When President Obama was elected to a second term in office, he promised that immigration reform was to be a top priority over the next four years. However, with recent national events putting a spotlight on the need for revised gun control legislation, many immigration activists are concerned that the topic of immigration reform is destined to take a backseat.
Beginning almost immediately after last November’s election, lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties began expressing their desire to hold a sincere, bipartisan national conversation about immigrants and immigration reform in this country. Even some politicians who had been staunchly against any legislation granting legal residency status to any undocumented immigrants in this country began to acknowledge the need to at least consider this possibility. Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the new Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, for example, recently stated the importance of developing federal immigration laws informed by “the humanity that…defines us as a people, and the respect for the rule of law that defines us as a republic.”
However, there is some indication that the bipartisan impetus toward the development of common sense immigration reform may be wearing off just months after it began, with some Republican lawmakers reiterating their party’s long held distrust of immigration reform. Those hoping for an overhaul of our country’s immigration laws are concerned that this shift in discourse in Washington on the issue may be in part due to the fact that Congress is ramping up for what could perhaps be an even more contentious battle: the fight over gun control.
January was supposed to be the month when the Obama administration was to begin its earnest push for immigration reform. However, weeks after the devastating massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the President’s focus appears to have been pulled elsewhere. Experts warn that if Obama is not able to push forward immigration reform in the first two years of his term, it will be impossible to do so in the last two. Thus there may be reason for concern as the debate in Washington seems to have shifted to another issue.
Even in Southern Arizona, where the issues of immigration and immigrant rights have long been at the forefront of popular consciousness, the public’s focus seems to have shifted toward searching for an end to gun violence. On January 8, the anniversary of the shooting that wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik held a gun buyback at the Tucson police department, collecting 206 registered firearm. Giffords herself made national headlines this week when an op/ed she and her husband Mark Kelly authored appeared in USA Today, stressing the need for greater gun control.
Although it is clear that immigration reform is still a priority for many in this country, it is unclear whether this trumps the need for greater gun control. And it is too early to tell whether Congress would be able to tackle both of these contentious issues over the next term.