Sen. Reid Says Immigration Reform Can’t Wait, But Many Are Skeptical

Immigration Rally in Washington, DC

Immigration Rally in Washington, DC - Photo: Messay Photography

In a move that caught many immigration activists and politicians by surprise, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D–NV) reaffirmed his commitment to immigration reform this weekend, telling a rally of over 6,000 people in Las Vegas that “we’re going to pass immigration reform, just as we passed health care reform.” The rally was one of many this weekend, in which immigration activists took to the streets in Chicago, Seattle, and other cities across the US, following up on the March 21st rally in D.C.

But in an atmosphere where “jobs, jobs, jobs” is the first priority for many Americans, immigration reform opponents raised their eyebrows. Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ), speaking on ABC, said “the conditions for immigration reform no longer exist.” Kyl referenced the murder of a rancher on the Arizona border, saying that legislation couldn’t pass until the border is secured. Senator Kyl doubted that immigration reform such as the legislation he supported 3 years ago would pass this year.

At the rally, Reid tried to find middle ground, simultaneously outlining a path to citizenship and talking about protecting American borders. Under his proposed legislation, to gain legal status immigrants would pay “a penalty and a fine, people will have to work, stay out of trouble, pay taxes, learn English.” In his prepared remarks, Reid also tied immigration reform to the economic recovery, saying,

“It is about jobs.  It is about getting people back to work, getting our economy back on track and helping it grow.”

Some analysts questioned if Reid’s speech was primarily directed at strengthening his Hispanic constituent base, as he faces a difficult election fight this fall. Hispanics helped put Nevada in the Democratic column in the last election, though that could change if Democrats fail to make immigration reform a priority.

Indeed, as Fi2W’s Annie Correal reported in El Diario today, many reform advocates are increasingly pessimistic regarding the chances of passing a reform bill this year. Correal interviewed Walter Sinche, director of the Alianza Ecuatoriana, who said,

“Given the political moment, they are making promises but there is still nothing concrete.”

Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R–SC) are working on immigration legislation, but Senator Graham recently raised doubts about whether there’s enough Republican support to pass a bill this year.

Congressional lawmakers attempted but failed to pass immigration reform bills in 2006 and 2007.

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.