Is immigration reform dead? Apparently not. Amid the government shutdown madness in Washington, House Democrats went ahead and introduced a new immigration reform bill on Wednesday. This may come as a surprise, seeing that immigration reform appeared all but dead and buried not too long ago.
The substance of the bill differs little from the bill passed back in June by the Senate. That bill had substantial Republican support, with 14 GOP Senators voting in favor of it Yet, no House Republican has yet to sign on in approval of the bill introduced in the House, despite every component of the legislation having had bipartisan support at some point.
This may be because of the key difference in the new legislation. Instead of doubling the number of border agents and building another 700 miles of fencing along the border as the Senate bill mandates, Wednesday's bill requires that the Department of Homeland Security create a detailed plan within a specific time frame for apprehending 90% of those crossing the border illegally. Though the latter plan sounds like a weaker version that may not appeal to conservatives, the measure actually unanimously passed the House Homeland Security Committee back in May, among both Republicans and Democrats. So, this difference shouldn't be the reason for lack of GOP support.
No, the real reason this bill won't pass is simply because of the current political climate. The budget battle has created a situation in which both parties are defining themselves by their opposition to the other party, rather than by the principles they stand for. The very notion that the House could, in this environment, reach across party lines and come to an agreement on something as massive as immigration reform is downright laughable.
So why would House Democrats introduce this now, amidst such contention in Congress? Why not wait until the budget impasse is resolved? Introducing the bill now makes them look good and will help them fare better with Latinos in the next election. It's that simple. House Democrats are banking on this symbolic bill receiving little GOP support during this hostile climate. They have even conceded as much.
By setting this bill up for defeat, Democrats are playing politics with the lives of millions of individuals living in this country who badly need real reform. If House Democrats really want immigration reform, they need to stop strategizing to make the GOP look bad, and introduce a bill at a time when it actually has a chance of passing.