National Immigration Law Center
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Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Yesterday's Senate Vote Not the End...


Friday, June 8, 2007

Washington, DC -- Yesterday the Senate failed to muster the votes necessary to pass the Kyl-Kennedy immigration compromise three weeks after it was brought to the Senate floor.  In our view, the seeds of this setback were sown when the compromise was first struck and the bill was laden with poisonous provisions such as attacks on family immigration, a temporary worker program that failed to meet the needs of workers or business, and punitive obstacles to lawful status for undocumented immigrants.

The bill also eliminated all pretense of providing a safe and orderly future immigration flow to meet the nation's needs and accommodate the realities of international migration in an era of global economic, social, and technological integration.  It divided and dispirited a highly energized pro-immigrant community without, in any fashion, mollifying those who oppose real reform.

The level of unacceptability of such provisions in the context of a comprehensive bill is a matter of degree.  The senators who fought on the pro-immigrant side did so with the highest of motives, hoping to provide some measure of protection for immigrant communities who are suffering unbearably under the current laws.  But in the end, even as the bill became more restrictive and punitive, they were unable to win over the swing Democrats and Republicans who must be persuaded if any reform is to become law.

This failure to attract swing senators was not due to unwillingness by Senator Kennedy or his allies to make even more concessions to restrictionists.  Rather, the majority of Republicans chose to consolidate in opposition to virtually any bill that promised to provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

We obviously are not giving up, and the obituary is not ready to be written on comprehensive reform.  For example, it is possible that a better comprehensive bill, and a different approach, could still emerge from the House and build momentum for a return to action in the Senate.  Or the Congress could move forward with smaller but significant affirmative reform measures, such as the DREAM Act, that could reestablish momentum towards the broader change that is so desperately needed.

The notion that one single bill could solve all of the nation's immigration problems was always, to some degree, a chimera.  We are engaged in a generational -- rather than a one-time only -- struggle for justice and, despite this temporary setback, immigrant communities and their allies have made great progress over the last few years towards comprehensive reform.  Immigrants are not going away, nor is the absolute necessity -- in fact inevitability -- of reform.

In the coming days, we will all have a chance to evaluate the results of the Senate action and to determine the best way to move forward.  But move forward we will.