Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) restated his commitment to immigration reform during a Las Vegas immigration rally that attracted about 6,000 people this Saturday. “We’re going to come back, we’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform now,” Reid said, according to a Reform Immigration for America press release. “We need to do this this year. We cannot wait. I’ve got 59 Democratic senators, all but three would support this, I want a handful of Republicans, a few Republicans, let them step forward.”
At the rally, Reid tried to find middle ground, simultaneously outlining a path to citizenship and talking about protecting American borders. Under his proposed legislation, to gain legal status immigrants would pay “a penalty and a fine, people will have to work, stay out of trouble, pay taxes, learn English.” In his prepared remarks, Reid also tied immigration reform to the economic recovery, saying,
“It is about jobs. It is about getting people back to work, getting our economy back on track and helping it grow.”
Some analysts questioned if Reid’s speech was primarily directed at strengthening his Hispanic constituent base, as he faces a difficult election fight this fall. Hispanics helped put Nevada in the Democratic column in the last election, though that could change if Democrats fail to make immigration reform a priority.
Reid seems to be stepping up as another leader in the push for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. “Immigration reform has the same features of justice health care did,” Reid said in a interview with Las Vegas TV station.
Reid’s speech has garnered the most media attention so far, but the Las Vegas rally is just one of six other Rally for America immigration protests that took place around the country that same day, also featuring senators and House members.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) assured rally participants of his commitment to reform when he spoke during Saturday’s Chicago rally. “It is time to say to our government — stop dividing our families,” Durbin said. “It is time to say to the voices of hate — stop dividing America.”
The political reasons for Reid’s stand on immigration are clear, according to Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly:
Reid’s motivations are hardly a secret. The senate leader not only has a genuine interest in the issue, but he’ll also need considerable support from fast-growing Latino communities in Nevada if he has any chance of keeping his job…
If Dems are looking for wedge issues that might improve their midterm prospects, [immigration] might do the trick.
None of this has been ignored by the right. Just like the Washington Monthly, the Right Side News reports on Democrats’ use of immigration as a political strategy.
Those wonderful Democrats, now scared witless they are going to be mauled politically at the polls this coming November, have to move as quickly as possible to get those millions of illegal aliens citizenship and, even more important, get them registered to vote so they can vote for the dems who secured their citizenship while overlooking the fact that they are criminals. Remember,** **Latino voters were crucial to President Obama’s win in 2008.
Whether or not Democrats support immigration reform because of November elections, the reassurance from Reid and Durbin comes at a good time — but activists are going to expect more than words. “The commitment we received from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was unequivocal,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, in a press release today. “While the words spoken by Sens. Durbin and Reid are welcomed, they must now be backed by actions.”