Obama has signaled he'll take up immigration reform soon. As a
result, both sides are mobilizing their forces.
Immigration reform is far down on Washington's "to do" list,
after healthcare reform, the Afghanistan war, and job creation.
outside the Beltway, in America's community centers and protest
venues, you'd think someone had already pushed the hot button to
bring this always-simmering issue to a boil.
Though the Obama administration and the Democrats who control
Congress are not expected to take up immigration reform until
this year - and possibly not till the midterm elections are over
- both sides are already rallying their grass roots in
of a fight that, some say, could make the great immigration
2007 look like a playground spat.
The end of 2009 saw opponents of reform organizing dozens of
anti-immigration "tea parties," while pro-reform groups
coordinated thousands of strategy sessions with local activists
across the country.
Both sides feel a fresh sense of urgency. Those who oppose
immigration reforms that would legitimize some of the estimated
million illegal immigrants in the United States say reform makes
less sense now that the recession-racked US economy is losing
and has a 10 percent unemployment rate. Those who favor a path to
legalization for illegal immigrants and a more open-door
policy see the most opportune political climate in years, with a
Democrat-controlled White House and Congress.
For its part, the Obama administration appears to have begun
the groundwork - increasing border security and law enforcement -
to move soon on reform legislation.
But public positions on the issue have, if anything, become more
complicated since the 2007 debate on immigration reforms proposed
"This issue is one that Americans have seen a lot more of -
moving from the national stage to state and local communities,"
says Pete Brodnitz, principal partner at Benenson Strategy Group,
consulting firm that conducts its own polls.
"Americans have a more knowledgeable and nuanced opinion than
did a few years ago," says Mr. Brodnitz. "They understand that
the issue is really complicated and not lending itself to easy
solutions." Benenson's most recent poll in June found that 86
percent of American voters given details of comprehensive reform
Congress to pass a plan.
Other polls show a slightly less rosy picture. A Pew survey from
April found that the proportion of Americans who favor a path to
citizenship for illegal immigrants - if they pass background
checks, pay fines, and have jobs - has risen since 2007, up from
percent to 63 percent. But it also showed that partisan
have grown: Democratic support for reform has jumped from 62 to
percent, while Republican support for reform has fallen from 56
percent in 2007 to 50 percent in June.
In some states, conservative activists are mobilizing to try to
immigration reform before it gets going. On Nov. 14, more than 50
"Tea Party Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration" rallies took
place across the country.
Granting amnesty will create competition for the millions already
out of work, says Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American
Immigration Reform, which has 250,000 members and is preparing to
barrage Congress with e-mails and phone calls. "Flooding the
with more wage-suppressing labor is not the answer."
An issue rekindled
Four days after the antireform "tea parties," Hispanic
immigrants and their supporters jammed themselves around an oak
at the Central American Resource Center in downtown Los Angeles,
paying rapt attention to a speaker phone. …