Will Syria Crisis Stifle Immigration Reform?

September 7, 2013

As the political crisis and debate intensify over Syria, stomach immigrant advocates fear the issue of possible U.S. military action will delay comprehensive immigration reform in Washington.

At a Labor Day march this past week, Eric Garcetti, the new mayor of Los Angeles, said Syria could become a “distraction” for immigration reform. The leader of the nation’s second largest city contended that action on immigration legislation should be the top national priority at the moment.

On Capitol Hill, the looming vote on President Obama’s push for U.S. military action could make Republicans in particular even more skittish about tackling the controversial issue of immigration reform, according to a Republican political consultant.

“(Syria) is going to be a difficult vote, and I really doubt that they would want to take two difficult votes, especially if the second one is about immigration,” said consultant David Johnson. Although a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate earlier this year, corresponding action failed to gain traction in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

If a legislative delay on immigration reform emerges as one effect of the Syria crisis, it will be the third time in a dozen years that pending action was put on the political back-burner. In 2001, a movement in such a direction by U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox was derailed by the 9-11 attacks. Eight years later, as the Great Recession deepened, campaign promises of immigration reform by newly-elected President Barack Obama  took a back seat to health insurance reform and other issues.

Besides Syria, the politically thorny matter of the debt ceiling could complicate prospects for an immigration overhaul in the weeks and months ahead. Beltway talk is growing of a postponement of immigration reform until 2015 or even 2017, well after the next congressional and presidential elections.

Despite the sudden appearance of a new round of adverse political circumstances, immigrant rights activists in California, New Mexico and elsewhere are stepping up their mobilizations for a national legislative reform.

Building on an intense summer of activities at both the national and grassroots levels, immigrant advocacy and labor organizations have announced plans for demonstrations October 5 in at least 60 U.S. cities.
Dubbed the “National Day of Dignity and Respect,” the protests are being organized to demand the passage of comprehensive immigration reform,  a halt to deportations, and an end to the militarization of the border with Mexico. Activists then plan to congregate for a mass demonstration in Washington, D.C. on October 8.

“We are not going to do this like in other years, and say, well, other things take priority,” said Jorge Mario Cabrera,  spokesman for the Los Angeles Immigrant Rights Coalition. “No, this time a lot has been given to bleeding, marching and voting, to not allow (immigration reform) happen.”

Sources: Noticiero Latino, September 6, 2013. Story  by Jose Lopez Zambrano. Nortedigital.com/El Universal, September 6, 2013. La Opinion, September 5, 2013. Article by Pilar Marrero.  Univision, September 2, 2013.

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