Even if a path to citizenship didn’t make it through, at least it looked like there would be some type of immigration reform. But now even partial reform seems impossible.
The Senate Gang of Eight’s bill has been pushed further and further back. A number of other issues–most recently the government shutdown and the debt ceiling — have distracted a Congress that is unable to multi-task.
The public, with the exception of Latinos most affected by immigration, has also forgotten about the once hot issue of immigration reform.
Immigration is one of those issues that politicians don’t like to touch with ten-foot poles. That’s in off election years. And now we are in the 2014 mid-term election season. In other words, immigration reform is dead.
But the larger issue of immigration is just heating up.
Just ask Texan Dan Patrick, who is running for Lt. Governor in 2014. This week Republican state senator Patrick released his first ad where he highlights how he will stop in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants, halt sanctuary cities, and secure the border.
While Patrick was the first to release an anti-immigrant ad, his fellow Republican opponents have been quick to note that they are also opposed to illegal immigration and in-state tuition. It’s an anti-immigrant arms race with no candidate wanting to be left in the cold without an anti-immigrant stockpile. This arms race was on full display during the 2012 Republican presidential primary when each candidate (with the exception of Newt Gingrich) strived to out anti-immigrant one another, whether by proposing electric fences or self-deportation.
And the anti-immigrant fever will soon spread across the country. Texas is not only a deeply red state, it is at the forefront of Republican policies, whether it’s of the ilk of George W. Bush or Ted Cruz. Texas is a thought leader when it comes to conservative GOP politics.
The Quien es mas anti-immigrant macho contest has begun.
For the upcoming mid-term we are in store for a replay of the 2010 election, which was notable for its anti-immigrant campaign mobilization. While next year’s anti-immigrant ads are sure to be new and improved I wanted to go back and look at some of my favorite ones.
There was Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle’s ad, Waves, referring to the “waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border joining violent gangs.” Then there was Senator David Vitter’s ad, Welcome Sign, accusing his opponent of inviting illegals over to cash in on US freebies. And North Carolina Representative Renee Elmers’ ad, Victory Mosques, made sure to not just give Latino immigrants all of the attention.
Running against immigration is a time-honored tradition in the United States going back to the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act of the late 1800s. In contrast, running in favor of immigration is a nearly impossible task. While Americans may be nostalgic about their own immigrant past, they are not likely to embrace new generations with open arms.
And with an economy that is still struggling, immigrants once again become easy political scapegoats.
The task for immigrant advocates going forward is no longer one of offense but of defense. Putting energy into moving the ball forward with immigration legislation in Congress will not pay off. Instead immigrant advocates need to keep the pitch of the anti-immigrant rhetoric down to the best of their abilities.
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an NBC Latino contributor, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, at Austin.