Immigration
June 11, 2014
Is immigration overhaul stalled?

Prospects for imminent reform of the nation’s immigration laws, which seemed bright in 2013, have dimmed. Republicans, who a year ago seemed set to embrace immigration reform as a way to loosen minority voters’ loyalty to the Democratic Party, now show little interest in considering the issue before November’s midterm congressional elections. Meanwhile, President Obama is under pressure from immigration advocates to curtail deportations or risk losing the support of ethnic-minority voters — a bloc seen as key to Democrats’ election chances. Faced with a lack of movement in Washington, some states are working to attract and retain immigrants, bolstered by studies indicating that immigration reform would bring substantial economic benefits. Meanwhile, a stuttering U.S. job market, increased border security and a stronger Mexican economy are slowing the flow of undocumented immigrants across America’s southern border.

Demonstrator Victor Perez protests deportation laws in Los
            Angeles, Calif., on May 1, 2014. About 2 million undocumented immigrants had been
            deported since President Obama took office in 2009, more than under any previous
            president.   Demonstrator Victor Perez protests deportation laws in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 1, 2014. About 2 million undocumented immigrants had been deported since President Obama took office in 2009, more than under any previous president. (AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)

A year ago, prospects looked good for a comprehensive overhaul of federal immigration law. Ethnic-minority voters — strong supporters of such reform — had shown their electoral strength in the 2012 presidential contest by voting in record numbers. And they showed their loyalty to the Democratic Party: Hispanics’ 71 percent support for President Obama was key to his re-election. Reeling from the GOP’s defeat, the Republican National Committee in March 2013 unveiled a strategy stating the party “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”1

On June 27, 2013, by a 68-32 vote, the Senate passed comprehensive legislation that would, among other things, provide a “path to citizenship” for many of the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, boost surveillance of the U.S.-Mexico border and introduce a guest-worker program for low-skilled immigrants.2 The measure had support from Democrats hoping to enhance their appeal to ethnic-minority voters and from Republicans hoping to erode the Democrats’ virtual lock on those voters.

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