Insistence by the House for a piecemeal approach to immigration overhaul and the sheer quantity of issues makes it highly unlikely that anything will be done this calendar year.
By Ryan Miltner, attorney
One year ago this week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Dairy Today Elite Producer Business Conference.
The day I was speaking happened to be Election Day. By that day, it looked like the pathway for Mitt Romney to win the election was all but closed off. During the question-and-answer session following my presentation, I offered that I thought comprehensive immigration reform was a dead letter.
In the days after the election, attention turned to just how poorly Romney and the Republican Party fared with Hispanic voters. Almost overnight, a discussion over crafting a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill sprung up. Coalitions in both the House and the Senate seemed to compete with each other over who would be the first to introduce a bill and, therefore, have a perceived upper hand in crafting the terms of the legislation.
One year later, my pre-election thoughts on comprehensive reform look spot-on. I wish that were not the case. With only a few legislative days before the end of the current Congressional session, prospects for movement are dim. Recall that on June 27, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill on a bipartisan basis. Since then, the House coalition to introduce a bipartisan bill fizzled. The House has since focused on a piecemeal approach, taking up multiple bills each addressing a part of the immigration problem.
Last week, Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez provided his opinion that the House will consider "a full menu" of stand-alone bills and that doing so would be the only way to move immigration reform forward given the balance of power in the House. In doing so, presuming that each of the stand-alone bills pass, it could set the stage for a conference committee charged with reconciling the Senate comprehensive bill with the individual components passed by the House.
A partial list of the components of the Senate bill illustrates just how many potential bills could be in or out of a final bill: the DREAM Act, agricultural visas (both temporary and permanent), border security, E-Verify, guest workers, green card reform, technology improvements are all addressed in the Senate bill. The sheer quantity of issues makes it highly unlikely that anything will be done this calendar year, and that isn’t even taking into account the federal budget, the debt ceiling, and finishing up the farm bill.
That will force the immigration discussion into yet another year, which is, of course, an election year. If past election years provide any guidance, any progress to be made will have to occur before the summer. After that point, members become so focused on keeping their jobs that they are either absent from Washington or doing nothing while in Washington to agitate potential voters. What will spur action is the perception among the Republican leadership as to whether taking action on immigration will attract more Hispanic voters or alienate those opposing reform. On that point, I won’t venture a guess.
Ryan Miltner is an agricultural and estate planning lawyer in private practice. His agricultural practice is focused on dairy policy and the economic regulation of the dairy industry. The opinions in this article are his own observations prepared for Dairy Today and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of his clients. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.