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Roundup of Commentators, Editorial Boards on Immigration Reform: Policy and Politics of Immigration


gang of 8There’s been an enormous amount of commentary reflecting on yesterday’s release of bipartisan principles for immigration reform from a Gang of 8 Senators, and previewing President Obama’s speech on immigration later today. Here’s a roundup:

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal editorial boards agree that progress on this issue is a big deal.  From New York Times:

The [Senate principles lack] specifics and leaves a lot of room for disappointment and retreat. But what’s encouraging is that it exists at all. No longer does the immigration debate consist of two groups yelling across a void. No longer is the discussion hopelessly immobilized by Republicans who have categorically rejected any deal that includes any hint of “amnesty”…

President Obama plans to speak on immigration on Tuesday. We hope he stands firm on a realistic hope for citizenship, and acknowledges the unnecessary toll that overbroad enforcement — including his own — has taken on those whose legalization he has lately been championing. There is a moral, not just practical, case to make for bringing the failed immigration system in line with American ideals. Millions of immigrants, unshackled from fear, could be fully participating in the life and prosperity of the United States. Mr. Obama should make the case for them and see their path through to the end.

Washington Post:

THERE’S A LONG way to go, and a universe of details to be decided, before Congress overhauls the nation’s broken immigration system. Still, it qualified as big news Monday that a bipartisan group of eight senators, working over the last several weeks, was able to fashion a skeletal framework agreement, including the granting of legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the county. It’s an important starting point, but only a starting point, for what should become serious negotiations between the White House and lawmakers.

Wall Street Journal:

If President Obama wants a bipartisan immigration reform this year, the policy and political path is being laid out for him. That’s the meaning of Monday’s statement of reform principles from a bipartisan group of eight Senators across the political spectrum.

The agreement is a breakthrough because it includes compromises from both Republicans and Democrats that, at least in principle, address the main obstacles that have killed reform in the past.

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post agrees:

In fact, the prospects are surprisingly good. Democrats are beholden to Latino voters; Republicans are justifiably terrified by an electoral future without them. Leaders of both parties seem to recognize that our immigration system is inhumane and economically counterproductive. A bipartisan group of eight senators has set out principles of reform, including improved border security, an orderly system for guest workers and a rigorous path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Republican senators and staffers express the rarest of opinions in Washington: trust for a leader of the other party.

The Wall Street Journal also underscores the importance of fighting for citizenship, and why any immigration reform bill must create a pathway to it:

A path to citizenship would also assist the process of assimilation that has been one of America’s historic strengths. The U.S. should not want a permanent class of residents who can never be citizens and thus have less incentive to adapt to U.S. cultural mores, speak English, or move out of segregated ethnic enclaves.

Bloomberg highlights the political necessity behind why Republicans must support immigration reform:

Despite such concerns, the change in the political environment is genuine. Trey Gowdy, a second-term Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, is known as a hawk on illegal immigration. Yet he told a newspaper in his home state of South Carolina that he wants a system that reflects “the humanity that I think defines us as a people, and the respect for the rule of law that defines us as a republic.” If that’s the standard Congress maintains for immigration reform, millions will be on a path to citizenship, and the nation will be on the high road to success.

As did Ezra Klein:

Two numbers explain why a rational Republican Party needs to do something dramatic on immigration: 27 percent and 2 percent.

Twenty-seven percent is the percentage of the Latino vote Mitt Romney received in 2012, according to the exit polls. Two percent is the projected increase in the non-white electorate come 2016. So Republicans are losing badly among Hispanic voters and Hispanic voters are becoming an increasingly important part of the electorate.

And Chris Cilizza from the Fix blog:

The writing is on the political wall: There is no path for the Republican party to be a viable national party in the next decade or two if they cannot win more than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote. Simply passing immigration reform doesn’t solve the problem but it’s a step in the right direction.

More from Jennifer Rubin, the conservative blogger at the Washington Post:

Conservatives have a momentous decision. Do they cling to phony bumper sticker slogans like “no amnesty” or do they join the reality-based legislation movement? It’s time to put aside the nasty rhetoric, the phony excuses and the urge to play to the most extreme elements in the base. For conservative media, it will also be a test of responsibility, political courage and honesty: Will they inflame or debate? Disabuse the base of the notion that the current system is “law and order” or play to their worst fears?

Can Democrats and Republicans come together? I’m not sure, but it looks more promising than it has in decades.

Bill Richardson of New Mexico—a former Democratic border governor—argues that we need federal immigration reform right now, not state legislation like we saw with anti-immigrant bills like Arizona’s SB 1070 or Alabama’s HB 56:

The Supreme Court ruled emphatically that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. While I am certainly sympathetic as a former governor with the issues that states must deal with as a result of illegal immigration, the onus is on Congress to pass an immigration plan.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) noted that immigration reform should also include an oft-neglected component, protections for bi-national same-sex couples:

As LGBT Caucus vice-chairman, however, I am very disappointed that the Senators have not included, in their list of immigration priorities, the elimination of discrimination in immigration law against same-sex, bi-national partners and their families who are seeking to reunite. No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system. That is why, next month, I will reintroduce the Reuniting Families Act, a bill that will reduce the backlog of families trying to reunite by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses, children, and same-sex, bi-national partners as “immediate relatives,” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration.

Ultimately, David Leopold of the American Immigration Lawyers Association notes that President Obama’s speech today will be a major stepping stone, and hopes that ‘what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas’:

The re-election of Barack Obama sparked a paradigm shift in the national immigration debate. Not so much because the President strongly supported comprehensive immigration reform and rejected the inhumane policy of “self-deportation,” but because his entire campaign was about inclusion; about celebrating America’s diversity, its ability to embrace individuals of all ethnic backgrounds, religions and sexual preference.

[Today] President Obama has an historic opportunity to move this vision forward by articulating an immigration policy designed to keep American families safe and together, strengthen its economy, and enrich its culture.

Let’s hope what he says in Las Vegas does not stay in Las Vegas.