Good Policy or Bad: What Will It Be in ‘07?
By Jeanne Butterfield

Democrats won control of both the Senate and House and several anti-immigrant politicians were defeated, but what do these mean for positive immigration legislation in 2007?
There’s a window of opportunity for Congress to enact truly comprehensive immigration reform next year. But Congress will have to act quickly, decisively and in a bipartisan fashion, before the 2008 presidential campaign closes the window, and immigration once again is put on the back burner to await the outcome of the elections.
Several positive dynamics can result in good legislation by the fall of 2007. Much of the difficult work of developing a comprehensive framework for immigration reform has already been done. While the Senate bill was flawed in some important ways, it included the major building blocks necessary for a successful bipartisan majority to support and pass a bill. It had: 1) smart and reasonable enforcement measures; 2) earned legalization for the undocumented currently in the country; 3) a new worker visa and path to eventual citizenship for future essential workers; and 4) relief from lengthy and unfair backlogs for family and employment-based immigrants.
The Senate can start with what it passed in 2006, improve on it and bring a new comprehensive bill to the floor fairly quickly in 2007.
The House has to forge a bill that can gain support from a bipartisan majority. With leadership from a new Judiciary Committee, the House bill can possibly incorporate some needed due-process reforms and correct some of the harsh excesses
of the 1996 immigration legislation.
Both the House and Senate can incorporate other programs that have broad support in immigrant communities and on Capitol Hill, like the Dream Act, the Agricultural Workers Bill and more.
There are, however, several obstacles and potential pitfalls that lie ahead as well. There’s no unanimity in either the Democratic or Republican party in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. A sizeable number of Republicans still oppose any sort of broad legalization program. A significant number of Democrats still oppose any sort of new essential worker program. Many in both parties are hesitant to support much-needed due process fixes that are essential.
Further, as 2008 approaches, partisan politics will become more intense. Some Democrats won’t want to give President Bush a “win” on immigration. Some Republicans will want to prove that the Democrats can’t pass any significant legislation and are themselves a “do-nothing Congress.”
Finally, there will be some in both parties who fear that a position in support of comprehensive immigration reform will be used against them in closely contested Congressional races in 2008.
Which will prevail, good policy or bad politics? It all depends on the strength of the voices supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrant communities clearly need reform in order to come out from the shadows of illegality and exploitation and abuse. Families and employers languishing as the result of backlogs clearly need reform. Our nation’s economy clearly needs ireform in order to keep growing and competitive in the global market.
Immigration reform is an issue whose time has come. Next year is a historic window of opportunity. We must tell our Congressional representatives to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work needed to get comprehensive immigration reform done. New America Media


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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