Why is Immigration Reform So Hard If It Looks So Unanimous?

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The Senate will release a bipartisan immigration reform bill by the end of the week — maybe. The "gang of eight" senators working on the legislation can't even agree on whether they'll come to an agreement in time. Arizona Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that "We're shooting for that kind of progress," meaning before the weekend, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told a private conference call with the Chamber of Commerce Monday that it could be a "few" weeks. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says they've reached a "tentative agreement" on the last sticking point, visas for agricultural workers. Rubio will brief GOP senators on where the bill stands on Wednesday.

The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus noticed something this weekend: If you only watched the Very Serious Sunday political talk shows, you'd have no idea why there's any delay at all. That's because Kaus counted the guests — 10 political officials who supported immigration reform, zero who did not. Not even on Fox News! "You'd think they'd at least find the kookiest anti-amnesty crackpot they could find and put them on," Kaus writes. But the networks did not host any kooks. 

Why is elite opinion so unanimous? There is political agreement — President Obama wants immigration reform, the Republican National Committee's 2012 "autopsy" concluded the GOP must pass immigration reform to start winning presidential elections. There is the alignment of business interests and humanitarian concerns. Undocumented workers do not have easy lives, so bleeding hearts want to make their lives better, and immigration helps the economy, so some businesses want more of it. A report from the conservative American Action Forum says "benchmark immigration reform would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term, raise GDP per capita by over $1,500 and reduce the cumulative federal deficit by over $2.5 trillion."

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This is another example of libertarian-leaning elite opinion diverging from regular people opinion. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Republican voters oppose immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, which some conservatives call "amnesty." Those conservative voters elected Republican members of Congress. And they also donate money to the many political groups who are preparing to lobby hard against the bill: Heritage Action, NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform. But you wouldn't know that, watching the kook-free coverage of the immigration debate.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.