Lost amid the recent battle over the debt ceiling and numerous other issues has been the push to reform immigration. Coming into office in 2012, many members of the GOP recognized that their party lost out big when it came to the Latino community and other immigrant communities. Early statements from the GOP indicated that immigration reform could become a banner issue for the party, but in recent months talks have cooled. In fact, some left wing groups are now accusing the GOP of “blockading” reform.
Now, President Obama has signaled that he would be willing to consider the GOP’s piecemeal approach to immigration reform. The first public signal came at a meeting with the Wall Street Journal and various company CEOs. So far, Republicans have been avoiding any sweeping legislation akin to Obamacare, and have been looking to pursue a step-by-step approach to address individual issues. Doing so would likely allow them to avoid more contentious issues that might upset their base. At the same time, the GOP might be able to score points with immigrant and Latino communities.
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Immigration will be contentious issue in election year
Democrats have been accusing the GOP of blocking immigration reform and being unwilling to take the issue up. Many Democrats would prefer a sweeping bill that would address numerous issues at once, something the GOP is looking to avoid. After the GOP lost a vast majority of the immigrant vote on the 2012 election, however, continued bad press on the issue could result in further losses. Either way, the GOP has already stated that for the remainder of 2013 there will be no vote in the House on the issue.
2014 brings yet another major election year, so any vote on the floor could result in significant “wars of words” that could damage either party. While the GOP initially came into the year hoping to lead immigration reform, it has quickly backed away from talks. In comparison to Democrats, the GOP is looking for a more conservative and slow-paced approach to reforming immigration.
Immigration victory could bolster Obama’s reputation
The number of immigrants actually entering the United States actually bottomed out during the Great Recession and has so far failed to recover. Still, there are an estimated 11.2 million illegal immigrants and millions more legal immigrants in the United States. Some 8 million of these illegal immigrants are members of the workforce. Many have already pointed out that figuring out a way to legally account for such immigrants could result in increased tax revenues and will help ensure that companies are following minimum wage laws.
If Obama is able to launch a significant overhaul of immigration laws, it may help bolster his legacy. With Obamacare coming under heavy fire and the massive NSA scandal likely to remain at the forefront of discussion for months, if not years to come, Obama could use another policy victory to shore up his reputation. With the GOP digging in for a contentious battle, however, any attempt at reform might already be doomed to defeat.