Syria debate jeopardizes immigration reform

Several readers have asked me what effect the House’s consideration of the Syria resolution will have on immigration reform. Clearly, the Syria debate will push back House deliberation on immigration reform. But does it jeopardize, ultimately, the enactment of an immigration bill?

Citing a piece in the New York Times called “Immigration Reform Falls to the Back of the Line,” Mark Krikorian argues that the Syria debate has significantly decreased the likelihood that the House will pass a bill by the end of the 113th Congress (i.e., January 3, 2015).

At a minimum, it now seems unlikely that the House will act before the end of this year. According to the Times:

Congress is likely to postpone consideration of an immigration overhaul until the end of the year, if not longer, even as advocates are preparing for an all-out, urgent push this fall to win their longstanding goal of a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants here illegally.

In Washington, the sudden debate over military action in Syria and a looming face-off with President Obama over the budget and the nation’s borrowing limit have shot to the top of the legislative agenda, while Republican angst about losing Hispanic voters in the 2012 presidential campaign has faded.

That still leaves next year. However, 2014 is an election year. And despite claims that both Republicans and Democrats favor amnesty, the truth is that an election year is not the optimal time for enacting amnesty-style legislation.

Thus, John McCain told the Los Angeles Times: “It’s very important that we try and act before the end of this year, as we move into next year and an election season.” And the Washington Post reports that one Wall Street consulting firm “has advised its clients that the chances of an immigration bill being completed by spring [i.e., before Congress basically stops doing serious business in an election year] have fallen from 60 percent to 30 percent because of the Syria debate, and warned that the fiscal battles will be even more inflammatory.”

Even if this assessment is correct, there’s still a chance that Congress will enact immigration reform in 2015. But according to Politico, the “smart money” suddenly “is on 2017.”

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