It is now or never for immigration reform.
Yes, I know, we have heard that one before, but when last Tuesday President Obama promised he would push for an immigration reform vote in the House “the day after” Congress reached an agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, he breathed new life into the trite phrase.
“Once that’s done, you know, the day after — I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform,” Obama told a Los Angeles affiliate of the Spanish-language TV network Univision.
“And if I have to join with other advocates and continue to speak out on that, and keep pushing, I’m going to do so because I think it’s really important for the country. And now is the time to do it.”
The agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, as we all are well aware of, finally happened on Wednesday after 16 irresponsible, wasted days of political brinkmanship ended in humiliation for the Republican Party and its radical Tea Party faction.
Obama told Univision that the votes are there to pass the Senate’s immigration reform bill, and that the only thing that’s blocking its passage is “Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
There could be an opening to pass immigration reform in the House: Taking action now could enable the GOP to regain some respect.
“This is the time to find out if Boehner learned anything from their defeat,” said Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a grassroots organization with offices in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. “Hopefully, Republicans understand now they cannot let themselves be dominated by the Tea Party.”
Make the Road will travel to Washington this Wednesday, to remind a group of Republican House members of their promise to vote for reform. On Friday, the group will hold a vigil in front of the Varick Street immigration detention center in Manhattan, to demand the end of deportations.
“We are going to keep escalating our actions until we get results,” Valdés said. “This is a rare opportunity, and we cannot waste it.”
The President’s efforts are important enough to bring a touch of hope to the proponents of reform. But House Republicans are a crazily unpredictable bunch, so no one can really say if Boehner will finally allow a vote or if anything will be approved, even if he does .
“It is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for anything happening in a bipartisan manner on Capitol Hill these days, but the President and I agree that immigration reform is very likely to be taken up before the end of the year,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a national leader for the cause . “When we emerge from this crazy partisan eruption from the Republicans, there will be a huge incentive for sensible Republicans who want to repair some of the damage they have done to themselves.”
Sounds reasonable enough, but don’t hold your breath. After all, everybody knows by now that reasonableness is not exactly the House Republicans’ strong suit.
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