Why The Shutdown Didn't Make Things Easier For Immigration Reform Advocates

From left to right: Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-IL, and Al Green, D-TX
Earlier this year immigration reform advocates celebrated the Senate's historic passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship. It seems clear it wouldn't be as easy in the House of Representatives.

Although the news was predominantly taken up by the government shutdown the past few weeks, advocates for immigration reform did not let up their efforts to keep that issue in the public’s eye.

Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, went so far as getting himself arrested during an immigration rally in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Today, Green hosted a press conference with Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who was arrested along with him. Gutierrez is a fierce supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.

“We spent an afternoon together in jail, and we gave up our freedom as a clarion call to others for them to have freedom, for them to have liberty.”

Gutierrez says across the country, groups that don’t usually agree on most things — like labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times editorial boards — are united in their calling for immigration reform.

“You know what we’re waiting for? What Congressman Green and I are waiting for? The House of Representatives to finish up the job. Everywhere in America people are setting aside their differences and compromising.”

He says reform would pass easily if House Speaker John Boehner only allowed a vote on it. But that might not be the only obstacle. Relations between the two parties have been even chillier than usual since Republicans came out of the government shutdown with almost no concessions from Democrats.

Brandon Rottinghaus is a political science professor at the University of Houston. He says Boehner may have been able to maintain some control over his fellow House Republicans, but:

“The problem is that when you start to push high buttoned intense issues like immigration reform, it’s not clear that the same Republicans will fall in line. It may be that the really conservative element of the Republican caucus is looking for a fight; they’re looking for a battle they can win; they’re looking for something they can take back to their constituents who are conservative and say, ‘I fought the good fight in Washington for these issues.’”

Gutierrez is more optimistic. He admits that “nerves are frail” right now in Washington.

“But, you know, people are going to get over it. We’ve had fights before, and then we’ve come back to talk to one another. Sometimes it takes a little while, it takes a moment. But here’s the encouraging news: The president of the United States took the opportunity right up. What was the first thing that happened after the government opened? He said, now we gotta deal with comprehensive immigration reform.”

Although that might not be as beneficial as Gutierrez thinks. Professor Rottinghaus says anything President Obama comes out in support of triggers automatic skepticism by many Republicans.

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Florian Martin

Reporter/NewsLab Coordinator

Florian Martin is the KUHF NewsLab Coordinator. While guiding and overseeing interns, he works on his own stories and is always on call to cover breaking news and other media events...