Immigration policy is politically salient again, spurred bythe results of the recent presidential election in which Latinos voted for Obama by a wide margin over Romney. In a rare show of bipartisanship, a group of eight senators recently unveiled a comprehensive immigration reform plan. The Obama Administration has just signaled its general support of the Senate plan and has also stated it is drafting its own plan in the event that Congress fails to act. There is much reason to be optimistic that some form of immigration reform will pass in Obama’s final term. Here are five reasons why:
First, the GOP has very strong incentive to pass immigration reform. The party not only lost the last presidential election because of a large Latino turnout, but the GOP has also lost the popular vote in five of the last six last presidential elections. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. and the GOP will wish to pass some form of immigration reform so as not to appear hostile to this important voting block. When even Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are modifying their comments and talking about the need for immigration reform, you know there has been a disturbance in The Force. The leadership of the GOP also seems to understand that the party’s long-term electoral prospects and the reality of the changing demographics of the country require that they act on immigration.
Second, the Democratic party also has incentive to get immigration reform done. Both of Obama’s victories can be attributable to the turnout and votes of Latinos, especially in key swing states. The Latino community feels that the Democratic party owes them and they are right.
Third, a rare bipartisan effort is underway in both chambers of Congress to come up with immigration proposal. These efforts are all the more striking at a time when the two parties seem gridlocked on virtually every other issue. There finally seems to be the political will and momentum building up on the part of both parties to deal with immigration.
Fourth, one of the factors that may ease the way to immigration reform is that President Obama has been very credible on securing border, having deported more immigrants than even his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush. This fact gives Obama a strategic advantage in answering Republicans’ call for more enforcement and tougher enforcement. Republicans in turn can go back to their constituents and tell them that the Administration has already been very tough on enforcement.
Finally, the fact that immigration has been back-burnered as an issue for awhile may help increase its chances of passage now because various proposals about how to reform the system have been bandied about and vetted for a while now and these changes will not have to be cut from whole cloth. Also, several decades have passed since the last major reform in 1986. Legislators now have the benefit of hindsight to see what went wrong with the 1986 legislation and how to patch those errors now.