Immigration Reform 2013: Can Bill Survive Republican-Controlled House?

After a 3-week skirmish in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Gang of Eight and their potentially landmark immigration reform has emerged mostly unscathed and largely intact. 

Despite a wave of criticisms and a mudslide of amendments, the long-awaited and comprehensive reform bill emerged victorious with bipartisan support from the powerful Senate committee. Opponents were by no means quiet — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) filed heavy blows of 49 and 77 amendments respectively against the already forty-four page bill. But the group of four Democrats and four Republicans swiftly derailed opponents in Senate Committee over the past few weeks, successfully rallying to defeat any amendment that would drastically alter their agreement.

The Gang of Eight “were in total control of everything,” said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, to the Washington Post

As the bill moves to the floor of the Senate with little changes, pro-immigration advocates worry that the Republican-controlled house could shatter the long-waited legislation entirely, despite the party’s concerns over a lack of Latino support and the Gang of Eight’s disciplined bipartisan efforts. 

After 71% of Hispanics supported President Obama in the 2012 elections, the Republican party quickly realized that softening of immigration policy might work political-wonders in attracting voters from the country’s fastest-growing demographic. In March, the Republican National Committee officially endorsed comprehensive immigration which generated bipartisan excitement for reform. 

Two months later, many House Republicans remain unconvinced that the passage of the bill will help the party draw support from the country’s burgeoning Hispanic population. In the House, only 39 of the 233 members represent districts that are 20% or more Hispanic, according to a recent study in the Georgetown (University) Public Policy Review.

Despite initial success, the well orchestrated Gang of Eight and their ambitious proposal face a fierce battle ahead as the process begins to reveal the highly polarizing issue at the crux of immigration reform. Many critics in the house not only oppose the bill itself but strongly oppose any kind of amnesty for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally — a prevailing and highly contentious platform of the bill. 

"We can't afford to give amnesty to every person who wants to illegally cross our borders," said Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama. "We don't have enough money in our piggy bank. Amnesty begets more amnesty.”

Brooks considers the matter one of morals, and says that the potential political is irrelevant. 

"I cannot in good conscience ratify illegal conduct with my vote. Any Republican who advocates ratifying illegal conduct with their vote is subverting the very principles that made the United States a great nation."

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Taylor Hom

Taylor is a documentary film producer/writer based in Brooklyn, New York.

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