Immigration control and reform was to be part of the fiscal debate. No more. Meet immigration’s new rival: Gun Control
ANNA PALMER of Politico.com writes
President Barack Obama promised immigration reform leaders that their cause would top his second-term agenda, making January their month.
But immigration advocates are beginning to worry that their fight could slip behind a cause that wasn’t even an issue during the election: gun control.
This month the White House was supposed to begin its push in earnest for immigration reform. Instead, after a gunman killed 20 school children in Newtown, Conn., Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead a group that will release a reform proposal in mid-January — just when immigration activists had hoped all eyes would be on their issue.
Immigration advocates believed that their best shot at comprehensive reform was to push it early in Obama’s second term — when the election results were still fresh in Republicans’ minds and when the president could use the bully pulpit of his Inauguration and the State of the Union Address to rally the public.
If those speeches become about gun control, it’ll make it that much harder for advocates to pick up the momentum needed to get a big, controversial bill through Congress.
“To say it’s not a concern would not be truthful,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a veteran lawmaker, who has been a dogged proponent for immigration reform.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) also told POLITICO he has heard worry from at least one outside group concerned about gun control overtaking immigration reform.
While both the Senate and House have small groups meeting on immigration issues, no official proposals have been released publicly or even floated behind the scenes. The White House did move last week to ease visa requirements which is expected allow more illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. while seeking permanent residency.
Meanwhile, gun control reform is on the move. The White House announced Tuesday that Biden will meet with the NRA on Thursday. He’s already held meetings with law enforcement and gun control advocates.
The administration is also reaching out to major philanthropic organizations not typically associated with gun reform asking for their support.
Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in 2011, launched a new anti-gun violence website this week with her husband and published an op-ed in USA Today, urging reform.
And long-time advocates are pushing hard on Capitol Hill. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), along with other gun control advocates, introduced legislation the first day of the 113th Congress that would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has also pledged to reintroduce the assault rifle ban legislation.
And Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who is leading a task force in the House, has met with gun violence prevention groups, sportsmens groups, gun owners, people from the entertainment industry mental health experts, law enforcement officials and victims groups, among others.
Plus, Congress has two other fights queued up for early in the year. Lawmakers punted in December on how to handle automatic spending cuts as part of a fiscal cliff deal. And lawmakers also face an impending vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama had promised immigration would be a top priority after the fiscal cliff debate.
“I definitely think [the fiscal debate] impacts the effort to pass immigration reform,” LULAC President Brent Wilkes said, noting that Obama has said he wants to get beyond the fiscal issues before moving onto other priorities. “Inevitably that kind of distraction is not helpful on immigration reform.”
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