Jason Marczak, Americas Quarterly Blog, 11/3/2010
With control of the U.S. House of Representatives switching to the Republican Party, the future of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform is now in greater doubt. And Democrats—unable to put forward a proposal that could muster the necessary support to right our broken immigration system—will take a back seat to the immigration plans of the new House leadership.
One of the first orders of business when the new Congress convenes in January will be the designation of new committee chairpersons. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA) is out as the House immigration subcommittee chairperson, and Rep. Steve King (IA) will likely take the gavel. As for the full Judiciary Committee, it will likely be led by Rep. Lamar Smith (TX). This means a new approach for immigration-related issues. And in essence, going back to the drawing board on many of the core concerns.
The Democrats had been working on comprehensive immigration reform that revolved around four pillars originally put forward by Senators Schumer and Graham in March. (That is before Sen. Graham withdrew his support a few months later.) The approach included: requiring biometric Social Security cards; beefing up border security; creating a system for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a path for the legalization of certain undocumented immigrants. And President Obama asserted that the chance for reform was close, noting last week: “Right now on immigration reform, we’re eight votes short or 10 votes short.”
But if the Pledge to America—the Republicans’ legislative agenda unveiled in September—is any indication, the new House leadership’s immigration focus will be on issues of border enforcement, immigration law enforcement and strengthening visa security. Plans do not include any focus on creating a path toward legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the shadows. Instead, the 21-page pledge indirectly calls for supporting legislation such as Arizona’s SB 1070 with its call to “reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws.”