Anonymous Washington insiders have said that President Obama is to press ahead with efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform immediately. However, because of the almost complete lack of cooperation between the parties it is not clear that the President will succeed in forcing reform through.
President Obama promised to reform the US's immigration
system during his first term but failed to do so. In the run-up to the
presidential election in November 2012, the President explained his failure to
achieve reform. He said that, in 2008 and 2009, he had been busy with the
financial crisis and had failed to act on immigration. Then after mid-term
elections in 2010, Mr Obama's Democratic Party lost control of the junior
chamber of the US Congress, the House of
Representatives (known as 'The House') to the Republicans. This made it harder
for him to achieve reform. Insiders say that the President intends to press hard
to ensure that reform happens in his second term.
No details have
emerged of any proposed legislation. It is believed that Democrat and Republican
Congressmen are cooperating to create a draft law. Among those said to be
working on the law are Republican moderate Lindsay Graham and former Republican
Presidential candidate John McCain. The process should take at least two months
and it is unlikely that any vote would be held until June at the earliest. It is
thought that the legislation would involve four main proposals.
further strengthening of US border security
• The establishment of a
biometric ID system to identify legal immigrants and to prevent illegal
immigrants from working
• The establishment of a process for registering
• A mechanism whereby some illegal immigrants can gain a
green card (permanent resident status) and progress towards US
It is far from certain that reform will occur. Under the
US system, in order for an act to become law, it must be passed by both chambers
of Congress; the Senate and The House and be signed by the President. One of the
major difficulties that the President will face in forcing through reform is
that, at the elections in November 2012, the Republicans kept control of the
House and the Democrats kept control of the Senate. This means that there will
have to be some cross party cooperation if US immigration laws are to be
Cooperation has become increasingly rare in Congress in
recent years, particularly since a right-wing popular movement, 'The Tea Party'
began to exert influence over the Republican Party, moving it further to the
right in 2009. The Tea Party, named after the Boston Tea Party, a revolt about a
tax on tea imposed by the British in 1773, is a loose, right-wing grouping that
is 'is anti-government, anti-spending, anti-immigration and anti-compromise
politics' according to the New York Times.
So, because the
Republicans control The House and are increasingly opposed to both immigration
and cooperation, there must be questions as to the likelihood of reform being
passed by The House, as it would have to be to become law.
Representative Zoe Lofgren is expected to lead the Democratic attempts at reform
in The House. She admitted that reform depends on Republican cooperation. She
told the Huffington Post 'In the end, immigration reform is going to depend very
much on whether [Republican Speaker of The House John] Boehner wants to do it or
Democrats believe that reform is still possible. While
right-wing Republicans supported by the Tea Party may oppose reform, senior
Washington Republicans may well ignore them and support reform in any
This is because the Republican Party's increasingly
anti-immigration stance in recent years has led to a collapse of support for the
Party among Latino voters. About 41% of Latino voters who cast a ballot in 2000
and 2004 voted for George W Bush. In 2012, fewer than 30% of Latino voters voted
for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who campaigned on a hard-line
anti-immigration policy. President Obama has said that he won the election in
November because of the Republican's immigration policy.
the percentage of the population made up of Latino voters is rising, immigration
is likely to become an increasingly important issue in American politics. Over
17% of US voters are now
of Latino ethnicity. This percentage is due to rise to 30% by 2050. Republicans,
therefore, may calculate that, unless they change their immigration policy, they
will never take the presidency again.
Angela Kelley, vice president of the
Centre for American Progress told the Huffington Post that Republicans would
suffer an electoral backlash at the next election if they block reform, 'They
(the Republicans) can procrastinate as long as they want, but they're going to
have a serious day of reckoning next election cycle', she said.
so, there is no guarantee that the Republicans will cooperate. Two key figures
in The House are likely to do all they can to block the proposed law's progress.
The new Chairman of The House Judiciary Committee will be Representative Bob
Goodlatte, a Republican who has been a vocal opponent of immigration reform and
the new chairman of the House subcommittee on immigration and border security,
Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, is also an opponent of any relaxation of
US immigration law.
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