Monday, July 8, 2013

Immigration Reform and the Republicans. Will They Shoot Themselves in the Foot?

Chicago.- It is already July, and things in Capitol Hill are about to get just as hot as our current weather. The House of Representatives has started its summer session, and will be debating legislation addressing student loans, a farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform. Although the student loan bill is the one that will mostly affect the economy according to Nightly Business Report, immigration reform will be the most emotional and politically decisive for the Republican party, which lost the Hispanic vote in last year's presidential elections after running  an anti-immigrant campaign.

After passing the Senate with a 68-to-32 vote, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is now in the the hands of the House  of Representatives Republican caucus. If the majority isn't in favor of the bill it may just die, since Speaker John Boehner has said he will not bring it to a vote if the caucus rejects it. Instead, Boehner will offer separate immigration bills that have been passed by the House Republican majority and that are xenophobic in nature. One would push immigrants to self-deport, another one would enable states and cities to enforce immigration laws inland, a duty reserved by the federal government by law. Another one "would make it easier to exploit cheap temporary workers, who would be deported when their jobs were done," reports the New York Times. So it is clear that the battle for immigration reform will not be as easy in the House as it was in the Senate, where there is a Democrat majority.

Others seem to think that it may not be as hard to pass a comprehensive immigration reform as it seems. There are more powerful and united coalitions now than during the last attempt to pass a reform. "In 2007, we weren't even on the radar," said the Rev. Samuel Rodríguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference to the New York Times. Mr. Rodríguez has been campaigning for the overhaul around the country. "The House has not felt our love yet," said Eliseo Medina, the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, making it clear that the House will face recrimination if it fails to act this time.

More importantly, smart Republicans know that they will be shooting themselves in the foot if they turn their back on immigration reform. This is their chance to show that they can compromise and that they  care for the welfare of all people in the country. "Maybe Republicans will decide to accept bipartisan immigration reform as a step toward becoming a party with something to offer Latino and Asian voters besides hostility and fear," wrote the New York Times Editorial Board today.  If House Republicans fail to pass immigration reform, they could also wake up the sleeping elephant (Hispanics), bringing millions to the streets again to demand integration and a fair immigration reform.

"We were at the edge of the Jordan River, but after the Senate, we officially got our feet wet,” said Mr. Rodríguez told the New York Times.  “If 11 million immigrants are left in the middle of the water and do not reach the promised land, neither will the Republican Party reach the promised land of the White House.”

Link to Spanish version