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July 30, 2014 4:45 PM Lining Up For The New Immigration Reform Bus

By Ed Kilgore

As the drive for comprehensive immigration reform legislation has stalled, it’s been replaced by the high likelihood of executive action to provide de facto legalization to millions of undocumented immigrants. And inevitably, various interests who have long hitched their grievances and aspirations to the former are now taking a long look at signing up for the latter.

This potentially very important development is explained today by Greg Sargent:

Is it possible that Democrats could build some kind of coalition behind the coming executive action that includes GOP-aligned constituencies — agricultural interests, business, evangelicals — who have long pushed Republicans to adopt broader reform?
It’s far fetched idea, but some Dems are beginning to think about whether there are ways to broaden out Obama’s coming executive action — not in terms of the number who would be impacted by easing deportations, but more in terms of administrative reforms that could address some of these groups’ problems. Some of the constituencies themselves are quietly debating whether to ask for such reforms as part of Obama’s action, according to several people involved in these discussions.

The more you think about it, in fact, the less the idea of a broad-based log-rolling coalition behind executive action seems “far-fetched” at all. There’s even the beginning of a strategic plan in pursuit of it:

Dem Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida, a key player on immigration, is circulating a memo among Dems arguing that the White House could take several actions that could appeal to such groups. Among them would be recapturing and re-issuing old work visas that have gone unused for various bureaucratic reasons — something that tech interests have wanted. Another is granting employment authorization for spouses of foreign nationals — something that might appeal to business. A third is giving more work flexibility to students, something educational institutions might like.

Republicans—even those who support comprehensive reform—can thank themselves for creating this dynamic. By engaging in overkill—or indulging those who engage in overkill—in burying the Senate-passed bill and taking no real steps towards an alternative, they’ve left many Republican and non-partisan constituencies high and dry for the foreseeable future. Moroever, it takes no deep thinking to understand that if Obama “goes big” on a legalization initiative, it will reduce the pressure for a legislative solution. So the old bus is on blocks with the engine removed, while a new bus is about to leave the station. It wouldn’t be surprising if there’s suddenly a long line for tickets.

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.

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