Immigration Reform Could Be a Nightmare

By Miguel Perez

January 7, 2014 5 min read

The pundits are already telling us that 2014 is most definitely the year for comprehensive immigration reform, as if they had not said the same thing about 2013, and a few of the years preceding.

Are we to believe that legislation Congress has been unable to pass in recent years will somehow jump over all of its hurdles in a year of midterm elections — at a time when many conservative politicians will be seeking office in gerrymandered districts where bashing on immigrants is politically expedient?

Are we to believe that House Speaker John Boehner, after demonstrating a trace of courage by taking on the conservative extremists in his party over the federal budget, would now find the cojones to defend comprehensive immigration reform and risk sparking a divisive feud within the Republican Party?

In other words, are to believe in dreams and fairy tales?

Mark my words: If we get immigration reform before the midterm elections, it will not be comprehensive. It could come in the form of a series of measures designed to make illegal entry even more difficult. It could even include some leniency for the so-called Dreamers, who entered the U.S. as children.

But it would not include a path to citizenship for the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living among us. There is no way conservative extremists would allow granting what they call "amnesty" in a midterm election year — not without throwing racist-bordering tantrums that would further alienate the Republican Party from Latino voters.

There is no way Boehner could get them to shut up!

Nevertheless, the eternal immigration reform optimists believe that any measure passed by the House of Representatives — even if mostly anti-immigrant — could still be reconciled with the bill already passed by the Senate, and believe a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is a possibility. And they are dreaming!

Unfortunately, if Boehner moves forward with some sort of House immigration bill, it's not likely to be reconcilable with the Senate's. Even worse, it could end up giving the Senate and President Barack Obama the ultimatum to accept severely weakened reforms that could be worse than taking no action at all.

What happens if Republicans offer to accept a path to citizenship but only for the Dreamers? What if they propose to halt deportations and allow the other undocumented immigrants to stay and work here as second-class citizens without a path to citizenship?

Could they convince the president and Senate that something is better than nothing? And if they do, won't that delay real comprehensive reform for many more years?

Let's face it: As long as Republicans can keep undocumented immigrants from voting, and giving immigrant-bashing zealots the payback they deserve, the GOP probably would be willing to accept a legalization-without-naturalization program.

And sadly, this is the way we could be headed if immigration reform is sought in Congress before the midterm elections. The remedy could be worse than the illness!

Because Obama and Democrats in Congress are desperate to deliver on their many broken promises to reform immigration, they could end up accepting a terribly bad deal and pretending they did well.

However, after the elections — if all the stars are lined up correctly, if a few immigrant bashers are defeated, if Republicans finally recognize they need the Latino vote to get to the White House in 2016 and if a dozen other issues have not (as usual) become higher priorities in Washington, then perhaps immigration reform could truly be comprehensive, compassionate and fair.

But that is the only clear window of opportunity for true immigration reform this year. I can dream, too, can't I?

Yet going through that window before November could prove to be more harmful to immigrants than beneficial. It could be a nightmare!

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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