If anti-immigration reformers were going to kill off immigration reform once and for all, August was the time to do it. They promised to rally the grass roots and dissuade House Republicans from daring to even think about bringing it back in the fall. Instead, the anti-immigration forces haven’t turned out. (Hint: They are largely on talk radio.)
One by one, House Republicans are coming forward to say they’d be interested in citizenship via a step-by-step process, even if it is done through a series of bills. The latest is Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.):
As I have noted several times, evangelical leaders are speaking out and have made an ad buy. Now Catholics are joining in, the New York Times reports:
Catholic bishops and priests from major dioceses across the country will preach a coordinated message next month backing changes in immigration policy, with some using Sunday Masses on Sept. 8 to urge Congressional passage of a legislative overhaul that includes a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.
The decision to embrace political action from the pulpit is part of a broader effort by the Roman Catholic Church and other faith groups that support President Obama’s call for new immigration laws. It includes advertising and phone calls directed at 60 Catholic Republican lawmakers and “prayerful marches” in Congressional districts where the issue has become a divisive topic.
Perhaps, as polls suggest, such strident opposition to immigration reform as to insist upon no action whatsoever by the House really doesn’t have much sell with voters, even in GOP congressional districts. This time, the pro-immigration reformers did assemble a broad-based coalition that stuck with the issue while talk-show hosts and hard-right activists, including Jim DeMint, moved on to something even less popular (shutting down the government).
I have long maintained that giving a summary of what would be in a comprehensive bill rather than simply asking “Are you for amnesty?” would elicit a favorable reaction, even from Republicans. (Multiple polls bear this out.) Maybe House leaders were on to something — keep the process going, let the House work its will and see what comes out. So far, that’s been a formula that works.
Now, some reporters and pundits have latched on to comments by House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) as evidence that he was going to jam up the works. But if they look at his precise words, immigration reformers may be heartened. He said: “Now we want to say, ‘Look we understand what you want but we think a legal status in the United States but not a special path to citizenship might be appropriate.” The key word there is special. What about a legal status that doesn’t put them in a preferential position when they later apply for citizenship?
Whatever comes out of the House is unlikely to align perfectly with the Senate. But the question always has been whether the House can act and return something plausible that could be the basis of a comprehensive bill.
Maybe Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) fled the immigration reform scene too quickly. Getting spooked and racing to the shutdown-the-government team may have been premature.