Exercising their biggest strength as a community, Latinos overwhelmed the system at the voting booths this past midterm elections, squashing any attempts at suppression their right to vote that the right wing was employing to suppress and steal the Latino vote. Enraged by many of the Tea Party candidates’ anti-immigrant and racist tactics, Latinos not only neutralized voter suppression schemes through their numbers, but they were virtually the decisive voting block that denied Republicans control of the Senate, starting with the biggest price the GOP was after: Senator Harry Reid’s seat.
Although the strong voter turnout among Latinos represented another resounding affirmation of the growth that we have seen before in terms of their influence as a voting block across the nation, many are asking “what can be done in terms of immigration reform since Congress seems to be heading for total gridlock now that the chambers are split between two parties?” It is highly unlikely that any comprehensive immigration reform will pass because you can guarantee that those ultra-conservatives candidates that were elected to Congress will do everything in their power to stop any such type of legislation.
Do NOT be mistaken though: the Latino community and other pro-immigrant voters will NOT wait two more years to see if Congress acts on immigration reform. Yes, at first sight, it would seem that nothing could be done. Wrong. There are a few things that Congress can do and even the President himself can do in the new balance of power.
First: pass the DREAM Act during the lameduck session as a stand-alone bill, before the new Congress takes over. The DREAM Act not only enjoys bipartisan support, but it is a campaign promise that Harry Reid made before the midterm elections-it’s time for him to deliver on his promise. The DREAM Act would not only be a good first downpayment on immigration reform, but through that piece of legislation, undocumented youth could achieve legal status, which could lead to U.S. citizenship and could also help their parents through a Family Reunification process, as stipulated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Although Family Reunification is a process that can take many years to process, it would nevertheless be a path to legalization not only for the students but for their immediate relatives that does not currently exist.
Second: there are some things President Obama can do even with the new divided Congress. Huffington Post notes:
The president could even usher in a new era of more humane immigration policy on his own. Deportations of undocumented immigrants have actually increased since he took office.
Robert Borosage thinks the president should not only reverse that, but should make big changes simply by tweaking enforcement.
“You could try to carve out new rules,” Borosage said, “so that if you were paying taxes, you wouldn’t be deported, or if you were in school, you wouldn’t be deported.”
In other words, Obama could create a path to de facto legalization. “That,” Borosage said, “would be controversial.”
It is imperative that something gets accomplished on immigration reform before the next elections. Otherwise, the Latino vote might not be so willing to save a particular chamber for whatever party is in power next time around.