Hispanic Lawmakers See Hopes Dim for Immigration Reform This Year

Posted January 22, 2010 at 4:00am

Leaders in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are talking tough about the need for comprehensive immigration reform — but some in their own ranks are conceding that the issue is likely to be shelved until after the November elections.“We must have immigration reform, not because we want it, but because the country needs it and this president promised it,— House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) told attendees at an event Monday hosted by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “2010 will be a good year for Latinos,— Becerra said.Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the CHC Immigration Task Force and authored the immigration reform package being touted by House Democrats, told the same group that lawmakers are emboldened by their bill having 92 original co-sponsors and by the fact that Democrats are in the majority this time around.“We’re going to work on getting this done,— Gutierrez said. “I think it’s time that we demand hearings.—But back at the Capitol, other CHC members were less optimistic that reform is possible this year, for both political and logistical reasons. “I think it’s probably more likely in 2011,— Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said. “I want to see it, but practically, I just don’t see it.—Cuellar said that while a lot of Hispanic lawmakers want action on the issue now, they don’t realize that other Democrats in swing districts could be damaged politically by taking a difficult vote so close to the midterm elections. “As a Blue Dog … it gives me a perspective from being with Members that are in swing districts and what tight races they have. … I don’t know that the appetite is there this time,— Cuellar said. “The big picture is, the economy was very difficult. We had other issues that came up. Eventually we’ll get to it.—But Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said immigration reform advocates should continue to press the issue in 2010, even if the odds are stacked against them for passing legislation this year.“It’s going to be ugly, but I think we need to push it,— Grijalva said. “Can we get a bill? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m ready for the fight, but I don’t know if we can win it.—Grijalva said Hispanic lawmakers must continue pushing the issue this year because “they cannot go back home and tell their pro-immigration reform folks, Latinos,— that nothing happened on the issue. “At the minimum, we need to fight,— he added. It is “perhaps— more realistic that legislation can’t pass until 2011, he said, “but I think we need to fight. I don’t think we can excuse not moving forward.—