The Shakedown Breakdown

The choice for Democrats is clear.  They can do one of two things:

1) Use the failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill as a political weapon against Republicans

2) Do the right thing and start resetting a broken system, with AgJobs, DREAM, UAFA…

How does this break down? Simple.  Democrats need votes in November.  They are feeling the crunch, and are getting nervous about potentially losing their majorities in the House and the Senate.

Where can they find votes? Latinos.  What issue consistently makes emotions run high among Latinos? Immigration, due largely to the fact that in any immigration debate, the rhetoric of the right (by nativists, by radio and talk show hosts, by the far right wing of the party) drives Latinos towards Democrats, simply because they are NOT Republicans.  They’ve been conveniently reminded of this fact due to recent events in Arizona: student-led organizing power by immigration rights advocates is a scary thing.  Moral crises force people to take sides, and people have been showing their colors lately.

So Democratic leadership can use immigration reform- and I say use, because it doesn’t necessarily mean that they think they can pass it. Read: “Let’s pass comprehensive immigration reform!  Darn, those mean old Republicans didn’t let us.  Vote for Democrats instead, because we tried!”

The key thing here is that the legislative action has to be driven by the Senate.  The House has passed over 200 bills that the Senate has yet to approve, which means that the discussion on immigration will be dominated by the Senate and the three-page immigration blueprint presented by Senators Schumer and Graham.

There’s a problem here.  Nobody who works as an immigration rights advocate has actually seen the Graham-Schumer bill (three pages is not a bill, it’s Sparknotes).  We know that DHS has seen it. Great.  We also know it has a lot of enforcement, a “get to the back of the line” promise, a biometric security card, and more funding for border security.

But this bill may not even be a problem, because Graham will not move forward with it.  Why? Because he anticipates what the Democratic leadership may try to do:

“Expecting these major issues to be addressed in three weeks … is ridiculous. It also demonstrates the raw political calculations at work here,” Graham wrote. “Let’s be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future.”

Read: “I know what you’re trying to do.  It might work, so nice try.  Now I’m not going to work on immigration reform or climate change legislation.  Check and mate.”

If there’s no Republican in the Senate on board, there’s no bill. It’s not happening. It’s that simple. Republicans know it, Democrats know it, and it looks like they might go for it anyways to save their seats.

On the other hand… there’s legislation like AgJobs.  There’s DREAM.  There’s actually resetting the standard for what immigration reform should be. Instead of Arizona’s enforcement-heavy, “show-me-your-papers”, police-state standard, we could choose something else.

We could choose to set a new standard, based on American values like family, hard work, education, equality, and fairness.  We could show America what real reform looks like, and reset the model for immigration reform for the future. No games, no political plays, just real change.  What an opportunity.  What a chance.  What a choice.  Let’s show everybody what real reform looks like.  Let’s show them what the real choice is.  Let’s pass the DREAM Act.


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