With news coming out late Tuesday evening of a tentative deal for comprehensive immigration reform agreed upon by the Senate’s "Gang of Eight," the collective hope for a signature bi-partisan win for Congress now seems in reach. For conservatives, the precedent for reform stems from political reality, coming off an electoral shellacking in 2012 (a 71-27% voter deficit) among Hispanics, the group most associated and most likely affected by immigration reform. As immigration reform increasingly becomes Washington’s new cup of tea — and for many, a politically helpful move for re-election — the impetus for concrete, comprehensive compromise can be seen even from conservative groups, who have, in the past, been strong opponents of parts of the very immigration policy currently on the table. In 2013, now even conservative super PACs are pushing members to strike a deal and battling other conservative critics of immigration reform, a good sign for those hopeful to see a deal cut in the next month.
As the 113th Congress enters its third month at the legislature. and with President Obama still less than a hundred days into his second term, the time of opportunity and legacy-building is now more ripe than ever. The Gang of Eight is set to unveil its package on Thursday, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) emphasizing the need for further debate and discussion to attain an overwhelming majority on the matter. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has agreed for open-rule committee discussions on the matter, thereby allowing unlimited debate and amendments once the reforms are released.
While open debate is often times thought of as a desirable course of action, it is not always constructive or conducive to legislation. It is much easier to find common ground amongst eight leading senators than it is to find compromise amongst a hundred senators, a third of which are up for re-election in 2014 (and another third not far behind them in 2016). It is up to constituents, lobbyists, think tanks, PACs, and super PACs to pressure legislators to support this reform, or at least cushion the political fallout if the support is not well received back home. For Republicans, groups citing the economic benefits of immigration reform such as the conservative think tank American Action Forum allow lawmakers to better justify their eventual votes in favor of whatever legislation emerges from committee markup.
Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Hispanic Leadership Network, a branch of the Speaker Boehner-aligned American Action Network, ImmigrationWorks USA, the National Immigration Forum, and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert Gutierrez’s Republicans for Immigration Reform have keyed efforts to support conservative leaders.
There's a long way from the introduction of the bill to enacting grand-sweeping reform. Skeptics will point out that not even a slew of horrific gun violence was enough to empower meaningful gun control measures. But conservative Republicans were not going to lose elections by protecting gun rights. They will surely lose by continuing to turn away the fastest growing minority group.
The old English proverb says, "Where there’s a will, there’s a way." No doubt, both sides have a large stake in seeing immigration reform through. For Democrats, continuing to lead the charge for working class Americans is essential to any possibility of mid-term prosperity. For Obama, making good on his promise to the electorate that carried him to victory is crucial for his legacy. For Republicans, showing a new-look, modernized, and inclusive GOP tent is imperative for the future of the party and its short-term fortune in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
It's now or never in Washington. Something must be done for the 11 million currently undocumented Americans and future Americans to come, and done it shall be. The question is whether or not any of it will be true reform, or simply another patchwork job done at the expense of real people, with minimal cost to politicians.