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American Prospects

Your Guide to Immigration Reform

April 12, 2013

The chances for real, comprehensive immigration reform to be passed through both houses of Congress and signed by the president, the first such reform in decades, now look greater than ever. This is in no small part because the issue has split conservatives, meaning there will be no united Republican front against it. Republican leaders are eager to show Latino voters that they aren't hostile to them, even as the powerful Heritage Foundation mounts a campaign against reform (their current charge is that reform will be too expensive). Big change on election night, he says, was that the people opposed to legal immigration lost. The Steve Kings and so on aren't even part of this discussion. "I'm in favor of legal immigration, I'm just opposed to illegal immigration" has long been a Republican talking point; it's at last becoming a reality, as the forces within the GOP who are most opposed to any kind of reform that doesn't involve higher fences are becoming marginalized. Even the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are working together to press for their own version of immigration reform, and each house of Congress has its own bipartisan "gang" feverishly negotiating something a majority of lawmakers can support.

The "Gang of 8" negotiating immigration reform in the Senate says it will release its proposal this week. This group has the blessing of the Senate leadership, meaning the proposal it comes up with will go to the Judiciary Committee for markup and then, if all goes well, on to the floor for debate and voting. In the House, things are less certain?there's a bipartisan "gang" there too, but it was self-appointed, and there's no indication yet of what Speaker Boehner will do with whatever they negotiate. It's possible that in the House, immigration reform will be chopped into several pieces, letting Republicans say they voted against "amnesty" and whatever else they object to, while still allowing the legislation to proceed.

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