Immigration Reform Heats Up; Messer Weighs In


The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S. 744, is currently being debated by the U.S. Senate, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) seeking final passage prior to the July 4 recess. The comprehensive reform bill has something to like and something to dislike for just about everyone involved, but the primary political battle lines are being drawn between border security first (a Republican priority) and a path toward legalization and citizenship (a Democratic priority).

The so-called “Gang of 8” has labored mightily to keep a fragile coalition of support together in the Senate, but fissures are materializing. What once looked like a very sizable 70 votes in support has dwindled as the debate has progressed. As of Friday morning, June 21, senators were discussing a new compromise border security proposal in an effort to secure more support for the bill.  
 
The best guess at this point is that an amended S. 744 passes the Senate with overwhelming support from Democrats and just enough Republicans to get over 60 votes and send the legislation to the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner’s caucus is even more uneasy and polarized than the Senate GOP. Boehner has publicly stated that any bill that does not have majority support from his caucus will not be heard, so the House may take a “piecemeal” approach addressing specific aspects or issues included in S. 744 (and likely tackling and emphasizing border security first). However, the Speaker has also met with the Hispanic Caucus and the House’s own “Gang of 8” seeking a comprehensive, bipartisan measure.
 
Indiana Congressman Luke Messer (R-6th District) told the Indiana Chamber recently that “if we are able to reach agreement on border security and documented status for workers, then we have an opportunity for further dialogue about what we do about citizenship once those workers are documented.
 
“My sense today is that we don’t yet have a consensus about what to do about citizenship, which makes it difficult if you tie all three together. That’s the challenge. There’s an opportunity to come up with a plan this year to deal with those first two topics. Probably it’s going to take demonstrated success on those to be able to move on to citizenship.” (Look for the full Q&A with Congressman Messer in the next BizVoice® magazine, available online June 28.)
 
We see Speaker Boehner’s leadership at a very serious crossroads on this issue, with many conservative Republicans rebelling against any bipartisan deal that includes a path to legalization or naturalization for illegal immigrants currently in the country. How Boehner squares this circle will be fascinating to watch.
 
The Indiana Chamber believes that now is the time to craft a principled, pragmatic reform that secures the border, strengthens the rule of law AND creates a program for undocumented workers to earn legal status, as it is utterly impractical to seek the mass deportation of an estimated 11 million individuals.

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