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Senator Durbin: “I’d Be Naive if I Didn’t Think Pressure From the Left Helps Us at the Bargaining Table”

by Matt Hildreth on 02/22/2013 at 5:14pm

This afternoon the Washington Post published an article “Immigrants, advocates grow impatient with Obama on pace of changes to laws“, which explores the frustration immigration advocates have for the Administration’s record-breaking deportations.  From the article:

The anger at President Obama’s deportation polices among some of his otherwise most ardent allies could pose a surprising complication in coming weeks to the delicate negotiations to overhaul the nation’s immigration system that are now underway.

The Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any in history, provoking deep political tensions that could narrow the president’s ability to make concessions Republicans will likely demand as part of a comprehensive deal.

Latinos are widely credited with helping Obama win reelection last November, and there is high optimism among advocates about the prospects for immigration changes championed by the president.

But the deep resentment over deportations on display at the Senate hearing last week has bubbled up repeatedly as Obama and his allies have tried to devise a coordinated strategy to push an immigration bill through Congress.

This issue does continue to “bubble up” with good reason — because families are being ripped apart by the record deportations. Last week, USA Today exposed how ICE and DHS meet deportation quotas by targeting, arresting, and deporting low-priority immigrants.  As they noted, “Despite a stated policy of prioritizing criminals, ICE aggressively goes after people for offenses such as driving without a license in order to meet their quota of 400,000 deportations a year (ICE euphemistically calls these quotas ‘performance measures’).”

There’s also a very important message for advocates from Senator Dick Durbin, one of the “Gang of Eight” Senators working on immigration reform:

One advocate told the president that the Hispanic community was “demoralized” by ongoing deportations, according the several participants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the off-the-record meeting.

Members of a bipartisan group of eight Senators have been working on an immigration bill that they hope to submit for hearings in March. But President Obama has repeatedly insisted that if their efforts drag, he will submit his own bill to Congress.

The seriousness of that pledge was demonstrated over the weekend, as a draft of Obama’s back-up bill — including a somewhat easier path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants than what the Senate group has discussed — was leaked to USA Today. Republicans complained that the emergence of White House plan made the bipartisan talks more difficult.

At the same time, in the delicate dance of Washington negotiations, the public pressure from immigrants could also help Democrats win what they consider a better deal, by providing a pointed reminder to Republicans more interested in the demands of their conservative base that Democrats face pressures of their own from supporters.

“I’d be naive if I didn’t think pressure from the left helps us at the bargaining table,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the Senate’s bipartisan working group who asked Napolitano pointed questions about the administration’s stepped-up deportations at last week’s hearing.

“We hear every meeting about pressure from the right. We have to be sure everyone is sensitive to the need to make concessions,” Durbin said in an interview.

Yes–this immigration bill being crafted can’t be designed to appease the Republican Senators in the “Gang of Eight.” The four Democrats in that gang have to remember their constituents in immigrant communities — the ones who helped Obama win the 2012 election and insured that Democrats kept control of the Senate in 2010 and 2012.

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