Immigration Reform Can Still Pass in 2014 During a Few Weeks This Spring

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Photo: MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Even before the government shutdown was fully sorted out, President Obama declared that he'd be pushing to move on to immigration reform "the day after" Congress reached a deal. Months later, there's been no progress, but there's still hope that lawmakers will overhaul immigration laws in 2014 – if they can manage to get a vote in the short period after the primaries, but before the general election. Politico reports that filing deadlines for more than 80 percent of sitting House Republicans will have passed by the end of April, so in late spring, conservatives should be less concerned about taking flak on immigration from those in their own party. "For many members, they’d be more comfortable when their primaries are over," said Republican Representative Darrell Issa.

With the short time frame, the issue could easily be pushed off the legislative agenda by unforeseen events, as in 2013. By the late summer, lawmakers will be too consumed with their reelection bids to work on the biggest immigration overhaul in three decades.

But both sides have signaled that they remain optimistic. In addition to suggesting that he's ready to take on the tea party, John Boehner recently hired Rebecca Tallent, a former aide to John McCain and expert on immigration policy. President Obama has said that if the House won't back the sweeping bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate in June, he's willing to support a piecemeal approach. "We believe immigration reform is going to pass," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. "It's going to pass, you know, and it's up to the House to decide when. But it's going to happen."

Meanwhile, there has been progress on the issue at the state level. On Tuesday, Chris Christie held a ceremonial bill signing for New Jersey's DREAM Act (after signing the bill in private last month), which allows undocumented graduates from New Jersey high schools to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. The law is the result of a compromise with Democrats which involved Christie removing a measure that would have made undocumented students eligible for financial aid.

Of course, Christie made sure to note that he succeeded (on a far smaller scale) where D.C. has failed so far. By compromising "we also set an example of optimism for every one of the 8.9 million people who live here," said Christie. "Unlike what happens in Washington, that government can actually work for you. That things can actually get done, that agreements can be reached, and that commitments can be kept."