Who’s Going to Lead the Charge on Immigration Reform? « The Washington Independent
If immigration reform doesn’t get support from both sides of the aisle, we could see another failed attempt at comprehensive reform reminiscent of 2006 and 2007. But it seems like very few senators are willing to touch immigration reform, a potentially toxic political issue, as they try to navigate health care and financial legislation.
From The New York Times:
Only a couple of years ago, negotiations over a huge reform bill brought in Republican senators like John McCain, Mel Martinez, Sam Brownback, Jon Kyl and [Lindsey] Graham. That list has withered away. Some are gone from the Senate; others are just gone.
Only Mr. Graham remains. … Unless Republicans come around, Mr. Obama pulls some political capital from his depleted account, or Mr. Schumer and Mr. Graham pull off some legislative magic, we may be headed for another stalemate. That’s the worst ending: each side blaming the other, trying to extract political gain from an abject legislative failure.
Three senators — Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) — who wanted immigration reform in 2007 are no longer in the Senate. Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), Arlen Specter (then-R, now D-Pa.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sponsored immigration reform bills in 2007, are mostly keeping away from immigration these days.
The State reported last week:
Graham, a Seneca Republican, waded back into a political minefield that has prompted conservative activists across the nation to vilify him since he helped lead a failed Senate bid to overhaul the immigration system in 2007.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is facing a stiff GOP primary challenge this year from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, now a conservative radio commentator. McCain has shied away from re-engaging on the polarizing immigration issue that inflames conservatives. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that it’s up to Graham to find other Republican senators willing to support immigration reforms.
McCain, in fact, is focusing much more on border security and enforcement than comprehensive reform.
Obama pledged last week after immigration meetings at the White House to find Republican support for the reform, without which it can’t pass. But so far, Republicans are staying away.
And what about support from the left?
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been working with Graham on a proposal, and Fox News points out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might make immigration a top priority. But according to the Arizona Republic, Democrats are likely to ignore the issue because of the risks that accompany both support for and opposition to immigration reform. “For most elected officials, it’s a no-win situation,” John Garcia, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, told the Republic. “It’s just such a volatile and divisive issue.”
In the House, 100 pro-reform Democrats wrote a letter to Obama in October reminding him of his promises on immigration. Today, one of the few active advocates of immigration reform, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), did the same in a blog post:
The need for comprehensive immigration reform is urgent. The proposals exist. The road to reform is clear. Then, as a candidate, Barack Obama said he was ready to travel that road. Now, as President, we need him to hold to that promise and begin the journey today.