Immigration Reform: Is Momentum Building?

A massive rally sends a message, though Democrats worry about making it the next big issue

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Even before health care reform passed, Washington was consumed with talk about whether immigration reform would be next on the Democratic agenda. After all, Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham recently sketched the loose contours of a plan in the Washington Post. A Sunday rally in Washington, D.C. demanding immigration changes sought to demonstrate the popular push for reform. Is the momentum building, or is the issue too controversial to kick off before the November elections?

  • Immigration Activists Getting Louder  The New York Times' Julia Preston reports, "The rally brought the return to major street action by immigration activists, who turned out hundreds of thousands of protesters in marches and rallies in 2006. After an immigration overhaul measure was defeated in Congress in 2007, the pace of enforcement raids picked up and many immigrants, especially those without legal status, preferred to lay low. But immigrant advocates decided to gamble by calling the march, to give a show of force that might impress Mr. Obama and also to vent the frustration of many immigrants who have taken to heart his repeated promises that he would move an immigration bill in Congress by early this year."
  • Needed to Fill Employment Gap  The Wall Street Journal's Justin Lahart finds a study warning, "by 2018 there will be 14.6 million new nonfarm payroll jobs, plus some additional jobs in farming, family businesses and so on. Meantime, with no change in immigration policy or labor force participation rates, there will only be about 9.6 million workers available to fill those positions, leaving a gap of more than 5 million jobs that are vacant."
  • Would Be Tea Party Disaster  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder says both parties worry that "health care will be child's play compared to the tantrums over the prospect of earned legalization and other measures. The overlap between the Tea Partiers and ethnocentric immigration restrictionists is huge, and even many Republicans worry that the embedded nativism in the movement, whether or not it is also racialized (as a proxy for being against Obama and his ilk) will come to the fore in a way that once again diminishes the fervor of right-leaning independents and energizes Hispanics."
  • Won't Happen Until Economy Rebounds  The L.A. Times' Jeffrey Kaye explains, "Anti-immigrant sentiment and immigration crackdowns have always paralleled America's economic fortunes. Immigrants have been welcomed during good times, only to find themselves vilified when times get tough." Until unemployment is down and the Dow is up, immigration reform will be unlikely.
  • Already a Big GOP Issue in California  Hotline's Beth Sussman reports that immigration is "already playing a role" in the California governor's race. In the Republican contest, both candidates "have tried to out-conservative each other on the issue in the past week" by seeing who can demand tougher restrictions on immigration.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.