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Rob Horowitz: Immigration Reform Moves Forward

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Signaling his belief that sufficient support is now assembled to prevent a successful filibuster and to win final Senate passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled key votes on comprehensive immigration reform legislation for this week. A new amendment dedicating billions of dollars to further beefing up border security has apparently attracted enough new votes to put the legislation over the top. The amendment, which provides for 20,000 new border security officers and the construction of a 700 mile fence, was crafted by two Republican Senators, Bob Corker (TN) and John Hoeven (ND).

The prospects for this legislation received a further boost last week by the release of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Study, estimating that the adoption of the so-called Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act would increase economic growth by 3.3% and reduce federal budget deficits by nearly $200 billion over the next ten years. This projected increase in economic growth and tax revenues is largely a function of the fact that the legislation would result in a significant increase in the labor force, according to CBO. The Heritage Foundation and other right wing organizations attempted to discredit the study, but the CBO has a proven track record of independence and highly credible analysis and is a go to source for Senators, no matter their partisan affiliation.

This legislation, originally introduced by a bi-partisan group of 8 Senators, aims to fix our broken immigration system by paving the way for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants already here to emerge from the shadows and fully participate in American life, opening up our doors more widely through expanded legal immigration targeted to attract the world’s best and brightest, and stepping up enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration. More specifically, it creates a tough, but achievable path to citizenship. It offers sensible interim steps, permitting undocumented immigrants already here in the nation to immediately emerge from the shadows. It also expands the number of visas available for highly skilled workers while providing them with a smoother path to permanent residency, steps up enforcement, and tightens border security.

And a Pew Research Center Poll released on Sunday, while providing some ammunition for opponents, shows broad support for the basic principles underlying this comprehensive immigration proposal: “Public support for creating a way for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status remains high. Currently, 71% say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. to stay legally, if certain requirements are met,” said the Pew Poll report.

More specifically, the political context propelling this comprehensive, bi-partisan Senate bill is the lasting influence of the results of the 2012 Presidential election, where President Obama defeated Mitt Romney 71% to 27% among Latino voters, whom accounted for nearly one-out-of-10 voters—a percentage that is only going to grow in future elections. Speaking about immigration reform on Fox News Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the legislation’s sponsors, said, “If it fails and we are blamed for its failure, our party is in trouble with Hispanics, not because we are conservative but because of the rhetoric and the way we handled this issue. I want to get reattached to the Hispanic community, to sell conservativism, pass comprehensive immigration reform and grow this party.”

If the legislation passes the Senate–as now appears likely–it still faces formidable obstacles in the House. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has already indicated that he will subject the legislation to the Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and only bring it to the floor for a vote if it can gain the support of a majority of the Republican House members. This will make passage more difficult. Observers such as the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein have noted that the strong national incentives for the Republican Party to shift its position on immigration are not necessarily echoed for Republican House members, many of whom represent conservative districts where support for comprehensive immigration reform may create fertile soil for primary challenges.

Still, comprehensive immigration reform appears to be moving forward and an anticipated convincing win in the Senate will give it momentum as it moves into the House. It will be critical to win this final battle so we can fix our broken immigration system, improve our economy, and renew the American Dream.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


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