From AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) Advocacy Director, Greg Chen:
It’s four days later and our nation is still reeling from Arizona’s enactment of a harsh state law that will criminalize undocumented status in the state and effectively sanction the police to stop anyone who looks like an immigrant. The President and senior members of his administration have criticized the law as unfair, unrealistic, and possibly unconstitutional. On Friday, President Obama criticized the new law. Today while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are both reviewing the law and whether states and municipalities have the “inherent authority” to enforce federal criminal and civil immigration laws as Arizona has done. At a separate press conference on an unrelated topic, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed this and expressed concern that the law could be subject to abuse and create a wedge between “communities that law enforcement is supposed to serve and those of us in law enforcement,” He also said that a number of options are under consideration including the possibility of a court challenge. These are good initial signals, and the Administration should issue a clear statement that states should leave immigration enforcement to the federal government.
The silver lining to the Arizona law-if there is one-is that it has shaken immigrants and other Americans as well as our nation’s leaders into confronting the need for immigration reform. In large numbers in Arizona and nationwide, people have turned out protesting the law. AILA has done our part by boycotting the state and moving our Fall Conference out of Arizona – a decision that has generated significant media attention. In criticizing SB1070, the President called again for Congress to “forge a bipartisan consensus” on comprehensive immigration reform.
The keyword is bi-partisan. Real immigration reform will only gain passage with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Senator Schumer knows this and has been explicit in his desire not only to work with Senator Lindsey Graham but other Republicans on a proposal. The President last week personally called several Republicans including newly elected Senator Scott Brown to seek their support. But that effort suffered a setback this weekend when Graham announced that he would not support immigration reform unless climate legislation moved first. He issued more definitive statements today that immigration reform would not happen this year.
Graham has been under intense pressure from his own party not to partner with Democrats on any major reforms. He has previously stepped back from immigration reform only to later come back to the table. So, when it comes to politics: never say never. In the meantime, Schumer along with Senators Reid and Durbin and House Speaker Pelosi have continued to prioritize immigration reform. Last week Reid and Pelosi said publicly they will move immigration reform this year. The National Journal suggested that Senator Schumer may move forward without Graham.
Democrats should push forward. Otherwise immigration reform will stop dead. But they should continue to reach out in whatever way possible to gain support from moderate Republicans. This is the kind of leadership that is needed.
Both parties face risks especially with elections looming. The greater risk is inaction by either party on an important issue like immigration that is rapidly gaining attention with states like Arizona taking action on their own. The effort to roll the great boulder of immigration reform up the hill remains tough work but at least it’s moving. As steep as it may seem, Congress can only climb the mountain by sharing a rope with those across the aisle.
Stay tuned. Same Pulse Time. Same Pulse Channel.