Vancouver President Obama is convening the twice delayed political summit (no-non-pols invited) at the White House to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. This should be good news, but the political framing is depressing. It seems that this critical issue is now a HUGE political football being played to see whether the Democrats or Republicans will get the most advantage against the least harm, or, I would imagine whether there is a limp deal in the middle where something might be passed that both can claim to curry support from the growing Hispanic voting bloc. This is what happens to reform legislation in the absence of either a viable movement or intense pressure from the base, both of which seem to be held in a beltway, strangle grip now.
Why do I think of this? It is unfortunately too easy to read between the lines of the headlines.
Here is the new twist from Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) who leads the Senate Committee:
- According to the NY Times: “Public sentiment about the proposed immigration overhaul that failed in the Senate two years ago was that it “was too soft on illegal immigrants,” Mr. Schumer said, adding, “Unless we can convince Americans we’re going to be really tough, then this is not going to work.””
- According to the Wall Street Journal: “Democratic officials say the passing of the baton has its advantages: The New Yorker is likely to be tougher on stemming illegal immigration, and less prone to support civil liberties for illegal immigrants, a stand of Sen. Kennedy that infuriated some Republicans. “If you can convince Americans we can and we want to stop future waves of illegal immigration, they will accept a tough but fair path to citizenship and a very rational future flow of legal immigrants,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview.
So, the best face one can paint on this “comprehensive reform” is that we are already bargaining for what percentage of the 12 M undocumented in the US today, might be allowed some difficult path to citizenship.
Worse, the Republicans are calling for the President to use his clout to give them cover. The White House speaking for the President is asking the Republicans to step up. McCain has said he will not lead and the Republicans stepping up both voted against it last time. Advocates as quoted by Clarissa Martinez and Congressman Luis Guiterrez are calling on the President to lead here to make up the votes. Business is pointing fingers at labor. Labor is united and pointing fingers at business. This is a classic circular firing squad!
The real message is that this first session will just be a message to go do more work, but until a deal is made, and it will be a deal no one will be happy with in the progressive community, there will just be more pot shots fired and more posturing. No one wants to alienate the growing political power of the Hispanic community in the US, but none of the politicians feels any heat to lift a pinkie unless the pressure is hot or the political advantage is absolute.