As President Obama’s second term gets underway, there is a growing debate about whether comprehensive immigration reform will remain a priority given the ambitious agenda he has outlined, including the need to address the budget, tax reform, climate change and gun violence.
So far, the White House continues to say that immigration reform is on the front burner. More important, the administration is acting as if it is a priority. This week, for example, administration officials met with key members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss how to push forward legislation. Also this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee would probably take up the issue next month. And already, some bipartisan discussions are underway.
Outside Washington, business and religious leaders say they consider immigration reform a top legislative priority and are launching a grass-roots drive to build support. Yet some advocates and observers remain skeptical that federal lawmakers will actually move forward with new laws.
Why? Well, for starters because any type of effort to overhaul the immigration system will require support from moderate Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He concedes that his party needs to improve its standing with Latino voters, who overwhelming cast their ballots for Obama, even in states that traditionally vote for a Republican candidate. But just how far Rubio and others are willing to go on the most vexing aspect of immigration reform remains a question.