This was an eventful week in politics in the US and there could be a significant impact on immigration. Mitt Romney, a leading Republican candidate who was in favor of tough new immigration laws, dropped out of the race and Senator John McCain became the likely nominee. McCain is one of the most progressive members of Congress on immigration issues and was the lead sponsor of immigration reform legislation last year.
So what does this mean for immigration legislation? Ive written a pair of pieces on my blog at http://blogs.ilw.com/gregsiskind that offers my take:
A Piece of Advice for the Democrats
I've had this little idea floating around for the last few months, but did not want to discuss it until McCain locked up the nomination. I think you'll understand why when you read further.
John McCain is still supporting comprehensive immigration reform and just recently told Tim Russert of NBC that he believes the bill bearing his name was correct two years ago and he would vote for it if he had the opportunity today. I believe him.
Let's just suppose Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to bring back the 2006 version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill - the good one - and schedule it for, let's say, a good several weeks of very public debate this spring or summer in each House. Do you think the GOP is going to allow their rank and file members to attack their nominee day in day out over the immigration issue? If they do, the results could be disastrous as McCain will be going around the country trying to unite a very fractured party that is already pretty suspicious of his conservative bona fides. Can you imagine one Republican after another having to come to the microphone to denounce the McCain-Kennedy bill (and that's what Reid and Pelosi need to call it every chance they get)? And then McCain being dogged by reporters asking about it multiple times each day?
It also occurs to me that McCain will be in a difficult spot if he tries to nuance or change his position and talk about "enforcement first" since he now has to convince Hispanic voters not to abandon the GOP as polls are suggesting they are doing in droves. Given the likelihood that many Republicans will stay home because of their dislike of McCain, hell badly need to keep Hispanic votes at the same level or higher than in past elections.
The Democrats are fretting today about continuing their internal fighting all the way to the convention and McCain having a basically free pass to go out and rally support. But throwing the immigration "grenade" and stirring up the immigration storm in the GOP may make the Democrats bickering look pretty tame.
So how might the grown ups in the GOP prevent this nightmare scenario from playing out? I think what you might see is a sudden willingness to work a deal quickly and behind the scenes and largely on the Democrats' terms. Aside from protecting their nominee, some of the GOP leaders are probably starting to ask the question of why McCain was able to get the nomination if the anti-immigration issue was so potent. Maybe Republicans are safer on this issue than they thought and don't have to worry quite so much about taking a moderate immigration position.
While the Democrats might have been timid about this issue given how things went last summer when it looked like they could be seriously hurt, a few months is an eternity in politics. Bringing back immigration reform would have virtually no drawbacks now and could reap major rewards, both political (if McCain is seriously damaged or distracted) and substantive (if immigration reform actually passed).
A Piece of Advice for the Republicans
The first thing I would suggest to the GOP is to anticipate the Democrats' playing the immigration card by re-introducing reform legislation and start planning on how to flip the issue in your favor. Polls show the American public is greatly concerned about border security, but that they want Congress to look at the matter pragmatically and pass legislation that punishes unauthorized immigrants, but ultimately allows a path to normalizing their immigration status. This is the position of the vast majority of Americans.
You have a nominee for President who is so closely identified with this position that you will not be able to escape this issue. Rather than fighting in public with your nominee or forcing him to abandon his position and appear to be a "flip-flopper", you have a golden opportunity to help McCain lead your party to broker a deal over the next few months on this issue. Americans are fed up with extreme partisanship and are looking for a President who can solve problems and work with the other party.
John McCain's ability to reach across the aisle to address the major problems of the day are one of the reasons for his success. If McCain is seen as brokering a deal on immigration, he'll demonstrate in a dramatic way that he's capable of delivering results. He'll also very visibly demonstrate to Hispanic voters in the country that the GOP is not the Anti-Hispanic party.
The votes are there to pass immigration reform legislation. There are enough potential supporters in the Senate to pass the bill. It passed in 2006, after all. And there are enough Democrats in the House, plus plenty of Republicans not running for re-election, to make passage there possible as well. Let the Republicans get credit for finally dealing with this major issue of the day.
In firm news, I will be speaking at several upcoming live and telephonic programs. They include
February 21st American Immigration Lawyers Association teleconference on no match letters and related topics
February 22nd Tennessee Bar Association Law Technology 2008 - Nashville Internet marketing - https://www.tnbaru.com/CLE/catalog_course_details.php?course=5114
March 6th AILA DC Chapter Washington Winning the Championship: Overcoming the Obstacles Facing Immigration Lawyers Today
March 15th American Bar Association Techshow Chicago www.techshow.com
Finally, as always, if you are interested in becoming a Siskind Susser Bland client, please feel welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us at 800-748-3819 to arrange for a telephone or in person consultation with one of our lawyers.