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Congress and Immigration Reform – Overcoming Inertia and the Culture of “No”

Posted in Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Much has been written about Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and the need to fix the serious mistakes of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. (For Greenberg Traurig’s blog commentary about recent efforts to pass comprehensive reform, please click here.) The reality is that Congress is stuck in its own political quagmire.  It is a legislative phenomenon that permeates all issues. It’s more than a “do-nothing” culture, but it is a more aggressive culture of “killing” policy initiatives.  Immigration reform is once again feeling the impact of this disappointing culture.  Attempts to pass CIR in 2006 and 2007 were victims of this culture, and current attempts seem to be falling into a similar pattern.  It is almost as if the script from the CIR debate in 2006 is being reproduced today: a strong bi-partisan Senate immigration bill is passed; then the House refuses to take up the Senate bill, and focusses on enforcement.  Breaking this culture is a topic for an entire college political science course.  Attempting to do this with immigration reform is the question leaders in the White House, Senate and most importantly the House of Representatives need to do in quick order.  House leaders need to break the inertia and the culture of “No” and get to a conference with the Senate on CIR.  This does not mean taking up the Senate bill, but does mean focusing on the dozen or so individual immigration bills that are circulating in the House.  The House needs to stake out its priorities and pave the way for a House/Senate conference this fall.   If not, the window of opportunity for immigration reform will close and will be lost for another generation.

*Laura Reiff is the co-founder and co-chair of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition.  The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) is a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and other organizations from across the industry spectrum concerned with the shortage of both lesser skilled and unskilled (“essential worker”) labor.