Last week’s bombing in Boston has taken a political tone like countless other American tragedies before it. In addition to questions about potential terrorist influences abroad and the suspects’ motivations, the revelation that they were a lawful permanent resident and a naturalized U.S. citizen, respectively, allowed the attack to overwhelm the Senate’s most recent hearing on comprehensive immigration reform. Monday’s hearing should have been focused on how to move its recently introduced reform bill forward. Instead, the hearing devolved into yelling and gavel-banging, with Democrats accusing Republicans of using the bombing to stall the bill’s progress and Republicans taking umbrage with this perceived mischaracterization of their suggestion that reform should not proceed until the alleged “failures of our immigration system” that made the bombing possible are fully understood.
Meanwhile, speculation has intensified over what we can expect from the House plan for immigration reform. Even before the attack in Boston, predictions were that the House would introduce a more conservative bill than the Senate’s, given that the Senate is controlled by Democrats while the House has a Republican majority. Rumors are that this will take the form of a longer timetable for citizenship, assuming one is offered, and an increase in the number of visas available to guest workers. Both issues have the potential to derail reform efforts, but the latter is particularly contentious given that discord over the guest worker program between the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is considered a major factor in the failure to pass immigration reform in 2007.
Readers with GOP Representatives in the House are urged to contact them to stress the need for reform. Failure after coming this far is simply not an option, especially for Republicans: by 2016, there will be even more Latino voters who will be more than happy to hand Republicans another resounding defeat in the race to the White House if they derail this progress. If the many benefits of immigration reform cannot convince Conservatives to prioritize its passage, perhaps a little self-interest can tip the scales.