Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Renews Hopes for Immigration Reform

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In their hands: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In a little-noticed interview last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) renewed pro-immigrant advocates’ hopes for comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigrations laws under the next administration.

Talking to the Gannett News Service, Reid said immigration reform will be passed because President-elect Barack Obama and his former rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agree on the matter.

“On immigration, there’s been an agreement between Obama and McCain to move forward on that. …We’ll do that,” Reid said.

The reporter then asked whether there will be “as much of a fight on immigration as last time” in Congress. Reid answered,

We’ve got McCain and we’ve got a few others. I don’t expect much of a fight at all. Now health care is going to be difficult. That’s a very complicated issue. We debated at great length immigration. People understand the issues very well. We have not debated health care, so that’s going to take a lot more time to do.

In another story by the same Gannett reporter, Deborah Barfield Berry, Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers said the majority leader “plans to take up immigration reform but is still working with the new administration on timing.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) warned that the volatile issue has to be dealt with early on, before the next election season comes along.

America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said Reid’s statement marked “a monumental shift in immigration reform prospects.” On his HuffPost blog, he wrote,

Why is Reid so confident?

It may have something to do with the failure of anti-immigrant politics at the ballot-box, the growing power of the Latino and immigrant vote, or the realization that Americans are looking to those they elected to tackle and solve the toughest issues of our day.

What’s more, in this new landscape, Senator Reid’s comments join a distinctly bipartisan chorus. Chiming in are many Republican strategists and leaders speaking out against the GOP’s restrictionist, enforcement-only approach to immigration.

Things may not be so black-and-white. In a late October statement that irked many immigration activists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had warned that immigration reform may not include the “path to citizenship” promised by Obama.

That, of course, was before Obama and the Democrats won big in November — and before Latino voters helped them do so in a handful of states.

The 111th Congress will bring the opportunity to see if Latino voting power –both in this year’s election, and as a potential force in the future — will pressure legislators on both sides of the aisle to tackle the issue.

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