This Week in Immigration Reform: Choosing Sides

For the best one article summary of where things stand overall as Congress heads back to session, look no farther than this NPR piece. But, since you probably want all the details, read on.

In the Senate, the Schumer-McCain bill is next on the docket after the farm bill that largely governs the Department of Agriculture. Expect the changes brought on the Senate floor to strengthen border security provisions to attract more Republican support. Despite Sen. Menendez’s hesitation, Sen. Harry Reid believes the filibuster-proof 60 votes will come through. As for the timing, Sen. Schumer expects it to pass by the Fourth of July and Sen. Durbin thinks it can “[reach] the desk of President Obama by early fall.” 

As S.744 moves ahead in the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio has been the subject of much discussion over the past week. As he approaches the floor vote with several amendments in mind, advocates are worried his support is wavering. Rubio faces pressure from both anti-immigration and pro-immigration Floridians and should he choose to run for president in 2016, his immigration legacy will likely be front and center.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is moving forward on piecemeal immigration reform. The Hill reports Chairman Bob Goodlatte is scheduling markup for its three current bills. Rep. Nancy Pelosi believes “a bill could be sent to [President] Obama to sign by August.”

The White House remains relatively mum on the developments, but President Obama did speak to the benefits of immigrants in the United States at an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month event.

In a week with not much coming directly out of Washington, press attention turned to defining supporters and opponents of the currently proposed S.744. On the opponent side, check out the New York Times profile of ICE union head Chris Crane, ABC Univision on Jeff Sessions, and the Washington Post’s Right Turn on conservatives who “lack… a coherent argument against an immigration-reform bill.”

Support is strong from religious groups – evangelical Christians are running an extensive radio ad campaign and Catholic nuns embarked on a national bus tour to garner support for current reform proposals. And a report released by Harvard Medical School, which found immigrants’ contributions to Medicare far exceed their use—to the tune of “$115 billion from 2002 to 2009”—will probably be used to endorse higher immigration levels and legalization.  

But not everyone’s backing or opposition is so clear. After the exclusion of amendments protecting bi-national gay couples, news outlets are reporting on gay rights advocates simultaneously pulling support and continuing to support current reform efforts. In addition, some immigration advocates are concerned about the delicate “balance” between gaining strong Republican support in the Senate and “too many concessions” that would make S.744 unappealingly stringent. And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is pushing back on Sen. Hatch’s expansion of guestworker programs in the bill.  

But does any of this translate to the American public? It doesn’t look great, actually. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found despite a majority of voters supporting a “pathway to citizenship,” 71 percent think “that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will not be able to work together to achieve immigration reform.”