Today, the Pew Research Center came out with new numbers for some of the most pressing issues in immigration reform: 55 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of Asian Americans think being able to live and work in the U.S. legally is more important than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
At a time when there is still disagreement on the issue of citizenship for undocumented immigrants, these numbers have deep implications on where the area for compromise on reform exists. Although the year is coming to a close, the 2014 legislative session is not far away, and pressure on immigration has only continued to build.
Though many thought immigration would be tackled and by Congress first and have reform legislation passed, it's now official: immigration reform didn't happen in 2013. Pew's new research can now tell us about how many Latino and Asian voters are upset with this: 89 percent of Latinos and 72 percent of Asians, who liked the citizenship provisions for undocumented immigrants in the Gang of 8 legislation. This is a large portion of the electorate that the GOP is hoping to compete for, but first, they'll have to sign on to some reform.
Fast for Families, an immigrant rights protest in DC, packed up their tents for the holiday as members of the House of Representatives began to go back to their districts. They are part of a host of immigrant rights and immigration reform demonstrations, including the DREAM9; the DREAM30; the deportation busses blocked in Phoenix, Tucson and San Francisco; the President being heckled by someone whose family was split by deportations; an immigration court being shut down by demonstrators in Tucson, to just name a few.
Put into political context, these protests aren't too surprising: During the 2012 campaign, we saw the most enthusiastic demonstrators coming from immigration reform groups. This energy for organizing has only grown throughout 2013 without legislation as the numbers of undocumented immigrants and deportations continue to climb.
Despite these demonstrations, as well as the one-sided loss the GOP took in 2012, outside groups like the Heritage Foundation and fringe House Republicans like Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) have dominated the conversation. Mostly, they have been able to attack anything that is discussed, and prevented votes on legislation.
At first, Republicans claimed that the Gang of 8 bill did not have enough security. The Senate then added on enough security in the Corker-Hoeven amendment, a $40 billion "border surge" that it's own author called it "almost overkill" and Sen. Leahy referred to it as "a Christmas wish list for Haliburton."
"We feel that there have been too many games played with too many issues within immigration politics; although most rightfully blame Republicans for much of what has gone wrong, like recently derailing the Gang of 8 bill or filibustering the DREAM Act in 2010, Democrats had a majority within the House before the 2010 Lame Duck, and they didn't take on immigration reform then." Said Cesar Vargas of Dream Action Coalition.
Although most immigrant rights advocates would have preferred one large bill which addressed the reality and fallout of our broken immigration system, due to the politics of Washington, D.C., the most likely route for immigration reform is piecemeal legislation that will not necessarily address citizenship first.
"We need to continue to push for reform, but within what is politically possible, and our first priority should be to cut down on the deportations that have set a record 9 out of the past 10 years," said Erika Andiola, Dream Action Coalition co-founder.
After the budget deal, we know Speaker Boehner is willing to put forward legislation on issues that groups like Heritage and outliers in his party like Louie Gohmert have prevented him from taking votes on. Organizers are hopeful that, with the rhetoric on Obamacare dying down and a budget out of the way, early 2014 will be when immigration reform, or at least part of it, is passed.
Though it may not be everything immigrant right advocates want, it may enable more undocumented immigrants to live like those who have received DACA, which has made a huge difference in their lives. This won't happen if both sides aren't willing to compromise.