Obama Promises Immigration Reform, But the Senate Numbers Don't Look GoodJune 19, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
Last time Congress tried for comprehensive immigration reform, they spent more than two months in the summer of 2007 on a bitter, racially-tinged debate that ended in overwhelming defeat (see the OpenCongress wiki article). The final vote in the Senate that secured the bill’s death went down 46-53 – fourteen votes shorty of the sixty that were needed to keep the debate alive.
Democrats gained some seats in the Senate this session, but not enough to make up that difference. All of the 15 Democrats that voted against the bill last time around are still there. Furthermore, three of the Republicans that voted for the bill last time have been replaced in this session of Congress with Republicans who strongly oppose comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship program for illegal immigrants. Below are quotes on immigration from the three new Republican Senators (what immigration-reform advocates call a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, they refer to as “amnesty”):
- Sen. Mike Johanns [R, NE]: “Ending illegal immigration is critically important to our nation’s security and our collective commitment to the rule of law. Our actions to end illegal immigration must be grounded in principle. We must secure our borders. There must be no amnesty for illegal immigrants. We must secure the work place with a verifiable enforcement program and sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. And there must be no preferential treatment for those who have come to America illegally.” (source)
- Sen. James Risch [R, ID]: “We must secure our borders, stop illegal aliens and terrorists from entering our country. I oppose amnesty in any form.” (source)
- Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]: “As a founding member of the Senate Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus, I agree that illegal immigration is a major issue that needs to be addressed. However, I oppose amnesty as the solution.” (source)
Still, President Obama went to the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference today and said that he’ll get immigration reform done. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
In the 21st century, we’ve learned that this truth is central not just to our own lives, but to our success as a nation. If our children cannot get the world-class education they need to succeed, then America will not be able to compete with other countries. If our families cannot afford health care, then the costs go up for all of us – individuals, businesses, and government. If folks down the street can’t pay their mortgage and folks across town can’t find a job, then that pain is going to trickle into other parts of our economy. And that’s why we’ve come together on behalf of the future that we want to build – one where all of our children go to the best schools, all our people can go to work and make a living, all our families can afford health care; and prosperity is extended to everybody. Together, we must build a future where the promise of America is kept for a new generation.
We also know that keeping this promise means upholding America’s tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Those things aren’t contradictory; they’re complementary. That’s why I’m committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform as President of the United States. (Applause.)
The American people – the American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can’t tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law, nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. That’s why we’re taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts. We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical, and promising way forward, and that’s what I’m committed to passing as President of the United States. (Applause.)