Top 10 of 2010
Issue #5: United States Still Stalled on Immigration Reform, Republican Victories in Midterm Elections Change Landscape
December 2, 2010
Anyone who expected 2010 would bring comprehensive immigration reform did not account for the Obama administration's priorities of passing health-care reform and improving the economy — essentially the same issues that guided the president in 2009.
Arguably the only visible immigration-related action the administration took was announcing in late May plans to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border — and that was mainly to counter moves from Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who had proposed sending up to 6,000 National Guard troops to Arizona's border following the murder of an Arizona rancher and growing concern about violence in Mexico spilling over.
More quietly, the administration shifted its enforcement priorities to target noncitizens who have committed serious crimes for detention and deportation.
With immigration reform stalled and Arizona's immigration enforcement law in the spotlight (see Issue #2: The Arizona Effect: When National Governments Fail, Others React), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an influential member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the few Republicans willing to work on immigration reform, pushed the policy debate in a very different direction. In late July, he announced he was considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would repeal birthright citizenship, a right enshrined in the US Constitution's 14th Amendment.
In the dead of August, birthright citizenship dominated headlines, cable news shows, and talk radio, sparking passionate statements on both sides. Although the issue has not made it to the Senate floor, Republicans in the House are planning to introduce legislation in the next Congress, and some state legislatures are considering banning birthright citizenship as well.
In mid-September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put the DREAM Act, which would legalize certain young immigrants, on the Senate's legislative agenda by attaching it to a defense spending bill. Despite previously having Republican support, the DREAM Act now has almost none and did not pass in September.
Losing the House to Republicans in the midterm elections has chastened Democrats, who know the DREAM Act has no chance next year and are trying to pass it this month, during the lame-duck session of Congress. Many observers argue the defeat of DREAM would be a requiem for comprehensive immigration reform.
Indeed, in this new political landscape, bipartisan cooperation appears even more unlikely, and states, frustrated with Congress and emboldened by Arizona, will probably take on immigration.
Question: Will the midterm elections lead to more serious efforts to find common ground with a Republican Congress on pieces of comprehensive immigration reform (e.g., DREAM Act, the highly skilled, temporary worker program, modified AgJobs, enforcement) or total paralysis?
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