Remember Immigration Reform?

A year has gone by, and very little has happened regarding immigration reform. AHA Legislative Associate Matthew Bulger examines why progress has stalled and what we can do about it.

After the 2012 elections, we heard from media personalities on the right and left about the dire need for immigration reform and how the budding political consensus on the issue might allow for some important work to be done even with Capitol Hill’s perpetual partisan gridlock.

To supporters on the left, immigration reform is vastly overdue and is an opportunity for our country to offer a chance at a successful and stable lifestyle without the unnecessary burdens that are currently present in immigration law for those who are willing to work hard. To supporters on the right, immigration reform is both a way to secure the border against illegal immigration and to show the immigrant community that Democrats aren’t the only ones that care about their issues. For once, both sides seemed to have agreed that they each have something to gain by working together and passing some sort of reform bill that makes it easier for hardworking immigrants to come to America while beefing up the border to ensure national security.

Unfortunately, nearly a year has gone by and not much progress has been made. While an immigration bill has passed the Senate, although not without its fair share of complaints from those supportive and opposed to immigration reform, the House has routinely refused to engage on the issue. So why is the House refusing to pass either the Senate’s immigration bill or their own immigration bill, and why aren’t more people outraged that immigration reform is being stalled?

The House of Representatives has a problem: hyper-conservative partisans who are willing to kill any and all legislation that even appears to deviate from the extremist political philosophies they personally follow. We’ve seen these intellectual descendants of the Tea Party movement kill bills that deal with workplace equality, government debt, international aid, and student loans all because they weren’t willing to compromise with anyone under any circumstances. When it comes to immigration reform, they are no less willing to compromise, even if the political ramifications for their obstructionism is the slow death of the political party they belong to because of its self-enforced alienation from one of the largest and fastest growing political demographics.

And while Americans support the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate by a 2 to 1 margin, they don’t seem to want to punish lawmakers that want to vote against the bill or hold up the entire legislative process.  Unfortunately, this sort of apathetic support of immigration reform is not enough to ensure its passage, as there are many on Capitol Hill that are content to either oppose the bill or do nothing about it unless they are forced into action by their constituents.

So while the support for immigration reform is there, we need to better advocate for our beliefs if we want to see immigration reform reach its fruition. Lawmakers should support reform not just because it is part of the American tradition to welcome immigrants, but because the American people clearly support immigration reform. It’s up to us to remind them of their duty to pass legislation that is both constitutional and broadly supported, and the sooner we do so the better.