pathway to citizenship is a "non-starter", passing a CIR bill without it is the same as passing no bill at all.


Will endemic hostility to Latinos and other minorities on the part of some Republican politicians and right wing media figures doom CIR this year, as it did in 2007? Euphoria over the progress (but by no means assured success) of CIR in the Senate should not blind immigration reform supporters to the very real dangers lurking in the House.



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