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.