from Via Carib News
WASHINGTON - Hopes of getting comprehensive immigration reform through the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington have suffered a critical blow.
But it may not be fatal after all.
We can trace the legislative potholes that lace the pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants to the results of this past midterm election, which gave control of the House to the Republicans but enabled the Democrats to retain their majority in the Senate, albeit at reduced strength.
The problem comes down to this: the Democrats who by and large are pro-immigration lawmakers don't have the voting strength in Congress to pass reform. They are up against a re-invigorated Republican Congressional delegation reinforced by Tea Party-backed elected officials. After allowing two crucial years to pass them by without making any serious attempt to pass immigration reform, despite President Barack Obama's pleas, Democrats allowed the initiative to slip through their fingers and therefore didn't provide a key section of their base of public support with an enacted comprehensive package of reform proposals approved and signed into law by a willing president.
While the Democrats want a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented and other meaningful steps that would make life easier for those who fear the slightest knock on the door in the dead of the night worrying hat immigration agents want to deport them, the Republicans want nothing more than to deport most, if not all foreigners. That's part of what they mean when they speak about "taking back the country."
But immigration advocates and their supporters on Capitol Hill still have some cards to play. The Senate remains in Democratic hands and Obama remains in the White House. So, if the Republicans are to enact their agenda, then the game of saying "no" to everything the president or the Democrats propose is over. What that means is that the Republicans who are pushing for a larger defense budget and for tax cuts for the wealthy must compromise by agreeing to proposals which are like red flags before a rampaging bull. They can be forced to swallow distasteful immigration medicine and some part of reform can be included in that strategy.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, daughter of Caribbean immigrants and a vigorous supporter of immigration reform in general and a pathway to citizenship in particular, believes all is not lost. We share that sentiment. For instance, she believes there is a chance of getting the DREAM Act, which would open up a college education to millions of young who may be in the country without legal permission. In addition, the Republicans are going to try to meet the needs of corporate America, which bankrolled their midterm election campaign but which needs the intelligence and strength of the undocumented to keep their plants, computers and facilities humming along.
True, most of the Republican agenda would be on a collision course with the proposals of the Democrats, but simple arithmetic in the Senate and the White House can prevent the House majority from getting their way on most things. Compromises and careful choices of legislation can put some elements of immigration reform back on the front burner.
If there was anything the Republicans have learned from the results of the Nevada Senate race which they lost, it must be that there is little to gain from upsetting immigrant voting communities. The open warfare launched against immigrants in Nevada contributed to Harry Reid's Democratic victory. If the GOP continues in that vein then the party would be on a suicidal mission.
That's why a careful strategy, the kind Clarke talked about in forging compromises, should be embraced with immigration as the test case.
Clearly, immigration reform may not be lost cause after all.