Amidst Budget and Debt Ceiling Turmoil, Will Immigration Reform Resurface?

With a looming national debt crisis and constant budget debate, it is difficult to even think of focusing on immigration reform.

President Barack Obama has stated repeatedly that he continues to push for immigration reform. Even the government shutdown did not change that stance. While the immediate shutdown crisis has passed, plenty of flotsam and jetsam has been left behind to make its own messes. The president’s perseverance of agenda may be admirable, but against the oncoming wave of yet another debt crisis, reality may take its toll.

Some would call it inevitable, given the current House climate of politicking, posturing, posing and petulance. For many, the climate has shown the Republican Party to be overly concerned with re-election and dangerously ignorant of the will of the nation.

At such a juncture, how can the president hope to call for immigration reform and be heard? Chemical weapons in Syria, domestic surveillance programs and health care glitches: each all-consuming crisis has followed the last without pause for breath. Unfortunately, each pushes immigration further from central concern, leaving more than 11 million immigrants to wait and wonder.

Fortunately, some progress has been made in the last year. An immigration overhaul was passed in June, but stalled in the House over the legal status of illegal aliens. For many Republicans, changing an immigrant’s illegal status would break the law. Some media pundits speculate that the summer’s resistance was only a Republican ploy to break reform into small, slow pieces. If so, it may have worked.

Obama’s most recent comments indicate that he would accept a piecemeal reform process in the House (as long as the work would be achieved on that longer timeline). But would a piecemeal approach to immigration reform work? Chances are poor; changing the entire immigration system without a holistic approach will only compound the problems. Fix one leak, and three more will spring into being. The process would become exhausting and overwhelming for even well-intentioned Representatives.

If President Obama is to be believed, John Boehner stands at the center of resistance to immigration reform. The House Speaker appears unwilling to call the bill on the floor. But tensions have spread beyond individuals to absorb both parties. Republicans refuse to accept amnesty; Democrats refuse to eliminate the option. Against clashing parties and an unending series of national crises, immigration reform will find it difficult to resurface in the near future.

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