Immigration Reform 2013: The Senate Passes a Bill, and the House Trolls the Senate

Immigration reform is picking up steam in Congress.

On Monday, the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill was put to the test. The bipartisan effort proved to have support in the Senate, passing on a 67-27 vote. While the bill’s backers were looking to win 70 votes as a symbolic win, this is still a victory for the proposal holistically.  

Among the border-security revisios, added to the bill to enlist some more GOP backers, the proposal adds 20,000 more border agents, stricter worker eligibility verification, 700 miles of fence, and — most contentiously — a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today. This pathway is one wrought with conditions outlined by the Department of Homeland Security, but it is a pathway nonetheless.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants the bill to have a quick turnover in the House. Senate leaders are preparing to have a final vote on the bill before Congress’ July 4 recess. But Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) summed up the House’s response to Reid’s sentiment quite well: “What is the rush?”

The main disagreement stems from the fact that the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House are on two different timelines to get things passed. This is a result of the multi-faceted nature of immigration. These conflicting timelines are why Senator Cruz’s comment is so poignant — the lack of synchronicity is exactly what is going to keep things from passing in the House until much later in the year.

The House wants to keep things to a relative minimum compared to the Senate. Representatives aren’t particularly invested in pathways to citizenship or visas. Their failure to pass the farm bill last Thursday was an indication of that. The House’s main concern is border security, and the messiness of pathways to citizenship is extremely unappealing at the moment. So, with the Senate’s support of the bill comes the knowledge that the Monday vote was just the beginning of an uphill battle with the House.

The House’s stubbornness, or (if we want to be generous) hesitance in its approach to immigration, is admittedly baffling. Wasn’t it painfully clear that the Republican Party struggled enough with the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election? Hasn’t the GOP learned a thing or two about this hugely important (and growing) demographic? Conservative leaders are claiming that Congress’ GOP members shouldn’t pass bad policy for political reasons, and therefore should remain strong on the issue. That’s laudable — that kind of thinking is principled, which is rare in politics. But is it nonsensical? Doesn't the support of constituents, particularly a growing population of constituents, make policy … good?