tags: Press Releases

Three Reasons Why the 2013 Immigration Reform Debate is Not the 2007 Debate

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With Thursday’s Senate markup in the rearview mirror, immigration reform remains the rare policy issue capable of breaking through the partisan gridlock in Washington.  Below are three reasons why immigration reform continues to gain momentum:

  • Bipartisan Reform Backers Remain United:  In the face of a battery of amendments to the Senate immigration bill, backers from both parties remained strong and united.  As an array of coverage and headlines highlighted, the first day of markup of the immigration bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee saw rare displays of bipartisanship and offered fresh reminders that the bill’s backers remain united.  As Ashley Parker of the New York Times writes, “As the Senate Judiciary Committee began plowing through more than 300 amendments intended to reshape — and, in some cases, derail — legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, signs of bipartisanship emerged Thursday, with the committee accepting at least eight Republican proposals to strengthen border security.”  From TIME magazine’s piece, “The Gang Reaches Across the Aisle as Senate Immigration Debate Kicks Off,” to Reuters’ article “Immigration bill passes first early test in Senate” to The Hill’s coverage, “Senate panel vote signals Republican support for immigration reform,” many Senators emerged from the markup feeling strengthened by the showing of bipartisan support.
  • Pro-Reform Conservatives Ascendant:  As we’ve been highlighting, the conservative movement behind reform continues to grow and strengthen.  A new letter issued by the American Conservative Union (ACU), the oldest membership-based conservative organization in the United States, and signed by a diverse list of conservative groups, declares that “conservatives are ready to support immigration reform” and “America needs immigration reform.”  The strength of conservative backing for reform was further emphasized by Kimberly Strassel, a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, who notes in a new column focused on conservative backing, “The real news is the growing unity among conservative leaders and groups over the need to at least embrace the challenge of reform.  This is no 2007 … The right’s budding embrace of reform reflects something bigger, an effort to reclaim principles that appeal to broad swaths of the public.”  Stassel’s sentiments was further echoed by conservative Washington Post blogger, Jennifer Rubin, who wrote this week how pro-reform conservatives are ascendant, noting, “’exclusionists’ appeal is limited and, unlike 2007, unlikely to dissuade conservative reformers who want to make immigration reform work better.”
  • The Anti-Reform Movement Suffers Huge Setback: This week, the conservative Heritage Foundation released their much-awaited study on the economics of immigration, which was supposed to be “their big play in the immigration debate,” and “a coming out party of sorts for Jim DeMint,” the Foundation’s current president, according to a story in Politico.  But in quick succession, the report has been slammed by everyone from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to Americans for Tax Fairness Founder Grover Norquist to former Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour to conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin.  All the criticism behind the report came to a head when it was revealed that and one of the report’s co-authors, Jason Richwine, flirted with white nationalism in a 2009 dissertation, in which he writes that “no one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites.” In reaction, the Foundation was forced to put out a statement dissociating itself from Richwine.  In an Evan McMorris-Santoro piece in BuzzFeed, a pro-reform conservative remarks, “I can’t see how any serious Member of Congress can cite any piece of this study, lest they endorse discredited static methodology and the idea that immigrants are incapable of upward mobility….Heritage has a reputation of sound, credible, conservative policy analysis; the Rector/Richwine piece reflects none of this.”

As the pro-reform movement continues to strengthen and the anti-reform forces continue to weaken, we also see more reminders about the political consequences of failing to pass reform.  Per a recap from Dan Balz of the Washington Post, new U.S. Census data from the 2012 elections released this week provides “fresh evidence of how higher turnout rates among African Americans and a rapidly growing Hispanic population continue to reshape the electorate in presidential elections, with broad implications for the competition between the Republican and Democratic parties.”  With immigration reform maintaining its hold as the defining issue for Latino voters, reform supporters have political and demographic arguments to supplement their backing of the Senate’s legislation.