Given its complexity, and the multiple issues about which one constituency or another is unhappy, I would be very surprised if anything like it made its way through the legislative labyrinth. It’s perhaps likelier that Democrats will use their power in Congress to make changes that, I expect (or is it hope?), will make the bill unpalatable to its current Republican supporters. Consider, in that connection, this apparently representative Democratic sentiment:
"We need to find a system that values and honors the work of all," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (Ill.), who is one of the Democrats entrusted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with developing a House bill. "The landscaper is just as important as the computer scientist."
I honor and respect the landscaper, as a human being, as much as I do the computer scientist, but to the degree that immigration reform is about economics, I value the work of the computer scientist more than that of the landscaper. I would expect (hope?) that Republicans would walk away from a reform bill that isn’t hard-nosed at its core (with hospitable and humanitarian provisions, to be sure, but at the margins, else we adopt a measure that in principle swallows our national identity).
One last point and, for the moment, I’m done. In 2006, immigration activists didn’t do well at the polls (see, for example, J.D. Hayworth). Is there any evidence that a hard line has more political traction in 2007 and 2008 than it did a year ago? Yes, I know there are people who say they’ll never vote for anyone who supports this bill. How many of them are there? We’ll know, I suppose, if John McCain’s poll numbers drop appreciably, though I can’t imagine that many people who cared deeply about this issue supported him in first place.
Update: Can the Bush Administration round up 70 Republican votes in the House to hand the Democrats a victory? I doubt it.