As I mentioned before, I attended the 7th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown Law. With a laundry list of experts in the field, the conference tackled the whirlwind of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) in a thorough, impressive manner. Here are a couple highlights-
Jeanne Butterfield, a Senior Advisor with the National Immigration Forum, gave as concise and effective a summary of the status of CIR as I’ve heard. When asked about a lack of legislative progress on the issue, Butterfield attributed the stagnancy to four causes: a lack of leadership and political will from Democrats and the White House, Republican obstruction, insufficient political power by the interested base, and unpredictable, unrelated external events (Massachusetts senate election, Health Care causing Lindsey Graham to step away from the table, and the oil spill).
After outlining the challenges to CIR, Butterfield demonstrated why advocates have plenty of reason for optimism. Once John McCain is done with the primary battle that’s forced him to distance himself from CIR, there’s a good chance Lindsey Graham will join him back at the bargaining table. In addition to McCain and Graham, Senators Gregg, Voinovich and Lugar are all retiring Republicans who’d love to see a bill pass before they go. And while the lack of Congressional action can be discouraging, both my time at the conference and in meetings on the Hill has emphasized that legislators are working hard to get the votes they need before the issue surfaces again. Nobody on the Hill will get any satisfaction from a symbolic loss. With CIR, it’s a matter of taking the time to do it right.
From here on out, any Congressional movement on CIR will signify that the votes are there. Butterfield made a point of recognizing immigration reform groups like NETWORK for their continued efforts, and noted that the issue is simply too pressing and too important to constituents for it to not be passed. While the waiting game can be difficult, recognize that CIR is nearing the boiling point.
In other news, a New York Times posted a blog yesterday entitled “Obama Tries to Resurrect Immigration Reform.” Look for CIR to gain international attention this morning as President Obama delivers an address from American University. NETWORK will be in attendance, and be sure to check back for our analysis.