May 28, 2006

The majority of the majority.  That’s the level of support that Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Republican leader of the House, says it will take for him to bring any type of immigration legislation to the House floor for a vote.  What does it mean?  It means that unless a majority of the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives (who are the majority party) favor the immigration bill that comes out of the House-Senate conference, Hastert will not allow the House to consider the final bill.  And that is the biggest challenge for advocates of a comprehensive immigration reform.  A Washington Post article today states that about 75% of Republican Housemembers are “steadfastly opposed to the Senate bill or even a watered-down version of it.”  November elections play significantly in this picture.  The article states that, “nearly every GOP lawmaker interviewed for this article said the House plan to secure the borders and enforce existing immigration laws is unquestionably the safer political stand in his or her district.”  This seems to be true even of Democratic Housemembers in Tennessee.  Four of Tennessee’s five Democratic Housemembers voted for H.R.4437, the House’s enforcement-only bill (the lone exception being Jim Cooper from Nashville).  Harold Ford, Jr., currently a Tennessee Democratic Housemember running for Bill Frist’s Senate seat this fall, appears to agree with the Republican assessment, having consistently denounced any type of “amnesty” program.  In support of their position, Housemembers cite the feedback from their constituents:  “Several Republicans said they are getting more bricks in the mail — as part of a new grass-roots campaign promoting a fence between the United States and Mexico — than letters or calls supporting Bush and the Senate bill. Most said 80 to 90 percent of feedback coming from constituents last week was in opposition to Bush and the Senate on the citizenship question.”  Despite all the efforts of immigration advocates, these statisics are consistent with past numbers.  Which leads me to think that unless the majority of those whom I believe to be the majority of the American people–those who believe that a hard-working and honest person can earn the right to be here–find their voice in this debate, comprehensive immigration reform is still a long way away.