Now that the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” has officially introduced its immigration bill, the public, analysts, and newspaper editorial boards are all having a chance to weigh in about the sweeping overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration system. The reaction from many has been positive because, while it is not a perfect measure, the legislation makes huge strides toward creating a more workable immigration system, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. The bill also allocates more funding to enhance border security and significantly rewrites the current visa system, carving out new opportunities, even as it may close some traditional immigration doors.
And across the country, commenters have praised the bill. From USA Today to the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, newspaper editorial boards have lifted up the positive provisions in the bill while highlighting concerns. “The legislation is a milestone of pragmatism that, through tough trade-offs, would bring common sense to a broken immigration system that has come to symbolize dysfunction in Washington,” The Washington Post editorial board writes. And despite complaints about the decade-long wait for citizenship and additional militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, The New York Times editorial board writes that the strong reforms that help undocumented immigrants, especially DREAMers, apply for legal status and eventually citizenship. The bill “will not win prizes for brevity or eloquence. But it exists; it is a starting point, something to be nurtured and improved.”
Even conservatives who denounce the bill as amnesty are seeing a change in public opinion on immigration from previous years. That does not mean that the anti-immigrant groups are backing down. The Federation of American Immigration Reform’s annual immigration “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” radio row began this week just after the senators filed their immigration reform bill, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Gang of Eight, spoke to the radio hosts to pitch the bill.
But the level of hysteria among listeners is less than in 2007, Michael Medved, a conservative radio talk show host who has supported immigration reform, told The New York Times. “What you are not hearing as much, except from a handful of people, is ‘over my dead body,” Medved said. And the talk show hosts who used to be opposed to immigration reform have also changed their tune. In 2007, for example, Sean Hannity vocally opposed immigration reform on his show on Fox News, but he said after the November election that he has “evolved” to support a path to citizenship and that it’s time for Republicans to back immigration reform.
Increasingly, though, those who staunchly oppose any immigration reform are further from the mainstream. Polls show that the changes offered in the Senate immigration bill are what American voters want. That does not mean the legislation will have an easy path; the opposition from conservatives and some lawmakers makes that clear. But it is a strong starting point that offers something for Democrats and Republicans alike, which may be key.. As The Washington Post points out, the ability of “Gang of Eight” senators, especially Rubio, to sell this bill to their colleagues could make the difference.