This Sunday, as the House of Representatives was busy passing Obama’s health care plan, the National Mall was filled with advocates for what many dare to hope will be his next large-scale initiative; Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The question however, is whether pro-immigration forces in Congress and the Obama-administration still have the political capital and/or will for what is sure to be another drawn-out and polarizing debate, especially as mid-term elections approach. With Congress’ approval rating at 17% it’s unlikely they do. Although comprehensive changes to our immigration laws are long overdue; spending all of the community’s resources lobbying for a one shot bill to cure all ills is likely to only waste political and monetary capital. If immigration advocates learn one thing from the recent health care debates it should be that American’s fear large scale change. Before we fall victim to being accused of “ramming immigration reform down America’s throats” (a common accusation made towards health care reform), immigrant advocates would do well to dice their bill into bite size pieces. Particularly bite size pieces that can be included on other bills.
Immigrant advocates must choose their priorities; although large scale reform is certainly needed, the likelihood of its success must be weighed against the repercussions for families and businesses in the United States if a push for large scale reform fails where smaller scale reform could have succeeded. Immigrant groups are saying they’ve waited long enough but a family with a parent about to be deported doesn’t care whether relief comes through a standalone bill or as a rider to an appropriations package. Immigration reform doesn’t need to be big and flashy; it just needs to be done.