At a rally for immigration reform in Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that Congress would start work on an overhaul when it returns from break today. The announcement came as a surprise, especially after other Democratic leaders have said they would wait to press for immigration reform until after the November elections. Last week, New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, a key reform supporter, said Washington was too heated for an overhaul and that Congress should be put off until things cool down after November.
Rallies for immigration reform were held in at least seven cities on Saturday, including Las Vegas, Seattle and Chicago, and were meant to maintain momentum from the massive march in Washington last month.
Reid’s announcement, which may well have been an attempt to capture Latino votes for his hotly contested midterm run in November, exposes a degree of confusion in the Democratic Party about how and when to approach immigration reform. Despite Reid’s affirmation, many in Washington remain wary about moving forward with such a charged issue just after the health insurance fight. And now, since Justice Stevens announced his retirement, Congress is likely to be caught up in partisan fights this summer over Obama’s appointment.
Even if reform efforts do move forward, Reid and most other congressional Democrats support an immigration law that promises an increase in the very enforcement tactics that currently wreak havoc in immigrant communities. Reid presented an immigration vision much like the one outlined last month by Senators Graham and Schumer. The proposals threaten to continue to deport hundred of thousands, increase dangerous border security measures, and institute a guest worker program that threatens to deny immigrants full workplace rights.