A range of developments underscores the momentum behind immigration reform, while highlighting the newfound support for reform from both traditional and non-traditional backers. Even the spate of stories last week that asked if business and labor disputes would help scuttle the overall reform effort were overblown, as the talks there are moving forward and the array of positive developments listed below offer a helpful reminder of why the reform effort is heading in the right direction:
- President Obama Expresses Confidence that Immigration Legislation is on its Way in 2013: President Obama conducted immigration-focused interviews with Spanish language television networks Univisión and Telemundo yesterday, expressing confidence that legislation would arrive on his desk for signing before the end of the year. As the President stated during the Telemundo interview, “If we have a bill introduced at the beginning of next month as these senators indicate it will be, then I’m confident that we can get it done certainly before the end of the summer.” The President also made clear that a citizenship provision is a necessary component of immigration legislation that he will sign into law, telling Univisión that it was essential that undocumented immigrants, “have an opportunity to earn their way — a difficult path but a certain path — toward citizenship.”
- Congress Moving Forward on Bipartisan Legislation in Both House and Senate: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) toured the U.S./Mexico border yesterday and expressed optimism that the Senate immigration legislation they are drafting is on its way in April. As Senator Schumer said, the “bottom line is we’re very close.” Meanwhile, a key member of the bipartisan House of Representatives group working on its own immigration bill, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), said on MSNBC yesterday that the House was close to finishing its own legislation: “I think we’re actually very close to being able to come forward with a package of very important commonsense reform proposals…We’ve really resolved all of the truly contentious issues, so now it’s a lot of detail work and some loose ends.”
- Business/Labor Back at Negotiating Table & Making Progress: After last week’s reports that business and labor talks over wage issues surrounding a new visa program were at an impasse – with some asking whether this would derail the overall reform effort in the process – the news that the key players are back at the negotiating table and are making progress is an important step forward. Blair Latoff Holmes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said we “continue to talk and we remain hopeful a deal will be reached.” The AFL-CIO’s immigration director, Ana Avendaño, agreed that negotiations were “back on the right track,” and offered a helpful dose of perspective: “It is the call for legalization that is driving this whole process and anything that distracts from that is really either irrelevant or is certainly not strong enough to be able to support the momentum behind this bill.”
- GOP Voters in South Carolina Back Contours of Immigration Reform with Earned Citizenship: Resurgent Republic, a Republican-allied public opinion research group, yesterday released findings of four immigration focus groups conducted with Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina. They found that “[a] pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is acceptable to Republican primary voters if it is an earned process and fair to those who are already legally in the system.” As The Hill reported, “19 of 20 members of the focus group in South Carolina backed a candidate who supported comprehensive reform that included border security and allowing undocumented immigrants to ‘earn citizenship’ in 10 years rather than one who advocated for a plan to deport undocumented immigrants.”
- Latino Voter Support for Congress on the Upswing, Thanks to Immigration Reform: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 56% of Latino voters view Congress favorably, “up by a steep 21 percentage points from November 2011.” Clearly, the momentum behind immigration reform and the sense that legislation is moving forward this year is driving the uptick in support from Latinos, who were the only demographic group in the poll who had a majority-favorable view of Congress.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
There’s a real sense that ‘this time it’s different.’ While there will be fits and starts and even some near death experiences, let’s keep our eye on the fact that progress is being made, support from both parties is getting stronger and immigration reform has an excellent chance of making it across the finish line this year.