While much of the public’s attention is centered around the upcoming presidential election, the House and Senate too will play a major role next year in shaping policy on many controversial issues, including immigration. Republicans currently control both houses of Congress, and there’s a real chance the Democrats may flip the Senate in 2016; many are expecting though that Republicans will remain in control of the House, as they’ve done for the past five years.
How a Republican Controlled House Will Affect Immigration
If recent actions are any indicator, a Republican-led House likely would block steps on immigration taken by a future President Hillary Clinton; on the other hand, it likely would rally behind proposals delivered by a future President Trump. Nevertheless, unless one party sweeps both houses of Congress and the White House, it may be reasonable to expect more deadlock on a comprehensive immigration reform package.
A Trump Presidency
If Donald Trump is elected president in November, the public can expect to see many of his proposals go to Congress for approval, such as appropriations to build a wall on the southern border, or additional funding for security and immigration officers.
A Republican-controlled House might well support some of Trump’s policies, and in fact, last year passed the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act,” known informally by Democrats as “The Donald Trump Act,” tying the legislation to the candidate’s position on the issue. Nevertheless, some experts say while the House might back the comprehensive changes Trump is envisioning, the Senate won’t follow suit — even if Republicans hold on to a slim majority; the reason for this is the GOP would need a 60 vote supermajority in the Senate to pass such legislation, which is unlikely.
In a nutshell, many of these more ambitious ideas are likely to go nowhere.Thus, a President Trump might be forced to turn to executive actions to push through agenda items that do not need the support of Congress.
A Clinton Presidency
If Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States, she promises to bring before Congress a more progressive immigration agenda, including, according to her campaign website, “a pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office. It will treat every person with dignity, fix the family visa backlog, uphold the rule of law, protect our borders and national security, and bring millions of hardworking people into the formal economy.”
Regardless of her broad agenda, it’s hard to imagine that a Republican-led House, which blocked a comprehensive immigration plan backed by President Obama and the Senate, would pass the type of bill Clinton is advocating. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he will not move legislation on immigration reform unless he has the support of the majority of his party.
Despite this, Clinton seems undeterred. At a convention for African-American and Hispanic journalists in August, she dubbed the political landscape as “increasingly favorable to us making this happen,” adding, “If we then put enough pressure on the House and do everything we can to really force them to have to take what the Senate passes, I think the outcome will be very different this time.”
Clinton is counting on a slimmer majority of Republicans in the House, and increased pressure from the White House and a Democrat-led Senate to make her immigration plan a reality; but at the very least, she will have to overcome tough odds if the GOP retains House control. If the Democrats manage to retake the House, that could turn the tide on the issue; however, even the most ardent progressive strategists acknowledge flipping enough Republican seats to shift the balance of power in the House is a very long shot.
Therefore, a President Clinton would find herself in a similar situation to her Republican counterpart, and might turn to executive actions to make smaller changes on the issue. Nevertheless, recent presidential history has shown there are boundaries on the power of the executive, and even the most astute team of White House lawyers will only be able to instruct the president to go so far using executive orders, lest a potential challenge in the court system.
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law at (703) 594-4040.