Timeline: The rise and fall of immigration reform


Immigration reform supporters crash the primary-night party of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-Va.) after he delivered a concession speech in Richmond, Va., on June 10. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

With the two-year attempt to push immigration reform through Congress languishing and effectively dead, according to advocates and lawmakers, here's a look back at how debate on the issue crested and then crashed from Election Night 2012 to this week:

Nov. 6, 2012 – President Obama wins reelection over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, with 71 percent of the Latino vote and 73 percent of the Asian American vote.

Nov. 8, 2012 – In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) says: “It’s an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with. This issue has been around far too long. While I believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Nov. 14, 2012 – During Obama’s first post-election news conference, he is asked about immigration and responds: "I’m very confident that we can get immigration reform done. … This has not historically been a partisan issue -- we’ve had President Bush and John McCain and others who have supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past. So we need to seize the moment.  And my expectation is, is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration."

Dec. 14, 2012 – The deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn. kills 26 students and teachers, a tragedy that alters the start of the Obama administration’s second-term agenda, elevating gun control to the top legislative priority to start the new year.


Members of the Senate "Gang of Eight" in 2013. (The Washington Post)

Jan. 28, 2013 – The Senate "Gang of Eight" -- Democrats Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Republicans John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) -- introduce their immigration principles, including a path to citizenship for most of the nation’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Jan. 29, 2013 – Obama lays out his own immigration principles, largely echoing the Senate gang, during a speech in Las Vegas.

April 26, 2013 – The Senate "Gang of Eight" formally introduces Senate Bill S. 744, an 844-page comprehensive immigration bill. Opponents hatch plans to try to kill it by dragging out the process with amendments and debate.

June 27, 2013 – The Senate votes 68-32 to approve the immigration bill, with 14 Republicans joining all the chamber’s Democrats to support the legislation. It had grown to 1,200 pages thanks to amendments adding stronger border security measures and new work visas for high- and low-skilled workers. Among the requirements: 20,000 more border agents, 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico, and $3.2 billion in technology upgrades for border patrol.

July 8, 2013 – At a news conference, Boehner says: “I’ve made it clear, and I’ll make it clear again: the House is not going to take up the Senate bill. The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill.” Boehner emphasizes the House will not tackle comprehensive immigration, but rather pursue smaller-scale “piecemeal” bills.

Late July 2013 – Five smaller-scale immigration bills are introduced in the House, dealing with increased border security, agricultural worker visas, a new employee verification system for employees and additional measures for local law enforcement agents to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. None of the bills says anything about offering undocumented immigrants a legal status.

Sept. 17, 2013 – Obama tells a Spanish-language television Telemundo that it is “not an option” for him to use executive authority to expand a 2012 decision to suspend deportations of young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents. This disappoints advocates who believe he should use executive powers to bypass Congress.

Oct. 1, 2013 – The government shuts down for 16 days over a budget impasse, scuttling hopes that the House would bring legislation to the floor.

Dec. 2013 – Boehner hires Rebecca Tallent, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former McCain immigration adviser, to join his staff, reviving expectations that he would pursue reform in the new year.


Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). (Getty Images)

Dec. 21, 2013 – In an interview with The Hill newspaper, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says: “I think that John Boehner will conference with the Senate. Why wouldn’t he? He’ll have a lot of pressure from his members now that the [2014 midterm] election is getting closer. Some of his members are in very marginal districts where they need to do something on immigration.”

Jan. 30, 2014 – House Republican leaders release their immigration “principles” at a caucus retreat, including a path to legal status, though not citizenship, for many undocumented immigrants.

Feb. 6, 2014 – Boehner backtracks on the immigration principles, citing “widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

March 5, 2014 – Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, calls Obama the “deporter-in-chief” during a conference, as advocates bitterly mark a milestone of 2 million people deported during Obama’s tenure.

May 27, 2014 – Obama tells advocates that he has ordered a review by the Department of Homeland Security of the administration’s deportation and enforcement policies in an effort to make them more “humane.” He does not set a deadline for the review.

June 10, 2014 – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suffers a shocking upset in his primary, a loss that many advocates believes spoils hopes among immigration advocates that the House leadership would pursue immigration after GOP members are safely through their primary elections.

May-June 2014 – A crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally across the Mexico border into Texas revives charges from Republicans that Obama is not adequately enforcing immigration laws.


Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). (Washington Post)

June 25, 2014 – Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), perhaps the most vocal immigration advocate on Capitol Hill, declares in a fiery House floor speech that the hopes for comprehensive immigration reform “is over.” He tells his GOP colleagues: “We've given you time to craft legislation and you failed. The president has no other choice but to act on existing laws to make deportation policies more humane."

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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