It might be an understatement to say it has been a year of ups and downs for immigration reform. But, despite high levels of public support and a still-active advocacy campaign, it appears comprehensive immigration reform this year is dead. The final nails in the coffin came in the form of comments from two central House Republicans, Mario Diaz-Balart and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. While the House is still working on some piecemeal efforts, they are unlikely to result in a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
The big stories on our immigration radar remain state and local oriented. Last week, new Americans made an impact on mayoral and gubernatorial elections across the country. From the Minneapolis City Council to New York City mayor to New Jersey governor, immigrant communities were influential. Especially salient was Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli for governor. Latino Decisions analyzed Latino and Asian American voter trends, and the Washington Post recounted how Cuccinelli’s harsh rhetoric on immigration mobilized Latino voters as well as immigrant candidates in northern Virginia jurisdictions.
Driver’s licenses continue to percolate. The District of Columbia City Council approved driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Advocates praised the original bill, which permitted the licenses to be used for federal identification purposes and were therefore not compliant with the Real ID Act. However, the bill that passed was modified to comply, creating a “two-tier system of identification”; like those issued in other states that permit undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses. Maryland opened its license application process for undocumented immigrants last week, and license discussions are percolating within the Charleston, SC police department.
Immigrant aid centers opened in Brooks County, Texas and throughout Hawaii last week. New York City began a pilot program called the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which will use its city-funded budget to provide legal assistance to low-income immigrants facing deportation.
Finally, in Arizona, Attorney General Tom Horne is suing Maricopa County Community Colleges for offering in-state tuition to DACA recipients, and is considering expanding the lawsuit to include Pima County Community College.