Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee
As congress moves towards a vote on a new budget deal, effectively ending the government shutdown, President Barack Obama plans to tackle the nation's broken immigration policies.
Following reelection, the President announced that immigration reform would be one of the administration's top legislative priorities. However, assiduous efforts from determined House Republicans to deny funding to the Affordable Care Act--President Obama's signature achievement--have stalled any talks of immigration reform.
Once Capitol Hill sources revealed that Senate Democrats and Republicans struck a deal to end the shutdown, the President declared that White House efforts will shift to focusing on immigration reform. Hours after the Senate's announcement, President Obama told Latino media outlet, Univision, "Once [the budget deal] is done, you know, the day after, I'm going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform."
Washington's top immigration advocates believe that the government shutdown may have created an opening to advance the discussion on immigration reform and push forward on expansive immigration policies.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice--one of the District's top advocacy groups--told Buzzfeed, "It's at least possible with sinking poll numbers for the Republicans, with a brand that is badly damaged as the party that can't govern responsibly and is reckless that they're going to say, 'All right, what can we do that will be in our political interest and also do tough things?' That's where immigration could fill the bill."
Sharry is one of the Districts's most active immigration reform advocates. He still has scars from the 2007 immigration reform efforts, when the Senate voted down a bipartisan bill that would have provided legal status and a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.
This time around, advocates are hoping for comprehensive reform. They have found support from unlikely corners, including moderate House Republicans, business and tech interests, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg--who has already contributed $50 million dollars to the cause-- and Evangelical groups outraged at US deportation policies that have, in many cases, torn families apart.
In May, a group of eight bipartisan Senators--known as "the gang of eight"--put forth the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. The bill was written by an unlikely coalition, including John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Some of the bill's key provisions include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, expansion of a temporary worker program and a focus on fast tracking a system that distributes work visas to highly-skilled tech workers. The bill also contains provisions to reunite family members separated by the Obama Administration's robust deportation practices.
Despite a recent history of missed chances, President Obama and advocates--including Frank Sharry--are poised to make a vigorous push for immigration, relying on unlikely sources of support to grind the issue through Congress.
On Wednesday, Sharry addressed a Skidmore College government class to discuss the changing landscape of immigration in the United States. "We're an immigrant nation that's lost its way," Sharry told the students. "But I'm confident that we'll find our way again."