House Speaker John Boehner surprised many analysts last week, saying that passing immigration reform was unlikely before the 2014 midterm elections. The rationale behind this is complicated as noted in this article from the New York Times:
"The quandary for Mr. Obama is clear: He has vowed to overhaul immigration in two presidential campaigns, but to make good on the promise, he may have to agree to conditions from House Republicans that will be hard for many Democrats to accept. Mr. Boehner is facing pressure of his own to come up with a plan that will appeal to Hispanic voters."
Immigration Texas has been on hiatus for the last month, but immigration legislation has moved forward, starting with the passage of the Senate bill, amended to appease Senators who felt the border security measures needed to be more stringent. However, GOP members of the House of Representatives voiced their displeasure with the Senate bill, even before the final vote: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/26/us-usa-immigration-idUSBRE95P0ZX20130626
Final passage came on June 27th with a vote of 68 to 32, with 14 Republicans backing the bill:
My own expectation is that the House will work towards passing legislation to give a path to citizenship for DREAMers, a STEM bill that will increase visas for skilled immigrants and allow those who earned advanced degrees to stay in the U.S., and of course, border security. Of course, the House has already voted to stop Obama's DACA executive order: http://www.thonline.com/news/national_world/article_86eea608-45fa-562f-84a7-66e5414dfb6e.html and a DREAM act was supposed to be introduced by democrats in the House earlier this year: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/07/dream-act_n_2639187.html (apparently this did not happen) but this legislation would give House Republicans a way to deal with one of the more sympathetic groups of undocumented immigrants, without having to deal with a broader "amnesty."
The wide-ranging discussion focused on the differences in the immigration debate between Texas and Washington, and that Texas has generally been welcoming to immigrants, despite being a conservative state.
In the House, the issue of access to healthcare has created divisions in the set of negotiators who hope to complete a bill in the next week or two:
"But there is a bloc of House GOP members -- including 2012 vice presidential candidate Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- that is pushing for a similar bipartisan approach that the Senate is taking up this week, which includes a path to citizenship. The group represents a minority within the House GOP conference.
That bipartisan effort suffered a significant setback last week. A working group, similar to the Senate's "Gang of Eight," has been on the verge of unveiling legislation for months, according to multiple sources. But Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the four GOP members in the group, abruptly dropped out. Like Rubio, who is needed to attract Republican votes in the Senate, reform backers hoped Labrador would play the same role in the House.
Labrador was frustrated he couldn't get support for his detailed proposal laying out how undocumented workers in the U.S. would be barred from any taxpayer-funded health care benefits."
The Senate immigration reform bill crafted by the "Gang of Eight" survived committee hearings mostly intact, with few amendments allowed to alter the carefully negotiated bill. Despite Senator Schumer's confidence that the bill will pass by July 4th, and Harry Reid's statements that the bill can avoid a filibuster, others, including Marco Rubio, are concerned that the bill doesn't have enough votes to make it to a floor vote.
Immigration reform will have a significant
impact on Texas politics in the long term. If the path to citizenship
remains in the legislation, it could lead to large numbers of currently
undocumented immigrants eventually becoming citizens. The current
efforts of political organizers to mobilize the Latino vote in Texas
will be critical, in order to develop a constituency which understands
the power of the vote and can put forward viable candidates. Even
without a path to citizenship, demographics in Texas are changing
The changes which occurred in California politics in the late 1990s
and early 2000s are instructive for Texas politicians. I lived in
California at that time and saw the mobilization of the Latino vote
after the passage of Prop. 187. As noted in a New York Times article from
last summer the Republican Party in California holds no statewide
offices. It's interesting to note that we have the opposite situation
here in Texas, with Republicans holding all statewide offices. However,
the Democratic party, in particular the new organization Battleground Texas,
is pouring significant resources into the state in a bid to make Texas a
swing state by the next decade. We have already seen some changes, as
in the lack of harsh immigration control measures being put forward
during this year's legislative session. It's clear that many politicians
in Texas will have to pay attention to issues that are of concern to a
changing constituency, and politicians like the Castro brothers from San
Antonio may be harbingers of a new political order in the state.
Terri E. Givens is associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. More information at www.immigrationtexas.org.