The saga that is Comprehensive Immigration Reform continues (CIR). The tug-of-war over the developing legislation has continued with each side competing for leverage. Since 2013 there have been victories on both sides of the coin. Although a form of CIR was passed in the Senate last year, the debate has not been put to rest.
Now the political battle has drawn attention to one politician in particular. House speaker John Boehner (R) has come into the limelight due to his unique position on the ongoing discourse over CIR. Many political experts highlight the complex situation surrounding Boehner. On one hand, it is an election year for many Republican house members who are fearful of political fallout in their districts which could become a reality if they don’t support CIR. On the other hand, there is stark opposition to CIR in the GOP.

Boehner is caught between feuding sides within his own party as well as the Democratic party which has shown strong support for comprehensive immigration reform. What makes Boehner an interesting topic for analysis is the debate over which side he truly supports even though he is stuck in a position where he must try to appease all sides.

The GOP and Obama

It is no secret that there is noticeable tension between the GOP and president Obama primarily over Obamacare. Boehner recently stated that progress over CIR was stalled due to these tensions. Some political experts would state that the GOP is using their advantage/control over CIR as a tool for leverage to start a new dialogue over Obamacare. Also contributing to this stalled progress is the fact that it is an election year and incumbents up for re-election are hesitant to become involved in a risky issue such as CIR.
Realistically, those in support of CIR are facing some significant obstacles in the form of uncooperative GOP members. However, statements from key Democrats still appear optimistic. Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network stated that, “I think Boehner has tried” when referring to Boehner’s comments over CIR’s slow development in the house. He goes on to say, “We are as close as we’ve ever been. I haven’t given up.” Whether Boehner’s statement is an effort to appease supporters of CIR or buy time for the GOP is anybody’s guess.

Boehner – Friend of Foe to Immigration Reform?

Many conclude that Boehner’s recent remarks over CIR were simply an attempt to qualm an increasingly tense conference. House Republican leaders proposed vague guidelines whose purpose is to guide CIR. However, the immovable object in the form of some house republicans remained constant and did not support the new guidelines despite how vague and flexible they were.

Boehner’s “peacekeeping” tactics were seen again in this situation. By not rushing to a deal, he supported the percentage of the GOP that does not support CIR. Boehner’s tactical stalling also served another purpose – it illustrated just how difficult obtaining votes would be to the groups lobbying Republicans to support immigration reform which include evangelical leaders and agricultural interest groups. Despite support from these powerful groups the fact remains that the votes needed to pass CIR are simply not there.

Boehner is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place which has garnered him some support from Democrats. Boehner will likely irritate conservatives by agreeing to a debt limit increase although it is likely that it will not extract sufficient concessions from president Obama.

Amidst the confusing tensions surrounding the topic of CIR, Boehner has actually been receiving some unexpected support from Democratic officials. Rather than denouncing his recent political moves, house Democrats have given Boehner room to maneuver. Some political analysts think that this is a sign of trust from Democrats. We could speculate that perhaps Boehner has won the trust of Democrats who may think he is legitimately trying to push CIR on House Republicans. Time will tell.

Obama and House Republicans

One of the major factors that are effecting CIR is the tension between House Republicans and President Obama. President Obama has not been able to sustain a “healthy” or productive working relationship with the GOP. Obamacare has created such a rift between the nations political parties that animosities from the decision on universal healthcare are now effecting comprehensive immigration reform. This relationship is making Boehner’s attempts at diplomacy between the party even more difficult.

The GOP and the U.S. Hispanic Demographic

The topic of the GOP’s efforts to cater to the Hispanic population was recently discussed in an article on this website, GOP is Losing Support from U.S. Hispanic Population. The Republican party has recently received negative attention for their lack of attention for the growing Hispanic population in the United States. The growing influence of the Hispanic population in the U.S. political landscape has put pressure on House Republicans who are up for re-election in the coming year. Republicans who were previously in opposition to CIR have now begun taking a more moderate stance. This is arguably an attempt to avoid political fallout in areas with a high Hispanic population.

The Future of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The fight for pursuing CIR remains difficult and even daunting. According to political activist and writer John Dickerson, the GOP House conference can be viewed into thirds. One third will more than likely never vote for any form of immigration reform which would be suitable to be signed into law; one third is cautious and reluctant to get on board and one third who would support an immigration bill.

The main point to take away is that conservative activists and grassroots organizations who can influence members who vote for a poorly structured immigration bill have more leverage than those pushing for passage of CIR. Also, Republicans in individual districts do not face any significant pressure from minority voters. There are 108 majority-minority districts and Republicans only control nine. Although the Hispanic demographic is a growing concern for the GOP, of the House Republicans who represent a district with a Hispanic population of twenty-five percent or higher, only a few are actually vulnerable.

Passing CIR will be no easy task, the tug-of-war will continue as neither side is showing any sign of letting up. Boehner’s future political moves will be interesting to observe in the coming weeks and months as he is dealt the difficult task of navigating the interests of all sides.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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