Commentary Magazine


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Immigration Reform — Really? No.

It is hard to take this seriously:

Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to try to pass immigration legislation this year, placing the explosive issue ahead of an energy bill on their agenda and upending conventional wisdom that it was dead for now.

Democrats hope the measure will quell frustration among Hispanic voters at inaction on immigration in advance of the fall elections, where those voters could be crucial in many races. A comprehensive bill would include a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally, a priority for immigrant advocates but something opponents deride as amnesty.

There are many reasons why this seems implausible. There’s no time to draft and pass a mammoth piece of legislation from scratch, especially with a Supreme Court nomination pending. It’s very controversial, especially with organized labor. It didn’t pass last time, and it’s not clear there is a ground swell of support for it now. So what’s going on?

Well, for one thing, it’s an excuse to not doing anything on cap-and-trade, for which there is no Senate filibuster-proof majority. (There may not even be a simple majority.) So this gets cap-and-trade off the table without admitting yet another item on the Democratic wish list is unpassable. Second, it is a sop to Hispanic advocates, whom the Democrats figure can be mollified in much the same way as gay rights advocates are with distant promises for retraction of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the strategy is to start the process and tell them the Democrats are working on it.

Therefore, I wouldn’t expect to see an immigration bill pass in either the House or Senate anytime soon. But elevating that to the next priority is another indication that the Democrats have run out of things they can jam through Congress. For that, we can be grateful.