Last Saturday in Nevada, Senate majority leader and candidate for reelection Harry Reid told an ebullient crowd that the Senate Democrats and the President had not forgotten immigration reform. From the New York Times:
“We’re going to come back, we’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform now,” he said in a speech to more than 6,000 people, mostly immigrants, gathered downtown. “We need to do this this year,” Mr. Reid said, drawing cheers from the crowd, which included many Latinos. “We cannot wait.”
Reid, who is facing a tough reelection bid, said that with the Democrats’ plan, illegal immigrants would face “a penalty and a fine, people will have to work, stay out of trouble, pay taxes, learn English” en route to citizenship.
While Reid said himself that immigration reform is an urgent priority, it seems unlikely that Congress or the President will act anytime soon. There are still raw wounds from the recently signed health care reform law; the economy is recovering more slowly than anticipated; and now, conservatives are baring their teeth for a bloody battle over the next Supreme Court nominee (several weeks before they have any idea who the President will name to the court).
The timing may not seem ripe for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, but when will it ever be? It is the right thing to do, and Senator Reid, the President and the Democratic Party should keep their promises to make this issue a priority in this congress. There are many legitimate points to be made in this debate on both sides, and the least that Congressional leadership can do is to begin that debate. Let’s begin the conversation, and move toward a more just and more humane system of immigration in this country.