Schumer’s proposal offers best hope at passing immigration bill

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York has a rather unorthodox suggestion for passing immigration reform in 2014: pass the law, but do not let it take effect until 2017, after President Barack Obama has left office. The senator’s suggestion is a response to the Republican Party’s skepticism of Obama’s willingness to enforce new immigration legislation. The plan was immediately rebuffed by high-ranking Republicans but could actually be the key to passing meaningful and effective immigration legislation – a mere pipe dream to Democrats up until now.

House Republicans have been eyeing new immigration legislation for months, but Speaker of the House John Boehner casted doubt on those plans Thursday, saying, “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

Schumer’s proposal would not just ease the GOP’s tensions over the legislation’s enforcement, it would also make for a more effective bill altogether. With the law not taking effect until 2017, the Obama administration could focus its resources on deporting undocumented immigrants – which Obama has being doing – who would be ineligible for the path to citizenship laid out by the new legislation.

Schumer added that hammering out legislation in 2015 or 2016 – in the midst of presidential primaries – would make compromise even more difficult than it already is, leading to an ideologically polarized bill.

What Schumer’s plan lacks in flashiness and fanfare it makes up for substance and practicality. It is a common-sense approach to a problem that has beguiled both Republicans and Democrats for years. The passage of comprehensive immigration legislation has proven to be an unusually daunting task over the past few years.

Of course, Republicans have reacted unfavorably to Schumer’s plan, insisting that it would be unfeasible. Given that the proposal utilizes the type of simplified logic so frequently espoused by GOP leadership, one would think that congressional Republicans would be more willing to reach across the aisle. Alas, this is Congress, and bipartisanship seems to be going the way of the dodo bird.

The GOP is likely just biding its time until after the midterm elections later this year to draft an ultra-conservative bill. With the Democrats in a perilous situation leading up to the midterms, Republicans may have an easier time passing their legislation after November.

While Obama could simply veto any legislation the Democrats oppose, this would provide the GOP with plenty of ammunition in the 2016 elections. Blocking the first piece of comprehensive immigration reform in years, regardless of its merits, would stand to make the Democrats look pretty bad.

It is clear that the immigration debate is not about immigration at all. Rather, it is merely another opportunity for Republicans to try and squeeze some small victory out of a situation wherein there is a real possibility of helping people. It is telling of the GOP’s priorities that rather than actually try and help Americans – which I read somewhere is what politicians are supposed to do – Republicans would rather denigrate Democrats.