Immigration reform: Is 'amnesty' a possibility now?
Congress seems primed to address immigration reform in 2013, and even a path to citizenship – which critics deride as 'amnesty' for illegals – may be on the table. The shift in the national conversation came suddenly. Here's why.
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For that reason, she says, Republicans "aren't going to get the credit" for pushing immigration through, but they "can still get the blame if they block" it.Skip to next paragraph
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Latino advocacy groups and labor unions, emboldened by the community's growing electoral power, vow to take the fight to those who stand in immigration reform's way in 2013.
"This comprehensive immigration reform for the Latino community is personal. The fact that we've come out in record numbers in 2012 was personal. And that's a calculation that members of Congress don't understand," says Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino. "If they are not with us, 2014 may not look pretty with them."
The president, too, has political pressure to pursue immigration reform. He has already come up short once on immigration-reform promises: In 2009, he said that a comprehensive immigration solution would be a top priority.
Yet his first term also saw record numbers of undocumented immigrants deported. Only this summer, after he directed immigration officials to defer deportation of some young illegal immigrants, was he seen as making good on promises to the Latino community.
"The president says that his biggest failure in the first term was not moving forward with immigration reform," says Hector Sanchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. "The Latino community decided to give him a second chance."
Obama has publicly vowed to make immigration reform an immediate priority in his second term, which could begin just on the other side of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
"He's the one who has the mandate on this subject; he's the guy who got the voters who care most intensely about this," says Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic congressman from Connecticut who was involved in immigration reform efforts in the 1980s and early '90s.
But even while the parties broadly agree on the need to pursue immigration reform, how to do it remains up in the air.
Both Rubio and Labrador – like many Republicans – favor breaking up the immigration issue into smaller pieces.
Rubio argues that before Congress deals with the millions of undocumented immigrants, it must prove to the American people that it can secure US borders and establish an effective workplace-verification system. Labrador says he prefers a handful of bills moving simultaneously, with different coalitions able to support each measure.
Obama and Democrats in Congress favor a single comprehensive immigration bill, believing that taking one difficult but all-encompassing vote is more secure for lawmakers than having to vote for a half-dozen or more specific proposals.
"It's not a policy decision. It's a strategy decision, but it's an important one," says Representative Lofgren.
While Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating immigration reform for years, lawmakers also say it is vital that small groups of negotiators not hand down a fully formed bill to either chamber with, in effect, a "take it or leave it" sticker on top.
"It's important that we listen to our colleagues; it's important that we listen to the American people," says Representative Diaz-Balart. "I think it would be a grave mistake if we try to ram something down and pretend like we have all the answers."