Republicans to Sideline Hispanics and Other Minorities By Piecemeal Immigration Legislation?

by Alan Lee, Esq.

As 2014 gets underway with rampant speculation that the Republican Party will do something positive following House Speaker John Boehner's tirade against the Tea Party and hiring of Rebecca Tallent, a long time immigration advocate, questions are arising as to the amount of changes that the Republicans are likely to support and whether Hispanics and other minorities will accept them as a sign of Republican softening and not turn out in force against Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections. Mr. Boehner's aides stated recently that he wanted "step-by-step" moves on immigration. Some House Republicans have spoken in terms of a DREAM Act for the undocumented who came here as children, more visas for agricultural workers, and for high-tech workers. On the other hand of course, the Republican House may again wind up stonewalling and not passing anything related to immigration. But assuming that the House does something on immigration and if these and other placatory steps are all that will be offered in the run-up to the elections, will they be enough to sideline sufficient numbers of Hispanics and other minorities that supported President Obama and the Democrats in 2012? If so, and the Republicans take the midterm elections, that would fulfill the GOP's wishes, and the leverage that pro-immigrant groups now hold for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) will all but disappear.

This year's midterm elections with over 30 Senate seats being contested is the prize and the impetus for the Republicans to talk seriously about compromising over the issue of immigration. Wounded by Senate majority leader Harry Reid's November use of the "nuclear option" to cut off debate on judicial and administration appointees by majority (51) and not super majority (60) vote, Republicans realize that they cannot continually thwart the present Administration through only controlling the House and filibustering in the Senate. There is also some fear that Mr. Reid could expand the use of the nuclear option to include legislation and Supreme Court appointments. So it is essential to the GOP that it regains control over that body by holding on to the seats that it has and gaining 6 seats presently held by Democrats as the present alignment is 55 Democrats (including independents caucusing with Democrats) versus 45 Republicans. 10 Democrat-held states have been identified in an article on PolicyMic, "Midterm Elections 2014: Polls Show Republicans Could Take Over The Senate," as vulnerable in descending order of susceptibility: West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alaska, Iowa, Michigan, and Virginia. Republican states acknowledged to be contested in other articles are Georgia and Kentucky.

For those who remain interested in comprehensive immigration reform for the approximate 11 million undocumented people in the country, avenues of relief for discrete groups should not be looked upon as preludes to relief for all. There is the greater possibility that Congress will dither and never reach an agreement on CIR unless excruciating pressure remains fixed. Piecemeal relief to different groups will naturally have the tendency to reduce support from the groups which have already received relief, a well-known tactic of picking off supporters of a movement. From this perspective, it is difficult to understand the President's remarks in November that he was amenable to House Republicans taking up elements of the Senate bill, as long as the end result was the same.

To this writer, unless significant steps toward CIR are taken in the first months of 2014, the only solution appears to be taking advantage of the present leverage that pro-immigrant groups have of being able to turn out large numbers of Hispanics and other minorities to work for and vote in the midterm elections to ensure that the Republican Party does not capture another 6 seats in the Senate. The great Greek mathematician Archimedes said to give him a long enough lever and a place to stand, and he would move the earth. One would hope that this lever is large enough to move the House.

About The Author

Alan Lee is a 30+ year practitioner of immigration law based in New York City holding an AV preeminent rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Director , registered in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers , on the New York Super Lawyers list (2011-12, 2013-14), and recognized as a New York Area Top Rated Lawyer in 2012. He was awarded the Sidney A. Levine prize for best legal writing at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1977 and has written extensively on immigration over the past years for Interpreter Releases, Immigration Daily , and the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Pakistan Calling, Muhasba and OCS . He has testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings and was recognized by the Taiwan government in 1985 for his work protecting human rights. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases ' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004, and his victory in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case of first impression nationwide, Firstland International v. INS , successfully challenged INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof. Its value as precedent, however, was short-lived as it was specifically targeted by the Bush Administration in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.

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