On Tuesday, House Republicans kicked off their efforts to move forward on the drafting and passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, when House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy began briefing their colleagues on the basics of U.S. immigration policy. A number of congressional working groups are currently analyzing immigration-related issues, including agriculture, visas for science, technology, math and engineering experts, border security and the impact of undocumented immigrants on the country. In addition, House Republicans are also reportedly busy studying why past efforts to pass immigration reform legislation, including a 2007 effort by Pres. George W. Bush, failed. In short, Republicans seem committed to making immigration reform work.
However, despite the shared commitment from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to push forward a bipartisan immigration reform bill, a number of major roadblocks still stand in the way of this actually happening. Earlier today, Ariz. Sen. John McCain stated that the single biggest hurdle Senate Republicans have encountered thus far is working with labor unions on the establishment of viable visa programs both for highly skilled STEM workers and lower skilled agriculture workers. McCain admitted that coming to a compromise with unions could be impossible.
Last week, McCain made another potential hurdle to immigration reform clear, when he stated that potentially allowing U.S. citizens in same sex partnerships with immigrants to petition for legal residency status for their spouses should not be a part of the debate. According to McCain, introducing what he calls “social issues” into the proceedings will certainly derail bipartisan cooperation. Civil rights activists argue that it is vital that current immigration law be amended so that LGBT citizens are given the same rights as heterosexuals.
Finally, it has also become clear that comprehensive immigration reform can not pass until lawmakers are sure the U.S.-Mexico border is properly secured. Republicans are calling for an increased security presence at the nation’s southern border to ensure that individuals and contraband are not free to filter freely into this country. If Democrats hope to get bipartisan support for an immigration reform bill, they will have to prove to Republicans that the necessary infrastructure, technology and manpower are in place to keep the border effectively secure.