U.S. President Barack Obama’s cherished dream of comprehensive immigration reform was said to be in danger of dying a “slow, painful death” in Congress especially after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday inched closer to rejecting key elements of a Senate-passed proposal and incurring the wrath of the politically significant Latino community.
Emerging from a two-hour caucus on how to break the logjam over whether to give the 11 million undocumented workers in the country a pathway to eventual citizenship, Republican Congressmen said their party had a “50-50 split” on the issue.
Congress’ boxing match over the immigration bill is being closely watched in India too, especially as the “Gang of Eight” Senators, who pulled together the initial reform proposals included hikes in the application fee for H-1B visas that India leads other nations in. Along with other measures to tighten the screws on the grant of such visas the Senate proposal, if passed, may have a negative impact on firms hiring foreign nationals.
Republican delegates took up discussion of the comprehensive Senate bill passed last month, which tacked on tough security measures including $46 billion in spending over ten years to employ 20,000 additional agents at the U.S. border with Mexico and purchase “high-tech surveillance equipment.”
Republican Representatives’ truculence over the matter of ultimate amnesty for immigrants, mostly from Latin America, also amounted to a rejection of former President George W. Bush’s rare public comments on the matter.
Breaking a five-year silence during a naturalisation ceremony for new citizens on Wednesday, Mr. Bush, who enjoyed a high popularity rating with the Latino community during his time in office said, “I don't intend to get involved in the politics or the specifics of policy, but I do hope... during the debate, we keep a benevolent spirit in mind, and we understand the contributions immigrants make to our country.”
In 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost the Hispanic vote by more than 40 points, according to some polls, many of which also consistently suggested that the Party would be unlikely to improve its performance with the community unless it made progress on issues such as immigration.
Even as a split between moderates and conservatives within the Republican Party over the immigration issue became increasingly evident, the White House appeared to throw its weight behind the Senate bill and released a report flagging the economic benefits of reforms. In particular the report argued that passing reforms would boost the economy by 3.3 per cent by 2023 and help cut the deficit by nearly $850 billion over 20 years.
An issue at the core of the conservative rejection of the “earned citizenship” channel backed by Mr. Obama is the Republican concern that however, conservatives fear that legalising undocumented workers could lead to future electoral losses for Republicans stemming from the entry of many millions of new voters who would likely to vote for Democrats.
Lending credence to this perspective Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa was quoted saying that said the Senate’s immigration plan would help “elites who want cheap labour, Democratic power brokers, and those who hire illegal labour.”