Immigration Reform 2013: Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemy in the Debate

Immigration Reform is looking like an actually possibility right now, despite the ever-widening partisan divide. Maybe this willingness to cooperate is actually because of the hyper-partisan climate, forcing Republicans into more moderate social policies in order to stay competitive.

Not to get too optimistic, of course. There are still a lot of things that could go wrong. One major point, for example, is defining what actually constitutes a "secure border." Or, the sponsors of the legislation in the Senate could cut and run if pressure gets too great on them. House Republicans could be less cooperative than their Senate colleagues. Big Labor and Big Business could fail to identify an appropriate number of approved temporary visa workers.

Those were all expected, however. The most interesting of the potential barriers is the Democratic leadership itself.

This friendly fire could come from two directions: overly ideological liberals, or overly cynical power brokers.

From the far left, liberals could balk at necessary compromises with Republicans. They could take issue with enforcement that they consider too strict or with a path to citizenship that they consider too difficult. The plan formulated by the Gang of Eight (Senators from both parties taking the lead on immigration reform) hopes to create a pathway to citizenship for all of the undocumented immigrants in the next 13 years; that's a long time for those who feel passionately about liberalizing the border.

From the cynical partisan side, the immigration issue is a weapon that the Democratic leadership may not be willing to give up so easily. As long as immigration reform remains undone, Republicans continue to have to deal with their negative perceptions on that issue. Wouldn't it be nice for House Democrats if immigration was still a prominent topic in 2014?

Please, Democrats. Don't do that. People can tell when a party is gaming the system. Just ask the Republicans after 2012. Even the most party-loyal Yellow Dog Democrats are going to be very upset if the party betrays their principles for such a petty game.

This is the first time in decades that comprehensive immigration reform looks to be in reach. Liberals, you have been waiting a very long time for this moment. Please, please, don't mess it up for yourselves. Because you'll be messing it up for the 11 million undocumented residents forced to live in the shadows, too.