Posted on October 26, 2012

Analysis: Could Romney Pass Immigration Reform in His First Year?

Ted Hesson, ABC News, October 17, 2012

In a night of heated exchanges at the second presidential debate, a question about immigration thrust the issue into the limelight for the first time in the debate season.

The candidates largely stuck to their talking points. For Mitt Romney, that meant reiterating that he wouldn’t round up millions of people for deportations. President Obama, meanwhile, spoke of wanting a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

After calling out the president on his failure to deliver immigration reform in his first term, Romney added, “I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done. First year.”

So what would it take for Romney to actually pass an immigration reform bill during his inaugural year? {snip}

1. A Consensus on What Constitutes Reform

Just like any sweeping legislative package, immigration reform is a different thing to different people. The reform plan proposed by George W. Bush (and defeated in 2007), would have created a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented people in the U.S.

President Obama considers such a pathway part of comprehensive reform. But Romney has repeatedly said he does not support amnesty, which, in a historical context going back to the Reagan years, has been understood as a large-scale legalization program.

So before a discussion about immigration reform can get very far, Romney has to be clear about what he would do with the 12 million undocumented people in this country, if not offer them “amnesty” or some other form of citizenship.

2. Cooperation from Congress

You may get your own jet and entourage, but being president comes with a few limitations, namely having to work with a bipartisan Congress to get legislation passed. And as President Obama can tell you after the Obamacare saga, tackling a giant issue with one big reform bill can make for some rugged negotiating and grumpy people on both sides of the aisle.


3. The Economy Would Need to Get Better

Whether or not you believe economic growth is necessary for a reform bill to pass, it seems to be a requirement for some conservatives.

Take Grover Norquist, for example: Last week, he spoke at a conference about the need to encourage immigration to strengthen our economy and the fabric of our society. In an interview with ABC/Univision after the speech, however, he stressed that the poor economic conditions over the past four years have made it impossible to have a serious dialogue about immigration reform.

The logic: With unemployment rates that have hit 10 percent during the past four years, elected officials aren’t willing to spend political capital on the legalization of 12 million people, when constituents are worried about the economy and jobs.