What could go wrong with the momentum driving toward comprehensive immigration reform? By several accounts, the Senate Bipartisan Gang of 8 is on track to unveil its immigration legislation the week of April 8. The legislation is based on the broad principles the Gang of 8 laid out earlier. There seems to be much anticipation, including from the White House and Obama indicated there is a likelihood that he could sign and immigration bill by this summer. Not so fast. As an ABC report stated, timing is of the essence. In particular, I agree with the following assessment by Ted Hesson of ABC that if the legislation is not passed by the end of summer, there will be trouble. He wrote:
But any further significant delay could jeopardize that timeline. If Congress continues to negotiate the bill in the fall, some Republican members of the House facing reelection in 2014 may be less likely to give their support, fearing a primary challenger who will use the issue as a political cudgel.
The first thing that could go wrong is that the issue of House Republicans possibly being primaried is real. A Pew poll today showed that there is an ideological divide on the issue. On the question of whether immigrants "strengthen society", a significantly smaller percentage of Republicans (34%) believe it compared to a larger majority of Democrats (61%) and Independents (55%).
I've written in the past about my skepticism for a truly comprehensive reform. Since that blog entry dated February 18, events have been quick moving and there are now a number of other potential roadblocks that may be causes for concern.
Second, the prospect that a secured border is a trigger that would need to be activated before any benefits were to roll out. The problem is that a secure border is a mirage. Recently, David Grant of the Christian Science Monitor had a good article about the difficulty of assessing and quantifying when and if the border is "secure". I have doubted that our land border with Mexico can ever be secure and I have been critical about the media coverage about the border.
Third a breakdown between labor and business over the issue of temporary worker numbers. Several weeks ago, it was greatly heralded that the Chamber of Commerce and Unions had reached a preliminary agreement on broad principles about immigration reform. The two groups as of yesterday were still haggling over the number of temporary immigrant visas and wages. I've called the labor and business alliance an unholy one, and frankly that alliance could fall apart very quickly once details are revealed in legislation. Unlike many optimistic observers who don't think these two group matter much and that the real drive is toward legalization and a path to citizenship, I believe the important constituencies that these groups represent in both parties could kill the bill.
Broad principles are one thing, but the devil is always in the details. I am eagerly awaiting the Senate legislation like everyone else. Tomorrow I'll blog about what I would look for in such a bill.