Another Sign of Possible Cooperation in Congress?

Right now, Congress is attempting to pass immigration reform, but will a bipartisan bill emerge before the end of the year? In this round of debate, Democrats and Republicans are discussing the substance of immigration reform, with the proposal to grant undocumented workers permanent legal status being one of the most contentious articles of reform. Democrats in the House and Senate want a comprehensive bill that would include a plan to allow undocumented workers currently in the US to obtain legal citizenship. Republicans strongly oppose proposals that grant legal status to immigrants and insist on increasing spending on border security measures. House Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner have sworn to use a “piecemeal” approach to create reform instead of accepting a reform bill that has already passed the Senate during the summer.

Interestingly enough, there have been a few House Democrats who have expressed their willingness to participate in a piecemeal legislative process if it leads to reform. For example, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has stated that he is willing to cross the partisan divide and vote on individual aspects of immigration reform. He even criticized his Democratic colleagues in the house for their stubbornness to negotiate with Republicans. However, Gutierrez quickly backtracks from his compromising tone by saying that he will only accept a piecemeal reform process if it leaves intact a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, referred to as the “Dreamers”. Gutierrez could never accept a bill that did not include a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers” because he represents Illinois’s 4th district, a gerrymandered region densely populated with Mexican-Americans and Puerto Rican- Americans. Obtaining citizenship is probably a relevant issue for some of the residents in the district and if Gutierrez is caught supporting a bill without a path to citizenship he would likely lose some support from his constituents. Even though immigration reform could positively affect his district, Gutierrez must also protect his political seat by ensuring that the children of illegal immigrants have an opportunity to become citizens.

Gutierrez’s willingness to engage in a piecemeal legislative process is both encouraging and discouraging for the fate of new immigration reform. It demonstrates that some politicians in Congress really want to produce viable immigration reform and are willing to go beyond party antics to achieve policy outcomes. However, the willingness of congressmen to pursue a bipartisan solution seems quite limited. Republicans refuse to vote for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and political restraints have force Gutierrez to become less compromising on a path to citizenship. Hopefully Gutierrez and other members of Congress can find a way to work together before the opportunity to create lasting reform goes away.

-Arthur Townsend



7 responses to “Another Sign of Possible Cooperation in Congress?”

  1. Kate says :

    I think the case of Rep. Gutierrez nicely illustrates the challenges immigration reform faces in the House. Most seem to agree that some form of immigration reform is very necessary, but refuse to compromise over how to do it. And it seems that the comprehensive bill the Senate passed this summer is not even part of the conversation. Your interpretation of Gutierrez’s stance is interesting because it implies that the Congressman is taking into account the wishes of all residents of his district and not just those who are eligible to vote.

    • legiprocess says :

      I think it’s not necessarily that Gutierrez cares about the wishes of his residents who cannot vote. I think that since a large proportion of his district is Mexican American, his voters may include family members or friends of those who cannot vote. In effect, the voting Mexican Americans are asking as representatives for the nonvoting residents of their community

      -Jenny Wu

      • Maddie Josel says :

        I would have to agree Kate. I think it is very refreshing to see someone looking out for the whole of his district, and not just the voting population. While it is clear that the motivation is re-election, Gutierrez is not just compromising. Instead, he is taking a stance that he believes in and can agree on, leading the way for other representatives to do the same. While there is clearly not enough time to get this bill passed, hopefully next year we see a little more bipartisan compromise following Gutierrez’s lead.

    • legiprocess says :

      This is sort of cynical, but he might be taking the view that if this reform passes, a lot of those residents will someday be able to vote. He would have a very strong base in those constituents if that happened. I’m sure that he also sees the impact of our current immigration laws in his home district, though.

      – Will

  2. Chris Gibson says :

    In the short term, it seems like there are irreconcilable differences between Democratic and Republican ideology, namely an immediate path to citizenship or one only implemented once the border has become more secure. There is no easy compromise, as the two sides are mutually exclusive. This might suggest that either party must wait until they hold the majority of both chambers to pass any sort of comprehensive reform.

    Since there are only 13 more days on the House legislative calendar, the lack of common ground and time sadly (for the country and our blog) means that the House will not vote on immigration reform this year, per Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy ( Perhaps a compromise can be worked out next year as legislators seek to build their electoral resumes for the midterm elections, but for now, the issue seems to be off the table.

  3. legiprocess says :

    You mentioned that Democrats are against piecemeal reform; this might be a sort of a tangent, but both parties took the same stance with the government shutdown. I wonder if it’s a minority-majority struggle, or a democratic-republican thing. I’d guess the former, it seems like republicans want to use it as a way to make sure they get what they want in an environment where there is absolutely no trust. It’s interesting though, I don’t think laws are usually passed bit-by-bit.

    – Will

    • legiprocess says :

      It would be different to pass legislation bit by bit, but it may be the only way for both parties to compromise. There is unlikely to be a full bill that can pass that both parties will agree with, but there are certain aspects of immigration reform that I’m sure both parties want. It may be the only way for SOMETHING to get done.

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