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Immigration Reform Under the Next U.S. President

New America Media, News Report, Wendy Sefsaf Posted: May 21, 2008

Editor's Note: Immigration advocates say the prospect of immigration reform under the next U.S. president is slim, but the way immigration plays out in the election could change the face of the Republican Party. NAM contributor Wendy Sefsaf reports from Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON -- One might assume that achieving comprehensive immigration reform would be easy once the next president is elected. After all, the three main candidates all support comprehensive immigration reform and Democrats are likely to hold the majority in Congress, so this should be a piece of cake, right?

Dont hold your breath, was the sentiment conveyed by Frank Sharry, executive director of Americas Voice, while speaking at a conference at Georgetown Law School this week. When the new administration takes power in January, immigration will not likely be their first burning issue. With an economy and housing market on the decline, the so-called pocketbook issues will take precedence and immigration will take a back seat to getting the economy back on track, helping homeowners and creating jobs, he explained.

Yet there is a very interesting immigration subplot playing itself out in this election, said Sharry. He believes that in this election Latino voters will send a strong signal to the anti-immigrant forces and lawmakers that support them. At the conference co-sponsored by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Migration Policy Institute and Georgetown University, Sharry said, For fully embracing the far-right anti-immigrant wing of the party, Republicans may be dealt a punishment vote this November. Then what happens next depends on whether or not party leaders can afford to continue promoting some of the harshest and most punishing policies against immigrants in recent history. The bottom line, according to Sharry, is that, if this wedge issue is failing to re-elect Republicans, how will they re-make themselves going forward?

Also interesting to watch is whether Sen. John McCain distances himself from the anti-immigrant Republicans and shows himself as a maverick on this issue by supporting reform. If so, where would this leave the rest of his party?

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, added more fodder for campaign managers and party leaders to think about. Hard numbers show that, for example, Sen. Hillary Clinton is still in the race because of the Latino vote and McCain took Florida because of Hispanic support, a win that arguably clinched the GOP nomination for him. McCain has also shown an inclination to reach Latinos: he used Cinco de Mayo to unveil a new Spanish-language Web site. Vargas believes that Latino voters will elect the next U.S. president. However Sharry, added, while the McCain brand may be popular among Latinos, the Republican brand isnt. Vargas responded that McCain could sway a lot of voters if he follows the Bush example of outspending his opponent in the Latino media market, as he did while running against Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

Nothing is certain when it comes to immigration. However, after the presidential campaign is over and the dust has settled, the chorus of Latino voters may well have sent a strong message to Congress and the White House. Yet where their issues land on the long list of voter demands remains to be seen.

Related Articles:

Immigration: Access Washington

Immigration Matters

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