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Immigration Reform Logjam on Capitol Hill Can End Early in New Year

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

There may be some light at the end of the long stalled comprehensive immigration reform tunnel in Washington, a development that can bring relief to hundreds of thousands of Caribbean immigrants in the U.S.

And the Black Institute, the New York Immigration Coalition, members of the Congressional Black Caucus in New York City — Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn, Gregory Meeks in Queens and Charlie Rangel in Manhattan – along with millions of foreign-born residents across the U.S. are keeping their proverbial fingers crossed that at last the immigration measure that has been bottled up by Republicans in the House of Representatives may spring to life in 2014.

The civil war that has broken out between America’s conservative lawmakers and their financial backers outside of the House of Representatives and the Senate is likely to have the salutary effect of breaking the logjam that has prevented the House leadership from bringing the immigration bill to the floor of the chamber for debate and ultimately a vote, say analysts and lawmakers.

There is now talk of a bipartisan deal to legalize the more than 11 million people living in the country as undocumented immigrants, residents who are out of status.

Although House Speaker John Boehner, the person mainly responsible for the immigration bottleneck has not spoken about his intention but has chastised extremist conservative forces in and out of Congress for their opposition to the recent budget deal agreed to by the Republicans and the Democrats, outside Republican groups have complained that his sharp attacks on the right was simply clearing the way for immigration reform to be placed high on the Congressional agenda in the New Year when Congress reconvenes after the Christmas recess. Indeed, Heritage Action, a fund-raising and lobbying group that has supported many Tea Party Representatives complained openly that Speaker Boehner’s verbal assault blast on certain right-wing backers of his party, accusing them of losing “all credibility” with the American people said in a statement that the House leader was clearing the political deck to place immigration reform on the docket for consideration.

Just as important, Boehner added a prominent immigration expert, Becky Tallent, to his staff, presumably to pave the way for a debate on the reform proposals. She had worked with U.S. Senator John McCain on his immigration reform plan that eventually failed to gain traction several years ago.

“It seems very unlikely that Becky would have gone to work for the Speaker on this unless there was a serious plan to move on this in the New Year,” said Ted Alden, a specialist on immigration at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a major Hispanic immigration voice on Capitol Hill has hinted that that his party would consider a deal in order to get the immigration bill moving.

“Some have suggested that the way you thread the needle for Republicans between the immigration reform the majority of the country wants, which include a pathway to citizenship, and the Republican number one priority, which is opposing what President (Barack) Obama is for, is to offer a compromise that includes something less than citizenship,” he said.

“I don’t think this is a good idea because citizenship is important, but I don’t think it is a deal breaker either,” he added.

What’s being talked about is a plan for legalization that would stop short of citizenship. That would satisfy several Republican lawmakers who are opposed to anything that appears to be amnesty for the undocumented.

“Democrats have to put policy ahead of politics,” insisted Gutierrez. “If we as a party go the route of what’s best for us politically in the short run, there is very little incentive to resolve the immigration issue.”

President Obama too seems to be in a mood for compromise, saying he could live with a vote in the House that calls for Republicans to vote separately on key elements of the reform measure while avoiding passage of a single bill, the one approved by the Senate.

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