Commentary: Will the “New” Consensus on Immigration Work with the Old?

Will the “new” consensus lay the groundwork for reform? (Photo: Jack Gordon)

A group of leaders that carry bibles, badges, and business plans gathered in the nation’s capital last week. Forging a New Consensus, a group of conservative faith, law enforcement, and business leaders convened to “tell the administration and the Congress that there is a new consensus on immigrants and America.” The coalition also released Voices of the New Consensus: Bibles, Badges and Business, a report that spells out a framework for comprehensive immigration reform.

The document hits the right notes. It stresses that the need for reform is “urgent and critical,” and that bipartisanship, along with a “willingness to compromise on short-term agendas to reach longer-term solutions that uphold America’s commitment to fairness and humane values” is necessary.

The report lists four points of consensus based on a series of interviews with faith, law enforcement, and business leaders. First, aspiring citizens and temporary workers should be afforded a path to lawful status and citizenship. Second, our immigration laws should be modernized to ensure that future immigration is legal, fair, and orderly. Third, our borders should be safe and secure. Finally, President Obama “must lead members of Congress from both parties through an honest, transparent legislative process” that results in comprehensive immigration reform. Conservative leaders acknowledge that “Congress will not be able to succeed without strong leadership.”

But there’s the rub. While the president has been calling for immigration reform from day one, and a framework that embodies the spirit of this “new” consensus has existed for some time now, obstructionist lawmakers, spurred by the anti-immigrant fringe, have stymied the process.

The report points out that “broad and non-traditional coalitions are powerful vehicles to help legislators see common interests. Faith, law enforcement and business leadership working together at the local level can provide unique support and pressure on a member of congress supporting practical immigration reforms.”

Will this legion of bibles, badges, and business be able to mobilize their constituencies to pressure representatives into action and compromise with a duly-elected president these lawmakers unabashedly abhor and long to fail? Moreover, will these conservative players, new to the immigration reform arena, play along with the progressive consensus which has already laid the groundwork for a truly comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform?

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, is quoted as saying “We call for a bipartisan solution for immigration that respects the God-given dignity of every person, that protects the unity of the immediate family, that respects the rule of law.” Does that include the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and the protection of LGBT immigrant families? Will Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, a rabidly homophobic organization, persuade its members to support immigration legislation that covers lesbian and gay binational couples?

If this conservative consensus is able to mobilize their troops in spite of their ideologies and dogmas, then perhaps comprehensive immigration reform stands a chance after all.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

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AboutErwin de Leon
Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.