Is Immigration Reform Possible in 2014?
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner reportedly hopes to push immigration reform legislation forward in 2014, a year in which midterm elections will take place in November. He faces competing pressures: on one side are those advising that immigration reform efforts could help Republicans win the Hispanic vote; on the other side are anti-immigration conservatives and Tea Party members who would prefer no action other than enforcement.
Observers expect that Mr. Boehner will act piece-by-piece rather than trying to advance one comprehensive immigration reform bill. He may wait until after Republican primaries occur this spring. “There are a lot of private conversations underway to try to figure out how do we best move on a common-sense, step-by-step basis to address this,” he said. At a recent news conference, he noted, “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in his “State of American Business 2014” remarks on January 8, 2014, that “the pundits will tell you it’s going to be hard to accomplish much of anything in an election year. We hope to turn that assumption on its ear by turning the upcoming elections into a motivator for change. It’s based on a simple theory—if you can’t make them see the light, then at least make them feel some heat.” Speaking generally on immigration issues, he added, “we’re determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted. The Chamber will pull out all the stops—through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics, and partnerships with unions, faith organizations, law enforcement and others—to get it done.”
The big question is whether immigration reform legislation can move forward in a midterm election year in which all 435 House seats are up for grabs, along with 33 of the 100 Senate seats, 38 state and territorial governorships, and numerous state and local elections. Given recent hyper-partisan experience in Congress, some say continued gridlock is likely. “I can’t imagine Congress doing much more than nominations and appropriations bills,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). However, major legislation has passed in election years, often after primary season. “For many members [of the House], they’d be more comfortable when their primaries are over,” said California Rep. Darrell Issa.