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E.J. Dionne: Because of Changed Politics, “This Is Immigration Reform’s Time”

by Mahwish Khan on 01/31/2013 at 12:35pm

ej dionneYou’ve heard it from us over and over: there’s a new politics of immigration reform, shaped by the 2012 elections. That new politics means immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million, is under serious consideration in Congress. The Democrats promised it. And the Republicans need it.

E.J. Dionne, one of the Washington Post’s long-time columnists, echoed our message in his latest column, titled, The New Politics of Immigration:

Think back to the battle over health-care reform. Can you imagine that Republicans, upon hearing that President Obama was about to offer his own proposals, would want to rush ahead of him to put their own marker down — and take positions close to his?

That’s the comparison to keep in mind to understand the extraordinary transformation of Beltway politics on immigration reform. Until Obama was reelected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It’s wonderful to behold.

Republicans who always held views on immigration similar to the president’s — notably Sen. John McCain — are now free to say so. Other Republicans who thought a hard line on the issue was a political winner have been forced by the electoral facts to change their minds. Democrats, aware of how important Latino votes are to their party’s future, are determined to get immigration reform done. Nothing is certain in Washington, especially in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but the odds that we will finally fix a broken immigration system are very high.

The behind-the-scenes wrangling over the choreography of this week’s twin immigration announcements — by a bipartisan group of senators and by the president in a speech in Nevada — shows how strong the bias toward action has become.

We’ve become so accustomed to the politics of obstruction that we forget there is still such a thing as legislative craftsmanship. Monday’s unveiling by eight senators of their ideas for reform was months in the making as Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) worked closely with their colleagues to prepare for this moment.

That kind of bipartisanship doesn’t happen in Washington, DC every day. But it’s  happening now, thanks to the 2012 elections. As Dionne concludes:

But make no mistake: This is immigration reform’s time. It was poignant to hear McCain state plainly and eloquently what he has always felt. “We have been too content for too long,” he said, “to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.” Thanks to an election, those words are no longer politically incorrect inside John McCain’s party.

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