It started with Sept. 11, 2001. Twelve years ago, opponents of immigration reform had a perfect excuse to delay changes that had seemed eminent until that infamous day. And ever since then, whenever those changes come to the forefront again, something happens to redirect our national attention elsewhere.
So for now, say hello to Syria and adios to immigration reform. If you still think Congress will fix our broken immigration laws this year, you truly are a "dreamer."
There are some immigrant advocates who still hold hope that any kind of immigration bill that comes out of the House of Representatives — even a terribly bad one — can still be reconciled — and saved — when it goes to conference with the much more comprehensive and compassionate legislation that was already passed by the Senate.
But since House immigrant bashers are aware of this, they are now holding back from introducing even their most draconian measures. They are discussing a handful of piecemeal immigration bills, most of which are anti-immigrant and none of which deal with a legalization plan for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living here. And this was happening even before we learned that the Syrian government had waged chemical warfare on its own people.
Now that we have Syria keeping Congress occupied — to be followed by other monumental issues like the budget and the debt ceiling — we can expect immigration reform to be delayed into 2014. And that's a midterm election year, when most Republicans will be running further to the right and passing any kind of legalization program for undocumented immigrants is even more unlikely.
In 2014, instead of being concerned about the Latino vote in the 2016 presidential election, many GOP House members will worried about saving their own hide in predominantly conservative districts where the Latino vote is insignificant, and where they themselves may have even nurtured anti-immigrant sentiments.
That takes us into 2015, when we can expect Hillary Clinton to launch her presidential campaign and come up with a different slogan to replace "Si Se Puede/Yes We Can" but nevertheless makes the same promises President Barack Obama couldn't deliver.
Is this a pessimistic outlook? You bet! But it's also realistic.
The New York Times recently reported that "Republican angst about losing Hispanic voters in the 2012 presidential campaign has faded," that "the legislative summer recess has done little to stoke enthusiasm for immediate action," and that according to senior GOP House aides, "immigration is at the back of the line, and unlikely to come up for months." Politico has come to the conclusion that "immigration reform looks dead for this year and probably next," and that, "Now, the smart money is on 2017."
Unfortunately, many immigrant rights advocates, after working so hard for so long on this issue, have unrealistic expectations. After making their case in town hall meetings throughout the country this summer, and after they reportedly saw diminishing opposition from some Republicans, they though their dream would come true this fall. On Oct. 5, they will march for "reform, dignity and respect" in more than 40 cities across the country.
And yet their efforts have done little to alter the debate in Congress or to even keep it on the front burner. Even before Syria became the new pressing issue, Congress' fall agenda already was too crowded with excuses to avoid immigration reform.
But this is not new. Syria brings back memories of other times when unforeseen world developments stole the spotlight from immigration reform and when spineless politicians had an excuse to keep kicking the can down the road.
It's sad. But perhaps the more realistic outlook is to concede that for now, "No Se Puede/No We Can't."
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.