Immigration Reform Setback

Posted on July 04, 2007 by Warren Wen | Category: Immigration

On June 28, 2007, the U.S. Senate drove a stake through President Bush’s plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, making it very unlikely that we could have any major break through on immigration until after the 2008 elections.

In the Senate, supporters of President Bush’s plan for immigration reform, which critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit the debate and clear the way for the final passage of the legislation.  The vote count was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

Senators from both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, while the presidential election would increasingly dominate American politics.  A similar effort collapsed in Congress last year.  Back then, the House did not even bother with the debate, waiting for the Senate to act first.

The vote was a stinging setback for Bush, who advocated the bill as an imperfect but necessary change to current immigration practice.  In the current immigration system, it is commonly found that many illegal immigrants use forged documents or lapsed visas to live and work in the United States.

This was a victory for Republican conservatives who strongly criticized the bill’s provisions, which could have established a pathway to a lawful status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.  For illegal immigrants who are currently in the United States, the bill would have created a new guest worker program and allowed millions of illegal immigrants to obtain legal status if they briefly returned home.

In order to help the bill to pass, President Bush had called the senators early Thursday morning and urged for their support.  Moreover, the Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, and the Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, had approached the senators as they entered and left the chamber shortly before the vote.  In spite of all these efforts by the Bush administration, the bill was still blocked by the Grand Old Party (GOP: The Republican Party) conservatives in the Senate.  This shows that President Bush’s influence on the GOP in Congress and the country is fading fast.  Taking into consideration the record low approval rating of President Bush and the ever close 2008 Presidential election, it is very unlikely that President Bush will have the ability to push through the immigration reform or any other major domestic policy changes before the end of his term.  As suggested by other commentators, the set back of the immigration bill in Senate marks the official beginning of President Bush as a “Lame Duck” President.

Regarding the future of immigration reform, Senator Dianne Feinstein from California said it best: “If the bill faltered, the political climate almost surely would not allow a serious reconsideration until 2009 or later.  It would be highly unlikely in the next few years to fix the existing system.”

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