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Immigration reform: It hinges on the House, but there's hope

June 28, 2013|By Sandra Hernandez

The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan immigration reform bill Thursday that should be cause for celebration. The legislation offers much-needed changes to existing laws, including overhauling an outdated and dysfunctional visa system to allow more high-skilled and low-skilled workers to come to the United States. The bill would also create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are already here and working in an underground economy. 

The bill is far from perfect. But the good in it far outweighs the negative components, including an ill-conceived $30-billion border enforcement plan that was thrown in at the 11th hour to win conservatives' votes. The provision adds more boots on the ground and technology in the hopes of sealing the border. But it lacks realistic goals and ignores that illegal crossings are a record low while federal spending on enforcement efforts is at a record high.

Yet for all the concessions made to the Senate bill, those changes may prove too little for the GOP-controlled House, where efforts to derail the bill are already underway.

Consider, for example, that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly said he won’t take up the Senate bill and instead will wait to see what the House Republicans opt to support. So far, that doesn’t look promising. The House Judiciary Committee has passed four bills as of June, all of which ignore the 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the country.

Yet there is still reason to be optimistic. Unlike past legislative efforts, this time there is a much broader coalition of interests backing a comprehensive bill. That group includes the high-tech industry, agriculture, religious organizations and more moderate groups who prefer that the GOP play a role in helping pass immigration reform.

That could make a significant difference because some of the groups include American Crossroads, the largest conservative “super PAC.”

As Steve Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads, told the Washington Post: “There’s a concern among major donors that the party is starting to seem out of touch in an increasingly diverse and dynamic America.”

Those concerns will probably drive Crossroads and others to spend to get their message out and help build support in the House. Whether they can sway conservative Republican members remains to be seen. But I believe that there is a far better chance this time around that Congress may finally do its job and pass immigration reform.

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