Rob Horowitz: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Back

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


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With the shutdown behind them, this week the government moves forward by looking to immigration reform.

This week begins a renewed push for comprehensive immigration reform—currently stalled out in the House, despite passing the US Senate by more than 2-to-1 with broad bi-partisan support at the beginning of the summer.

At a White House event last week designed to bring new momentum to the comprehensive immigration reform fight, President Obama told an audience of business, union, and religious leaders, “It's good for our economy. It's good for our national security. It's good for our people. And we should do it this year.”

Putting the American Dream within reach

Far more important for bettering the prospects of House passage, 600 mainly conservative leaders from the religious, business, and farm sectors will be strongly advocating comprehensive immigration reform to targeted Republican House members this week, as reported by The New York Times over the weekend. They are concentrating on 80 representatives from 40 different states, according to The Times.

The US Chamber of Commerce, perhaps the most powerful lobby in Washington, is playing a central role in organizing this effort and devoting substantial resources to adopting comprehensive immigration reform.

President Obama and the US Chamber of Commerce both advocate that the House simply pass the legislation that has already cleared the Senate. This legislation, sponsored by 8 Senators evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, aims to fix our broken immigration system by paving the way for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants already here to emerge from the shadows and fully participate in American life, opening up our doors more widely through expanded legal immigration targeted to attract the world’s best and brightest, and stepping up enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration.

More specifically, it creates a tough, but achievable path to citizenship. It offers sensible interim steps, permitting undocumented immigrants already here in the nation to immediately emerge from the shadows. It also expands the number of visas available for highly skilled workers while providing them with a smoother path to permanent residency, steps up enforcement, and puts substantially increased resources into border security.

Cautiously optimistic

Of course, there is no real chance of the House passing the Senate bill in its current form, and comprehensive immigration reform advocates recognize this political reality. Still, they hope to maintain the key components. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) continues to signal support for the general principle of comprehensive reform, but also continues to say that the House will take a more incremental approach. Boehner recently said, “I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed.” The Speaker remarked that he was ‘hopeful’ when asked whether he would bring immigration reform legislation up for a vote before the end of the year.

There is still strong entrenched hard line right wing opposition in the House to immigration reform. But the fallout from the recent shutdown fight has made business leaders and organizations who were dismayed at the apparent willingness of the Tea Party wing of the House Republicans to risk economic havoc, more determined than ever to stand up and fight on issues like immigration reform, which they strongly believe will be a big economic boost and good for the nation as a whole.

This new commitment to stand up and fight by more establishment Republicans bodes well for the chances of adopting comprehensive immigration reform.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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