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Ryan Campbell Headshot

Immigration Legislation Is Dead -- Now What?

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You don't need a crystal ball to see that immigration-reform legislation is dead. It is consistently one of the most difficult topics for any country to tackle, and we have the most dysfunctional, do-nothing Congress in U.S. history. There isn't much hope to be found for immigration. While some will stubbornly remain blind to the obvious, immigration reform can only come from unilateral presidential action, as Congress is, as it has been for years, a place where all hope, optimism and political momentum go to die.

The signs on immigration reform have been there, as the DREAM Act, often used as a litmus test for how reasonable someone is on immigration, remains unpassed. The DREAMers who were going to be covered in the bill, who were brought into the country as children, graduated from high school and have no serious criminal record, have been given Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This Obama-administration program gives them temporary relief from deportations and allows them to apply for driver's licenses and work authorization.

For those who have this program and are now driving to work without constantly living under the threat of deportation, the difference in their lives is like day and night. For those who are against this program, their stance essentially boils down to a "tough on babies" stance, as several of my friends who qualify for the program were taken across country lines as infants, and our system does not allow them to adjust their status.

This program is one of several political balls currently in play; one of many signs of a wave of immigration unreasonability are attacks on DACA, such as the recent ones leveled by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Despite the spike in crime in Central America actually driving children and families north, Issa and Cruz blame DACA, and through it the Obama administration, for the massive spike in children on the border currently.

That isn't the only sign, though: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has refused to allow any immigration bills that weren't anti-immigrant to come to a vote in years, is filing a lawsuit against the president for his use of executive authority to establish programs like DACA; in the political upset of the year, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) was defeated in a primary after being hammered by his opponent over his alleged support for "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants; new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "Until you secure the borders, you cannot have the conversation about anything else," falling back on an empty argument that the multi-billion-dollar, militant "border surge" in the Gang of 8 bill couldn't diffuse; and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois), one of the strongest advocates for immigration reform, said that the legislation is officially dead in the House. Most legislation has been doomed in the House since fringe elements took control of the majority party, and immigration reform is always an easy target.

There are still a few holdouts like SEIU asking Obama not to sign an executive order or administrative relief to cut down on unnecessary deportations, to give the House time. Most advocacy organizations, however, are now looking to Obama to unilaterally cut down on deportations, something well within his constitutional authority -- and he has pledged to take some form of executive action.

After the 2012 election, things were supposed to change: Mitt Romney was defeated despite winning an impressive amount of white voters, Karl Rove had his on-air meltdown and even Sean Hannity realized that the GOP has to embrace immigration reform to win over Latino and Asian voters. Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs and other fixtures within the right wing's infotainment industry haven't gotten the memo, however, and are decrying anything that has a chance of passing as "amnesty."

With the GOP paralyzed by the primary threat, now it's up to Obama. The alternative is waiting until we have a new president to fulfill the first-year promise of the last president, and I hope that isn't a legacy Obama would accept.