For 2 Parties, Immigration Poses Complex Test -- Despite recent talk, it appears unlikely that Congress will act this election year.
This week, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, abruptly announced that the Senate would take up an immigration bill to address both enhanced border security and citizenship, even in the face of daunting odds. Mr. Reid also faces a tough re-election battle, and his advisers believe that Hispanic voters in Nevada could prove key to his re-election.
In the short term, Mr. Reid’s vow to tackle immigration legislation this year could hurt some Democrats in the fall elections, causing problems with voters who view immigrants as competition for tough-to-find jobs and illegal immigration as a drain on social services, analysts from both parties said. That could especially be a problem for first- and second-term Democrats representing blue-collar states particularly hard hit by the recession.
But the Republican Party could face long-term risks if it is identified with legislation cracking down on illegal immigration at a time when Hispanic voters are emerging as an increasingly large and engaged part of the American electorate. The Arizona law has enraged many Hispanic groups, who see it as a form of racial profiling.
“Immigration is the most explosive issue I’ve seen in my political career,” said Mark McKinnon, who was a senior adviser both to Mr. McCain and to President George W. Bush, who also supported giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
“This is an issue on which Republicans salivate over short-term gains without much thought to the longer-term damage it will do the party,” Mr. McKinnon said.
But, he said: “Arizona may force the Democrats’ hand to push for immigration reform. Unfortunately, an election year is the worst time to move good public policy on this issue.”
For all the recent talk about moving ahead on an immigration bill, it appears unlikely that Congress will act this year, especially since no Senate Republican now seems willing to work with the White House on the issue.
UPDATE: From The Washington Post:
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid backed off Tuesday from his pledge to fast-track an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, after fellow Democrats voiced skepticism and a key Republican supporter [Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.)] abandoned the effort.