President Obama and leaders in Congress are vowing to pass immigration reform in 2013, but getting a bill to pass the House and Senate will be extremely difficult.
Tuesday’s election has significantly improved the prospects of immigration reform, which hasn’t come close to becoming law since George W. Bush’s administration.
President Obama. Even before he was elected to a second term, Obama had already been laying the groundwork for immigration reform. Over the summer, he issued a new directive protecting immigrants who came to the country illegally from being deported provided they meet certain criteria. After failing to pass a bill in his first four years, Obama said that immigration reform would be one of the highest priorities of his second term. But will he push a comprehensive approach, or a scaled-down version of the measure, such as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act?
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Goodlatte is considered the favorite to be the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction on immigration. In 2011, he introduced legislation to get rid of the immigrant visa lottery program. He has been a vocal critic of the DREAM Act. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week has opened the door to passing immigration reform, attracting criticism from conservatives.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has been proponent on comprehensive immigration reform and his voting record includes support for establishing a guest-worker program, opposing limiting welfare for illegal immigrants and allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). Gutierrez, a long-time supporter of Obama, hasn’t been shy in criticizing the president on immigration. The Illinois Democrat publicly expressed his frustration that Obama did not use more political capital to push Congress on the issue in 2009 and 2010. But Gutierrez went all out for Obama in the 2012 election, and expects Republicans to be more willing to back a bill after Tuesday’s results.
Frank Sharry. The executive director of America's Voice, a prominent pro-immigration reform group, recently told The Hill that the GOP risks becoming a completely "whites-only party" by resisting immigration reform. In response to a number of top Republicans showing an openness to immigration reform this week, Sharry said the "tectonic plates" on immigration had begun "shifting." Republicans now have the chance "to do the right thing and help pass sensible reform legislation,” he added.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The Senate majority whip is the primary sponsor behind the DREAM Act, which he first introduced in 2001. The legislation would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, provided they meet certain criteria — such as having come to the United States when they were 15 or younger and pursuing a degree in higher education or serving in the military.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, and Graham have indicated they want a bill passed. But McCain has shifted on immigration over the past couple of years. After calling for comprehensive immigration reform in the Bush administration, he moved to the right on the issue while running for president and later in his 2010 Senate primary. McCain also supported a controversial Arizona border-security initiative allowing law enforcement to check the immigration status of suspects. Over the past two Congresses, Graham has negotiated with Democrats on passing immigration reform legislation but none of those discussions ever came to fruition. Graham has also been an advocate for ending birthright citizenship. Recently, Graham tweeted that "It's important for our country to solve illegal immigration once and for all. We must deal with the issue firmly and fairly." Similarly, McCain tweeted that he agreed with "calls for comprehensive immigration reform." Graham is up for reelection in 2014 and some on the right have speculated he could face a primary challenge.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio is one of the most high profile Hispanic Republicans on Capitol Hill. The junior senator from Florida is a rising star and one of the GOP's strongest bridges to winning over coveted Latino voters. Rubio had been planning to introduce a Republican alternative to Durbin's DREAM Act but stopped crafting the legislation when Obama announced his immigration directive earlier this year. Republicans will look to Rubio before signing off on any immigration reform agreement.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). King, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, has championed stricter immigration laws. He favors building a fence along the Mexican border and ending birthright citizenship. After Boehner last week said he hoped to tackle immigration reform soon, King signaled over Twitter that he would resist.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer is one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill and when it comes to immigration reform, his influence is considerable as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship. In September the senior senator from New York, alongside Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced legislation to reform the federal visa program in order to make it easier for students to get a student visa. The legislation, the BRAINS Act, seeks to establish a pilot program adding 55,000 new green cards to the total available for foreign students graduating from universities in the United States with degrees in math or science related fields. On Thursday Schumer said he was "optimistic" about an immigration deal.