So…What about Immigration?

By Seth Freed Wessler Mar 24, 2010

Three days after at least 200,000 marchers filled Washington, DC streets to demand immigration reform, a lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen now. Here’s a rundown of where things stand. Just before the immigration march, Senators Schumer (D, NY) and Graham (R, SC) released a proposal but at the time, Senator Graham said he’d pull his support for that plan if Democrats passed the health bill. Then, after Obama signed the bill, it became clear that what Graham really meant was that other Republicans wouldn’t support immigration reform but he still will. In a pre-recorded message played at the march, Obama pledged “to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year” on immigration. And while Senator McCain declared “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” members of the leading immigration reform group FIRM held a sit-in at the RNC offices and got party chairman Michael Steele to agree to a late March meeting. Advocates are organizing more demonstrations in key cities across the country on April 10th and are demanding a bill by May 1st. As for the prospects of a bi-partisan process, according to Ali Noorani, director of the National Immigration Forum, another leading immigration reform group, “The republicans can’t risk being obstructionist on comprehensive immigration reform. They carried an anti- immigrant line in 2006 and 2008 and they lost.” Noorani told me that as he sees it, “Immigration reform and health care are completely different things…a win-win for both parties.” This may be true since the exodus of Latino voters from the GOP in the last election cycle was undeniably a result of the party’s immigration position. But it may also be the case that Republicans are a lot more concerned with the much more vitriolic tea baggers than they are with Latino voters. Lot’s of questions remain about what a bi-partisan bill would look like. Gabe Gonzalez of FIRM, says advocates “need to see that actual language and specifics of the bill before we can say if we can live with it.” By all accounts, the Graham/Schumer plan, which is now the starting point for beltway immigration debate, is not a particularly livable one. By setting up a choice between legalization and enforcement, the proposal would offer millions the possibility of getting papers at the cost of intensifying enforcement, detention and deportation and imposing new systems that could lead to civil liberties violations. The fight continues. We’ll keep you updated.