Less than a week after the Republicans lost the US presidential election, there are signs that the US's stalemate on illegal immigration may be resolved. The Schumer Graham bill would, in effect, grant an amnesty for most illegal aliens already in the US while strengthening the border to prevent any further illegal immigration.
There have been various bills put before Congress in the last few years but all have foundered because Congress has been 'gridlocked'. In order to become law, a bill must get the support of both houses of Congress; the Senate and the House of Representatives. The President has a veto on legislation and must also sign an Act to make it law.
Since 2010, the Democrats have controlled the Senate with a small majority and the Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives. Therefore, a measure of bipartisan support is required in order for laws to be passed. However, in an increasingly poisonous political atmosphere in Washington, bipartisan support has been conspicuous by its absence.
Both parties have used filibusters to block legislation and cooperation is a thing of the past. A filibuster is a lengthy speech that uses up all the available time for debate on a bill and so prevents it from becoming law. Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, non-partisan US political commentators, say that it is mainly the Republican Party that has withdrawn cooperation as it moves to the right.
However, defeat in the election may have persuaded the Republicans to cooperate on immigration reform. Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina has re-opened talks with Democrat senator Charles Schumer about legislation that would reform the US immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants already in the country.
Earlier this year, Mr Graham warned the Republicans that their hard-line stance on immigration could not be successful for long. 'We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term' he told the Washington Post in an interview in August. This comment is seen by many as having been prophetic after the Republican's fourth defeat in six elections.
Mr Graham criticised his party again on the CBS programme Face the Nation on the morning of Sunday 11th November 2012. He said that the Republicans had taken a very aggressive stance against Mexican immigration and had been losing support among Hispanic voters as a result. 'This is an odd formula for a party to adopt; the fastest-growing demographic in the country, and we're losing votes every election cycle. And it has to stop. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun. I intend to pass an immigration reform bill that's an American solution to an American problem,' he said. 'We have nobody but ourselves to blame when it comes to Hispanics and we can get them back with some effort on our part.'
The Republican leader in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, has also said that he believes Republicans can cooperate with Democrats to fix the US's 'broken' immigration system.
Senator Schumer, who is from New York, appeared on NBC's Meet the Press programme on Sunday and said 'I think we have a darned good chance of using this blueprint to get something done this year. The Republican Party has learned that being…anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically and they know it.'
Senators Schumer and Graham first started their talks on their bill in 2010. President Obama gave it his blessing but the bill came to nothing. The bill has four main provisions
• The introduction of biometric ID cards for employment verification to prevent illegal aliens from working
• A further strengthening of the border security between the US and Mexico and increased internal security measures to prevent further illegal immigration
• The establishment of a process for licencing and admitting temporary workers to the US
• The establishment of a path towards citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the US providing they do not have criminal records
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