Skip to main content

Five reasons why time may be right for immigration reform

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 4:56 PM EST, Mon January 28, 2013
Immigrants who came to the U.S. as children line up in August to file deferral applications at an office in Los Angeles.
Immigrants who came to the U.S. as children line up in August to file deferral applications at an office in Los Angeles.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barack Obama promised but couldn't deliver comprehensive reform
  • Latinos factored heavily in Obama's re-election, giving them more political clout
  • In defeat, Republicans may see immigration reform as politically smart

(CNN) -- Comprehensive immigration reform has so far eluded President Barack Obama. But with his re-election victory in battleground states propelled by strong Latino support, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have a stronger interest in cultivating support from a group with growing political clout.

Here are five reasons why the time may be right for immigration reform to take hold in Washington.

1) The voters have spoken

Immigration reform may not have been the biggest issue in the election -- the economy was paramount -- but it is very important to a key segment of voters. Latino voters turned out in force and helped to tip battleground states in Obama's favor. The number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the past four years to 12.2 million, or 8.7% of all voters. That means this demographic will only increase its political power. Issues important to this minority logically will become increasingly important to both major political parties.

A new electorate has arrived

Giuliani: Immigration reform a hurdle

2) Obama promised but failed to deliver on immigration reform

Obama promised to push for immigration reform before the 2008 election and had to answer tough questions from Latinos about why that did not occur. At a forum by the Spanish-language Univision network, Obama was pressed to admit that he had fallen short and took responsibility for a lack of action. But the president also said he didn't promise he would accomplish everything he wanted right away.

There also is some Latino disillusionment with the stalled Dream Act in Congress. This proposed law would create a path to citizenship for some young undocumented immigrants. Obama did sign an executive order that defers deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, but it did not change current immigration law.

The president has said he is ready to act. He told the Des Moines Register in an interview before the election that he believes he will achieve immigration reform next year.

Opinion: How progress is possible

3) There is a bipartisan starting point

Having bipartisan support for immigration reform will not ensure passage -- it didn't for President George W. Bush in 2007 -- but without it, chances are even slimmer.

Just days after the election, a leading Democrat and Republican announced that they hope to start debate this year. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina say they will officially restart immigration reform talks that crumbled two years ago.

Schumer told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he and Graham have a plan designed to appeal to interests on all sides of the highly contentious issue, and he's optimistic that it can get through a Congress hobbled by political gridlock in recent years.

The plan includes four key elements: stronger border security, creation of forgery-resistant proof-of-citizenship documents, fairer legal immigration for desirable candidates, and a "tough love" path to citizenship for those already in the United States.

Opinion: Both parties must lead

4) Republicans want to win a larger share of the Latino vote

The election results thrust the immigration issue back into the spotlight partly because Republican nominee Mitt Romney won only 27% of the Latino vote compared to 71% for Obama.

Why Romney lost

The GOP wants to reverse the trend of decreasing Latino support at the ballot box. Already, Republican lawmakers, political commentators and thought leaders have adopted a more conciliatory tone when discussing immigration.

Carlos Gutierrez, the former commerce secretary who led Romney's outreach to Latino voters, told CNN's "State of the Union" the candidate "made some mistakes" during his campaign that ultimately led to a precipitous drop in Latino support.

The Republican primary process forced Romney to move to the right on immigration, something that didn't sit well with many Latino voters. To avoid repeating the mistake, Republicans may consider working on immigration reform.

5) Democrats do not want to diminish their share of Latino vote

The Democratic Party benefited from Latino votes but that support is not assured in the future, especially if the Republicans move toward the center on immigration. The Obama administration is responsible for a record-setting number of deportations even as it has employed prosecutorial discretion to focus on high-priority cases. The Democrats will have to work with Republicans if they want to reform an immigration system both parties agree is broken.

iReport: Under Deportation, Above Fear

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Immigration
updated 6:51 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
Here are five reasons why there's still a long way to go before the U.S. reforms its immigration system.
updated 7:10 PM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
House Republicans show some willingness to compromise on immigration reform but insisted they would draft their own plan.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
Ruben Navarette says Americans are fully engaged in the immigration debate. But, he asks, is it too much to ask that they also be fully informed?
updated 9:03 PM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
Morgan Spurlock from CNN's "Inside Man" learns exactly how many oranges he has to pick in order to make a decent living wage.
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Sat June 29, 2013
Renata Teodoro is alone against the world. Everyone in her family has given up on the United States, especially after her mother and brother were deported to Brazil.
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Sat July 13, 2013
Dean Obeidallah says the former president was "100% correct" he expressed his thoughts on immigration reform at a recent naturalization ceremony.
updated 7:37 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
A former police chief says the law enforcement community must vocally support comprehensive immigration reform for the sake of public safety.
updated 1:35 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
The sight of the former president welcoming newly sworn-in citizens sharply contrasts with the hardening opposition to immigration legislation in Washington.
updated 4:18 PM EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
They were named after the DREAM Act that would remove roadblocks to education and a future for young undocumented immigrants. Where are they today?
updated 6:45 AM EDT, Fri June 28, 2013
The U.S. Senate gave final approval to a roughly 1,200-page bill that promises to overhaul immigration laws for the first time since 1986.
updated 6:30 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
As the fight for immigration reform moves to the House of Representatives, one advocate says it's a good time to reflect on just what this bill will mean for America.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
House Republicans are making it clear they're against a bi-partisan immigration overhaul bill that passed in the Senate.
updated 1:01 PM EDT, Mon March 11, 2013
Big tech firms and private prisons represent two industries vigorously lobbying to influence how the United States' immigration policy is overhauled.
updated 8:55 AM EST, Tue January 29, 2013
Just how many undocumented immigrants are there in the U.S.? How many foreign-born workers make up the U.S. labor force? Here's a look at immigration by the numbers.
How should immigrants obtain citizenship? Share your thoughts, along with a photo of yourself.
ADVERTISEMENT