Notwithstanding the recent lobbying push and the modicum of Republicans who emerged to support the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, now comes some real talk (from Greg Sargent) that the window for action of immigration reform is fast closing:
“We have very few days available on the floor in the House, so I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it this year,” GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida told me by phone today.
Diaz-Balart has been deeply involved in bipartisan negotiations over immigration for years now, and is thought to be in touch with House GOP leaders on the issue, so folks involved in the immigration debate pay close attention to what he says.
Worse, Diaz-Balart said that if something were not done early next year — by February or March, before GOP primaries heat up – reform is dead for the foreseeable future.
“I’m hopeful that we can get to it early next year,” he said. “But I am keenly aware that next year, you start running into the election cycle. If we cannot get it done by early next year, then it’s clearly dead. It flatlines.”
Diaz-Balart is one of the few Republicans who consistently is active in support of immigration reform. So, if not even he is trying to keep up the facade that everything is still rolling along, then that’s a bad sign for the chances of any legislation.
A couple of months ago, I was doing some interviews for another project and was talking to someone about how to keep pressure for diversity efforts strong within an organization. This person made it very clear that you need to keep your effort on people’s “value stream,” and that if you’re not talking about something that maps on to anything that the people in charge care about, “you’re DOA.”
This is a useful way to think about the fundamental problem in getting immigration reform passed through Congress. Immigration reform was “alive” as long as it was in Republicans’ value stream. The reason it might have been there emerged from a sense of enlightened self-interest: After 2012, it might have helped them with the suddenly obvious problems that they were losing badly in growing demographic groups such as Hispanics. (Despite the fact that, thanks to gerrymandering, few officeholders themselves were vulnerable.) Moving forward from the political moment of the 2012 election, what’s the situation? Republicans probably now perceive as their problem that their overall brand is terrible, or that they were forced to concede to the president in their big political move of the year, or that any alleged Republican moderate is potentially vulnerable to a right-wing challenge.
Where does immigration reform fit into these things? It probably doesn’t. It’s not on Republicans’ value stream, and it’s not clear how it will be put back there as the primary dates approach. Sure, Chris Christie won his sweeping victory on Tuesday (the Republicans’ best result) with a lot of support from New Jersey Hispanics, but that hasn’t seemed to get a whole lot of attention.
Republicans who now seem only fleetingly engaged due to self-interest, however, form only one part of the winning caucus. The other part is people with a more basic concern for the more basic policy planks of immigration reform (which includes some Republicans).
These people will continue to support the comprehensive architecture, since there’s no obvious alternative to it. So, in that sense, immigration reform will never exactly die. It will just wait for the right political moment to again be thawed (or, reheated).