“For us, it is inevitable that we will pass comprehensive immigration reform. For some, it is inconceivable, and they will stand in the way. But we know it will happen, and we just have to shorten the time.” These were the words of Ms. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the House Minority Leader. Why all of a sudden is she so optimistic about the possibility that an immigration bill would be enacted? Well, one day before Congress left town for the holiday recess, the House of Representatives approved a two-year budget deal, spearheaded by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), by a wide margin. House Speaker John Boehner allowed a vote on the plan and it passed with a majority of Democratic and Republican votes. It now is in the Senate waiting for a vote. Before the vote on Thursday, Boehner attacked extremely conservative factions within his party who criticized the budget plan without reading it. He told reporters those groups were “misleading” and were “Pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.”
Immigration advocates took Boehner’s response to the Tea Party groups as a positive sign that things may be changing with regards to the strangle hold that the right-wing extremists have had. In fact, Boehner is hiring a new staff member to focus on immigration legislation, leading some to believe that House leaders will take up bills in 2014 to address problems in the nation’s immigration system. Furthermore, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said at a recent hearing that immigration reform would be a “top priority” in 2014 for the House.
Another clear symbol of the growing momentum for immigration reform has been the Fast for Families on the National Mall, where advocates ended their fast on December 12th after 31 days of going without food while pushing for House leaders to allow a vote on immigration reform. But they promised that this was not the end of the protest but rather a continuation. Eliseo Medina, a labor activist who fasted for 22 days said, “This is an issue of who we are as a people.” He further added, “This is wrong. We are not in the business of tearing families apart or letting people die needlessly.”
Concurrently, immigration activists are not stepping down from their push for improved immigration policies in the United States. More than 1,000 supporters flooded about 170 congressional offices, asking politicians to back legislation. This action was also meant to draw attention to the fact that House leaders have done nothing with regards to immigration reform bills this year, despite the fact that a majority of the American public favors reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Yes, it is a time to be optimistic. But then again, the Debt Ceiling battle looms in 2014. Oh well.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy