The on-again, off-again hopes for immigration reform in this Congress are, according to a new report in the New York Times, back on again.
The article – published on the front page, above the fold – says House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has “signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months.”
Mr. Boehner has in recent weeks hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime immigration adviser to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has long backed broad immigration changes. Advocates for an overhaul say the hiring, as well as angry comments by Mr. Boehner critical of Tea Party opposition to the recent budget deal in Congress, indicates that he is serious about revamping the immigration system despite deep reservations from conservative Republicans.
Aides to Mr. Boehner said this week that he was committed to what he calls “step by step” moves to revise immigration laws, which they have declined to specify.
President Obama has said he’s comfortable with completing immigration reform incrementally, just so long as lawmakers don’t omit key provisions.
And that’s where this plan may run into trouble. In Boehner’s vision of comprehensive immigration reform, the comprehensive part gets left behind. The House would reportedly consider moving on “separate bills that would fast-track legalization for agricultural laborers, increase the number of visas for high-tech workers and provide an opportunity for young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children to become American citizens.”
The measures would represent a step forward from a dysfunctional status quo, but it’s far short of the popular, bipartisan legislation already approved by the Senate.
Indeed, while the Speaker probably sees his approach as some kind of compromise, the point is the Senate bill is already a compromise – Democrats fought for a pathway to citizenship, while Republicans fought for improved border security. The pending legislation includes both, and has picked up support from business leaders, religious leaders, labor leaders, GOP strategists, and leaders from the Latino community along the way.
Does Boehner think action on a handful of half-measures will satisfy demands for real reform? Especially when the Senate bill would very likely pass the House if he permitted the chamber to exercise its will in an up-or-down vote?
For that matter, why would Democrats, who have the public on their side, welcome a compromise on a compromise?