Immigration and Latino advocates continue to take stock after last week’s State of the Union Address, which some interpreted as the final nail in immigration reform’s coffin for 2010. Predictably, Democratic leadership reasserted their ongoing commitment to immigration reform legislation the day after. Less predictably, however, Senator Schumer’s main Republican partner in the Senate, Lindsay Graham, came out the following day in support of moving forward on reform in an interview with The Atlantic:

I think the idea of border security as a confidence builder is the way to start. Most Americans are very practical and reasonable. They’re upset about broken borders and our out-of-control immigration system. They will buy into a comprehensive solution if we can prove to them, and only if we can prove to them, we don’t have twenty million more illegal immigrants, ten years, twenty years down the road.

And when it comes to the illegal alien population, if the definition of amnesty is you got to deport twelve million people, or put twelve million people in jail, then we’ll never have a comprehensive solution, because that’s just not workable, it’s not practical.

To me, amnesty would be forgiving people, like Ronald Reagan did, with no consequence, and not repairing the system. Amnesty is what we have today. What I would like to see is the illegal immigrant population come out of the shadows, be biometrically identified, be required to learn English, pay the fines for their crime, and get right with the law. If they want to be a citizen, get in the back of the line, not break into line.

And to my Republican colleagues, I can understand the politics of this is difficult. Big things are hard to do. But I believe in 2008, we lost a lot of ground with the Hispanic community because of the rhetoric and the tone we set on immigration.

Speaking of losing ground with Latinos, the National Congreso Latino met in Texas this weekend with a local newspaper, reporting:

Latino conventioneers said today President Obama virtually ignored their constituency in his state of the union address this week and that the mid-term elections could serve as a referendum on his administration.

History tells us that the Latino vote is not a dependable liberal constituency for the Democratic Party. If anyone’s political calculation assumes Democrats can hold onto Latinos without reforming immigration and addressing their other concerns, they are dead wrong. Latinos have turned out in force in past elections for Republicans candidates like George W. Bush.

Obviously, the best way forward for an immigration reform bill is a bipartisan approach—an approach advocated by the President in his unprecedented televised Q&A with Republican lawmakers at their annual retreat last week in Baltimore. The President said:

Bipartisanship—not for its own sake but to solve problems—that’s what our constituents, the American people, need from us right now. All of us then have a choice to make. We have to choose whether we’re going to be politicians first or partners for progress; whether we’re going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America.

Some have even calculated that after an endless and bruising healthcare reform battle, immigration reform, which has been already been debated ad-nauseum, might just be the issue that both parties can tackle to show the public that difficult things can get done in Washington.

It’s easy to blame the President, the Congress and everyone else in Washington for the delay, throw in the towel and make declarative sentences about immigration reform being dead. However, there is still a beating heart in the process with ongoing signs of life, including productive negotiations between business and labor groups on the issue of future flow, Secretary Janet Napolitano’s report on her ongoing pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform in the coming year and again, and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham’s public enthusiasm for tackling the issue.

This could actually be the best time for immigration reform, Republican’s could move away from extreme factions of tea-baggers to prove to their anti-establishment constituents back home that they can think independent of their party and solve tough problems.

The late conservative thinker, Richard Nadler, always advocated that rather than running away from the immigration issue, Republicans should step up to help shape it. Early last year he put it this way:

At some point, conservatives must reflect on how many allies, and how many issues, we are willing to sacrifice in a fey and futile attempt to get field workers, busboys, and nannies out of the country. The steady drumbeat of restrictionist defeat invites—no, requires—conservatives to revisit a concept we have glibly reviled: comprehensive immigration reform. The relevant question is no longer whether we want it, but what we want from it: what forms of border security, crime control, and employment verification. Every hour we postpone a border reform that respects the interests of employers and Hispanics, our entire agenda suffers.

Photo by criggchef.