If you think the immigration reform battle is over, you are wrong.
Yesterday, right-wing conservatives including Grover Norquist and Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo ratcheted up the pressure on House Republicans to pass reform that includes legal status for the undocumented.
As the Dallas Morning News reported, Norquist highlighted a new poll suggested Republicans have less to fear from their base than often assumed:
Norquist cited findings from a survey issued by an alliance of pro-immigration conservatives, showing that tea party-minded voters strongly favor action this year on immigration reform. The survey also found that three-fourths of such voters support legal status or even eventual citizenship for people in the country illegally…
And Russo penned an oped for Roll Call which argued, “Conservatives need to seize on immigration reform as an opportunity for growth, to reaffirm who we are and what makes our country great … we need to make the 11 million people who are here illegally obey the law, pay taxes and come out of the shadows. We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty.”
Such reinforcement on the right can only embolden Speaker John Boehner, who according to today’s New York Times, is still seeking a path to enacting reform this year:
…Mr. Boehner has not abandoned the idea of a deal because a narrow path for achieving one still exists. A potential agreement between House Democrats and Republicans starts with the fact that the Senate, with votes from Democrats and one-third of Republicans, has already passed a comprehensive bill … Following a slower, step-by-step immigration approach that Mr. Boehner has advocated, the House Judiciary Committee has cleared several bills on separate aspects of the issue. This summer, after the threat of primary challenges from the right passes for many incumbents, Mr. Boehner has the chance to put one or more of these bills on the floor before lawmakers begin their August recess.
Passage of the bills could then set off months of negotiations for a compromise with the Senate — the very talks that conservatives warn would end with an amnesty deal for the 11 million immigrants here illegally. But Mr. Boehner’s power to appoint House negotiators allows him to shape a more Republican-friendly outcome.
The immigration divide on the right is real, and the pro-immigrant side is quietly building momentum. It will be an interesting summer.