Looking Back: Immigration Reform’s Journey in 2010

Immigrants and their supporters march across the Brooklyn Bridge on July 29, 2010 - Photo: Sarah Kramer

This timeline originally appeared on wnyc.org.

At the start of the year, advocates for immigration reform were full of hope. Powerful members of Congress had promised they’d bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to the floor, and Obama signaled his commitment to back it. But then, along came Arizona.

January 15

Undocumented Haitian immigrants in the U.S. are given temporary protective status after a devastating earthquake in Haiti.

March 19

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) publish a joint op-ed in The Washington Post that laid out a bipartisan framework for immigration reform, saying, “the answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration.”

March 21

Tension mounts in Arizona over a strident anti-immigration bill making its way through the state legislature, and immigration advocates start ramping-up pressure on Congress to pass national reform. An estimated 200,000 people march for immigration reform in the nation’s capital.

March 27

Arizona rancher Robert N. Krentz Jr. is shot dead on his property, and border policy critics immediately claim the assailant was an undocumented immigrant. Local authorities say they have no information on the killer’s nationality, but tracked footprints 20 miles to the Mexican border. Krentz becomes a symbol for border-security proponents.

U.S.-Mexico Border - Photo: wonderlane/flickr

U.S.-Mexico Border – Photo: wonderlane/flickr

April 12

House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is facing a tough reelection fight, promises a crowd of Latinos in Las Vegas that the Senate will pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year. He provides no details of when, how, or what exactly will happen.

April 20

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), once a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, endorses SB 1070, a controversial law passed by the Arizona legislature that makes it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Arizona. He also announces a 10-point plan for securing the border. Meanwhile, the media reports that Sen. Majority Leader Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi want to push immigration legislation before climate change legislation this year.

April 23

“The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” or SB 1070, is signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, becoming the nation’s toughest law targeting undocumented immigrants. Scheduled to take effect on July 29, it makes it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant in the state, requires people to carry immigration papers, allows people to sue local government if they believe immigration laws aren’t being enforced, and gives the police power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. The ACLU says they will file a suit against the law, which they say infringes on the federal government’s jurisdiction over immigration. Brewer says she is stepping up to protect her state from crime because “decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

April 24

Sen. Lindsey Graham walks out of climate change talks, ostensibly because he’s angry Reid wants to introduce an immigration bill before a climate change bill. Graham had previously been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, but he makes it clear he will not support it this year.

April 28

President Obama suggests to reporters that Congress may not have the appetite to tackle comprehensive immigration reform this year.

April 29

Senate Democrats unveil a framework for immigration reform that only has the support of Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security Chairman Charles S. Schumer (D-NY), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are behind it. Obama reacts positively.

May 1

International Labor Day sees protests for immigration reform in cities across the nation. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and activists participate in marches, expressing opposition to Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law and support for national legislation.

Tens of Thousands March in Phoenix Against SB 1070 - Photo: José Muñoz

Tens of Thousands March in Phoenix Against SB 1070. (Photo: José Muñoz)

May 6

Senators McCain and Kyl introduce a bill implementing their 10-point border security plan. McCain uses it in a campaign ad with the catch phrase “complete the danged fence.”

May 17

The ACLU and other civil rights groups file a legal challenge to Arizona’s SB 1070.

May 25

Obama announces he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico and requests $500 million in supplemental funds for border security.

June 3

Obama and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer meet to discuss SB 1070.

June 22

Voters in Fremont, Nebraska, pass a new ordinance in which local businesses will be banned from hiring undocumented immigrants and landlords prohibited from renting to them. Immediately, the ACLU of Nebraska announces it will file a suit against the ordinance, saying it is un-American and unconstitutional. A month later, the City Council votes to suspend the ordinance while the case is being litigated.

July 6

The U.S. Department of Justice files a suit against the state of Arizona, challenging the constitutionality of its immigration enforcement law, SB 1070.

July 28

U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton blocks the most controversial provisions of Arizona’s new immigration law one day before they were to take effect.

Opponents of SB 1070 Celebrated After A Federal Judge's Injunction

Matilde Polanco (left), of Phoenix, kisses Linda Angeline, of Phoenix, after Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling on SB 1070 at the State Capitol on Wednesday July 28, 2010.

Aug 1

The Department of Homeland Security deploys additional National Guard troops on the U.S. Border with Mexico.

Aug 2

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) questions the right to birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, making the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment the latest immigration battleground. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) follow suit.

September 14

Sen. Reid announces he will attach the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship if they go to college or join the armed forces, to a military defense authorization bill.

September 15

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus shifts course away from comprehensive immigration reform and officially backs the DREAM Act. For years, members of the CHC had been criticizing the DREAM Act as a “piecemeal” immigration measure. Now, as comprehensive reform is off the table due to Republican opposition, the caucus is pressing for the DREAM Act as a “down payment” on larger reform. Obama addresses the caucus, saying, “I will do whatever it takes to support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ efforts to pass [the DREAM Act] so that I can sign it into law on behalf of students seeking a college education and those who wish to serve in our country’s uniform.”

Sept 21

A Republican filibuster against the Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 prevents the DREAM Act and a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell from moving forward, which were attached as amendments. Sen. Reid says he will bring up the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill.

Sept 24

Comedian Stephen Colbert testifies in Congress in support of a bill that would provide more legal means and protections for immigrants to work in the agricultural sector.

Sept 30

Rupert Murdoch and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg testify on Capitol Hill in support of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Nov 2

On Election Day, a number of House and Senate candidates win who made their anti-illegal immigration stance a centerpiece of their campaigns.

December 8

The House passes a newly modified DREAM Act by margin of 216-198. It’s the first time in the nine year legislative history of the bill the House has passed it.

December 9

Due to a threatened Republican filibuster, the Senate tables consideration of S. 3992, the Senate version of the DREAM Act, until after tax cuts have been voted on. It was a strategic move, giving Senate Democrats another few weeks to come up with the 60 votes needed to pass the bill.

December 18

55 Senators vote in favor of ending debate on the DREAM Act, and 41 against, effectively leaving it dead for this Congress. The bill needed 60 votes to get past a filibuster so it could advance to the floor for a final vote. Three Republicans ended up supporting the bill, while five Democrats opposed it. President Obama calls the outcome an “incredible disappointment,” and immigration activists pledge to continue their fight for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform in 2011.

A candlelight vigil for the Dream Act at St Theresa's Church in Manhattan - Photo: Braden Goyette

A candlelight vigil for the Dream Act at St Theresa’s Church in Manhattan. (Photo: Braden Goyette)

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.