Political Animal


January 28, 2013 11:15 AM Immigration Reform Back On Track—For the Moment

By Ed Kilgore

Well, it only took five-and-a-half years to get another shot at comprehensive immigration reform after the Senate, in one of those maneuvers genuine filibuster reform might eliminate, killed a motion to proceed to a vote on the McCain-Kennedy legislation. What happened, of course, was a revolt by conservatives against “amnesty” that eventually forced John McCain to repudiate his own legislative handiwork as part of the price he had to pay to become the Republican president nominee in 2008. This same revolt helped kill the 2012 presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and helped convince Mitt Romney to make a virtue of his unusually right-wing record on the subject.

In the exceptionally shallow self-examination Republicans are conducting after their 2012 defeat, immigration policy is the one substantive topic where actual change is in the air, thanks to the demographic reality of a burgeoning Latino vote reinforced by the impatience of a pro-immigration business lobby. And so it was no huge surprise when a bipartisan group of eight senators (Democrats Bennet, Durbin, Menendez and Schumer, and Republicans Flake, Graham, McCain and Rubio) revealed an agreement on “principles” for comprehensive immigration reform, to be formally unveiled today, as reported by the New York Times’ Julia Preston:

Under the senators’ plan, most illegal immigrants would be able to apply to become permanent residents — a crucial first step toward citizenship — but only after certain border enforcement measures had been accomplished.
Among the plan’s new proposals is the creation of a commission of governors, law enforcement officials and community leaders from border states that would assess when border security measures had been completed. A proposal would also require that an exit system be in place for tracking departures of foreigners who entered the country through airports or seaports, before any illegal immigrants could start on a path to citizenship.
The lawmakers intend for their proposals to frame the debate in the Senate, which is expected to take up immigration this spring, ahead of the House of Representatives.

This framework reflects the default-drive Republican insistence on “enforcement first” but concedes the “amnesty” principle that is fundamental for conservative nativists.

The timing of this agreement is no accident. The president will release his own comprehensive immigration reform proposal in a speech tomorrow in Las Vegas. It will be interesting to see whether he takes the opportunity to praise or push the Senate group. And the reaction to watch is among House conservatives. They could take this occasion to demand reinstatement of the Hastert Rule requiring that a majority of the GOP Caucus be on board any major legislation before it’s allowed to go to the floor. And the velocity and ferocity of nativist reaction will provide an early read on whether Marco Rubio has a shot at retaining significant movement-conservative support if he decides to run for president in 2016.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 28, 2013 11:33 AM:

    Ain't nothin' gonna happen on immigration in the House.

    They want to appease their base, which is still fuming from the loss their Good Ol' Richie-rich White Boys took in November, thanks to having the election stolen from them by the likes of ACORN, Alinsky, The New Black Panthers, The Old Black Panthers, the NAACP, CREW, the UJA, UNICEF, the "Beaners," and "Beanie and Cecil."
    Among others - imagined, or not.

  • Fess on January 28, 2013 12:30 PM:

    In all of Bush's reign, the one thing that I agreed with him on principle was his desire for getting a handle on immigration that didn't involve electrified fences and such. Unfortunately, his version called for a sort of sign-up list at home (say, Mexico or Guatemala), and the payment of a fee for processing. The first significant problem was the list. There would have been a hefty unofficial "fee" to get your name on the list in the first place with lots of "cutting in line" for those who paid more and more to advance their position. This outcome would not have been a surprise to anyone who ever had dealings south of the border. The second issue was the official processing fee which was a significant chunk of money.

    Living on the border, I see lots and lots of illegals in my daily life. They work their butts off to get ahead. I also see lots and lots who have green cards and they also work their butts off to get ahead. These are not people who ever had the kind of money Bush's plan would have required. They are the people who are necessary to ensure that certain parts of our economy keep functioning. Personally, I am in favor of paying more for produce if it means that the workers got better treatment and are not living in cardboard shelters in brushy canyons. These immigrants and their offspring will make good American citizens if we only find a reasonable way to manage it. One that doesn't involve electrified fences or exorbitant fees.

  • bigtuna on January 28, 2013 2:41 PM:

    One analysis of this - from Cokie R on NPR, is that Boner would have to thread another "Mostly Dems + a few Repubs = 218" margin to get passage in the house. Plus there is the fact that a bill that comes from the senate has to go through the ritualistic political equivalent of a colonoscopy before the house actually does something....

    How many of those rabbits does he have? How many times does he even try than before Eric C., Ryan, etc. just throw him onto the golf course?

  • Peter C on January 28, 2013 3:33 PM:

    This sentance of Barone's made me snort:

    "The 2008-2012 Obama campaign -- it never really stopped -- did an excellent job of turning out just enough voters to win 332 electoral votes in 2012."

    '... just enought voters to win 332 electoral votes'???

    What ridiculousness! Actually, the campaign turned out millions of additional votes since all their votes in the 24 states carried by Romney did not help him win any of the 332 electoral votes he garnered.

    Clearly, Barone is on wingnut welfare. What a maroon!

  • MuddyLee on January 28, 2013 5:23 PM:

    You can still old Tancredo signs on telephone poles in SC - "No Amnesty for Illegals". Just recently I received an anti-Mexican "joke" email from a republican friend. Are republicans in the House really going to vote for reform? McCain's comments on NPR started with "well we lost the last election" - can they convince the crazies in the republican party (probably the majority) that reform is good for the country?