Immigration reform now seems likely. The question now is what kind of reform. One that provides a simple and straightforward path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented workers or one that makes them wait years and years for permanent legal status? Expect the debate to start in earnest in January.
For now, immigrants’ rights advocates are happy that some relief for undocumented immigrants is on the way. The Obama victory and the high Latino vote he earned, makes reform difficult to stop. Even Republican John Boehner, the speaker of the House, and conservative talkshow host Sean Hannity, now say they support reform. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham are back on board. And polls show that voters support legalizing undocumented immigrants.
The Latino vote in the Presidential election advanced the cause, but the trend was already favorable. A sign that restrictionists had started their decline came with conservative Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s support for Dream Act legislation. Though Rubio’s proposal provided undocumented youth fewer benefits than prior proposals, his announcement helped force Democrats’ hand. Just weeks later, President Obama announced his program to grant Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Even Mitt Romney called for legal status for undocumented youth. Now, with the election out of the way, immigration reform is on the table and could come as early as next year.