Why The Outlook For High-Skilled Immigration Reform In 2013 Remains Troubled

Coming off of what can only be called a political victory in the shutdown and debt limit crisis, President Obama is making noise about reviving comprehensive immigration reform from its dead status.

Don’t get too excited. Following his win, the president appears to feel it’s time to push an issue that was all but written off a month ago. However, it remains unclear what, if any, momentum from the shutdown will translate to progress in the House of Representatives for immigration reform.

What that means for us in technology is that high-skill immigration reform could be where it was when we last checked: stuck.

A few nibbles to get started: Instead of risking his speakership, Speaker of the House John Boehner swung right during the shutdown, and is riding high among the most conservative members of his party. For his stance and actions before and during the partial government shutdown, he is stacking plaudits.

Representative Raul Labrador – remember that name – was recently quoted in the National Review as saying the following about Boehner: “I’ve actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner over the last two and a half weeks. I don’t think he should be ashamed of anything he has done.”

Whether you agree with GOP leadership or not, it’s fair to say that the further right elements of the party got the fight that they were looking for. The speaker said as much following the eventual denouement:

The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue.

That is the temperature.

How does all that fit into the immigration reform issue? Well, the folks that did get the fight they wanted, and are currently united behind Speaker Boehner, are viscerally opposed to passing immigration reform this year. And now that they support the speaker, it seems unlikely that he would cross the folks that are currently propping his leadership up, by forcing immigration changes on them in this delicate Congressional moment.

Here’s our friend Rep. Labrador, as quoted by USA Today, on the chances of reform passing the House: “It’s not going to happen this year […] After the way the president acted over the last two or three weeks where he would refuse to talk to the speaker of the House […] they’re not going to get immigration reform. That’s done.”

A reform bill passed the Senate, and died in the House, and that happened before rancor was this bad betwixt our two parties.

That we are stuck regarding immigration reform should come as no surprise. Mark Zuckerberg’s efforts in the area have been less than effective. As far back as July, politicians were predicting that the issue could stretch into 2014.

The IBTimes was blunt in its assessment of the immigration landscape:

But opponents of reform — at least the kind envisioned by Democrats, that is, one that includes a path to citizenship for the undocumented 11 million — said the prospects of a bill leaving the House have been dead for some time now. Not because Americans and even opponents don’t want reform, but because there was too much optimism that a bill including what they call “amnesty” for the undocumented could pass.

And nothing in the past few months has changed that fact. I felt that attaching high-skill immigration reform to the larger package lowered, not increased, its chance of passing. And, damn it, I was right.

So it comes down to this: High-skill immigration reform won’t pass – unless the Senate changes its strategy – until we work out the issue of what I prefer to call the path to citizenship, and others call amnesty, which is the key sticking point on the road to change.


Top Image Credit: Adam Inglis