Sentiments about immigration and immigration reform cuts through party lines. On the upside, bipartisan proposals can be pursued. On the downside is the possibility of bipartisan, bad ideas. -Angela
Immigration law changes not a top Democratic priority
By Hernan Rozemberg
San Antonio Express-News
Sen.-elect Claire McCaskill wants the U.S. government to ramp up security by building a new border fence, avoid giving undocumented immigrants a chance for legalization, punish employers that hire them, and resist business-lobby pressures to create a temporary guest worker program for foreigners.
Meet the incoming senator from Missouri, representing the Democratic Party's new face on immigration and border security. She defeated an incumbent Republican not known for his tenderness toward undocumented migrants.
As the new Democratic-led Congress prepares for its session in January, prospects for changes in immigration laws remain unknown: The matter is not on the top-priority list of Democratic leaders.
The enforcement-only view championed by McCaskill and other newcomers could create a rift within party ranks, akin to the chasm the issue opened among Republicans last year.
Democratic leaders have vowed to introduce legislation to improve ethical conduct in Washington, raise the minimum wage and cut student loan interest rates ˜ but immigration isn't on their initial agenda.
The issue is too thorny for a quick fix, said Drew Hammill, spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House speaker.
"Immigration is absolutely a top priority for her, and she has talked to the president about it," Hammill said. "But it's complex, and she'll want to go through committees and hearings."
A leading national immigration analyst said last week that immigration legislation is expected to be introduced in March or April. But if people think a Democratic-led Congress will be able to easily break the legislative impasse seen under Republican control this year, they'd better think again, said Tamar Jacoby, who follows immigration issues for the Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York City think tank.
The public isn't expecting much: Forty percent of respondents in a Rasmussen poll last week didn't expect to see immigration reform enacted.
Still, immigration advocates remain optimistic that last year's gridlock won't be repeated. "Most disagreements are on the edges now, such as on working out acceptable numbers of visas and guest workers allowed," said Michelle Waslin, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza.
Opponents of illegal immigration lamented losing some big-name supporters of their cause in the election.