Reasons why immigration reform has stalled

Immigration reform, once seeming close under President Bush after the introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, has completely stalled since that point. That bill died in the Senate (Marre, 2007), and there has been little action on immigration reform since then, despite the support for the ideas of CIRA by both Presidents Bush and Obama. There are few reasons why immigration reform has stalled. The first reason is that the economy went swirling down the porcelain. This shifted the priorities towards the end of the Bush Administration and for the first couple of years of the Obama Administration. Both presidents were forced to address economic issues, orchestrating bank bailouts and other measures to stabilize the economy. Immigration reform, while still viewed as important at the time, was simply viewed as less important. While Democrats had the clout to pass an immigration reform bill, they were concerned with addressing the economy and health care reform. Immigration, given bipartisan opposition in 2007, was a riskier bill with less upside for the new administration.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that racism plays an important role in the lack of immigration reform. Forget for a minute the new Republican obstructionist stance that opposes anything President Obama supports, though that is a factor because it means that the House was never going to introduce productive immigration reform legislation (or any other productive legislation for that matter) but there was also opposition to President Bush from his own party on this issue. President Bush made personal appeals to have this legislation passed in 2007, as he considered it part of his legacy. It would also have improved the standing of Republicans among Hispanics, including Texas, perhaps allowing Bush to secure the state for the party for the foreseeable future. It was, in essence, not only a humane bill but a politically savvy one, and a Republican President should have been able to count on his own party to support it. That is not what happened, however, an opposition was virulent, particularly to the idea that the bill created a pathway for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship (Smith, 2007). That the opposition never had credible facts on their side and resorted to fear-mongering, and that the bill was supported by the capitalist side of the Republican Party, all speaks to the other elephant within the elephant. When the arguments against something are not logos, but pathos, we all know to what emotion are they appealing.

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Immigration reform is not in the cards for the remainder of Obama’s presidency, either. The reasons are roughly the same. Republicans control the House and Senate, which means that they have the opportunity to write the laws. This means that if they were to table a law that was perhaps similar to the Bush bill, Obama might sign it. Within the party, there remains a split between the pro-business wing and the rest, wherein immigration reform is still considered a lynchpin of future presidencies in particular. If the Republicans do not use this opportunity to table their own immigration reform bills, and instead spend the next two years complaining about President Obama signing an executive order on the issue, then that will be considered a failure by many conservatives that will hurt the party in the long run (Foley, 2014). So internal party politics plays a role here. But external influences like the media do as well. While the logical Republicans are aware of the political and economic implications of immigration reform, right wing media panders to the angry white base of the party, fuelling the sort of public opposition to immigration reform seen in 2007. This is viewed by many within the party as a trap, however, that will cost them in the long run. Thus, there is impetus to bring about immigration reform, but it will run into considerable roadblocks should the media become involved and once again from the issue using dogwhistle language and non-factual rhetoric. In other words, immigration reform is there for the taking, both parties want it, but the media and irrational, shrill actors need their voices removed from the equation so that the right bipartisan deal can be reached.


Marre, K. (2007). 46-53 immigration bill goes down in the Senate. The Hill. Retrieved November 12, 2014 from

Smith, D. (2007). Senate kills Bush immigration reform bill. Reuters. Retrieved November 12, 2014 from

Foley, E. (2014). Conservatives warn that GOP must act on immigration, not just attack Obama. Huffington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2014 from

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