Lots of immigration sideshows last week, but here's the big picture: Senator Schumer (D-NY) announced plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill by Labor Day.
According to the Associated Press:
"I think we'll have a good bill by Labor Day," said Schumer, D-N.Y. "I think the fundamental building blocks are in place to do comprehensive immigration reform."
Senator Schumer's statements may seem like a bombshell to those who've been ignoring how the politics of immigration have come together over the past few months. To those following the issue, however, it's right on track.
In June, President Obama convened a bipartisan subset of Congress to get the conversation rolling, laying the groundwork for real reform. That same week, Senator Schumer outlined his principles for legislation. Schumer's newly-revealed timeline reinforces President Obama's pledge to move immigration legislation in the first year of his presidency and repeated statements by leaders in both the House and Senate that reform would be a top priority this year. It is also in line with the desires of a majority of American voters, including Independents and Republicans , who want the immigration system addressed through real, comprehensive reform, not empty rhetoric.
Momentum is here, but there are only a few nagging questions. For instance, why are Democrats letting Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and others set the agenda with empty, irrelevant, "build the fence bigger" immigration amendments.
I'm talking about the slew of lopsided immigration enforcement amendments that Republicans tacked on to a Senate Appropriations bill last week. Republican Senators Sessions, Vitter, Grassley, DeMint, and more led the charge last week -- supported by a handful of comprehensive reform-supporting Democrats. These included Senator Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Klobuchar (D-MN), who should know better. WTF, many reform advocates wondered aloud.
After we see Sessions lead the attack on Sotomayor at her hearings this week, most of us will be wondering why any Democrat who cares about the Latino vote would side with him on anything. And, for those who still want to side with the Senator from Alabama, we strongly suggest reading our report on Sessions and his ties to incendiary anti-immigrant hate groups.
Here's the thing. The American people want effective immigration enforcement, but they are also way out in front of politicians on the issue of what constitutes real reform.
They know that throwing money into a bigger, taller, badder fence is not going to solve our current immigration disaster. Neither is deporting twelve million people. When given the option, 64% of Americans agree that we need to regain control over our system in a way that is simultaneously tough, realistic, and fair. When they hear the details, a whopping 86% of Americans support comprehensive reform.
Despite the fact that
Look, if Al Franken can grow a backbone in 48 hours, surely
And, in case anyone didn't quite grasp what happened in the Senate last week, it took a freshman Democrat, Jared Polis (D-CO), about a minute to explain it:
It comes down to this: either these politicians actually think sinking money into more bricks will solve everything (they don't), or they're just making crass political calculations to cater to an angry minority in a way that makes it hard for people to respect their votes.
The American people want solutions to problems. The GOP's "southern strategy" was exposed and defeated in the last election. Nevertheless, an unholy alliance of Republican and Democratic conservative senators opted for crass political tactics last week, most of which will disappear in the conference report on DHS appropriations.
But, when Labor Day rolls around, we'll have a real immigration reform bill. A bill that will address the real issues. That's when Feinstein, Boxer, Klobuchar and their colleagues have to step up. They've put us on notice -- and we're watching.
Follow Frank Sharry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/americasvoice