The aim of this essay is to show Barack Obama’s attempt to influence Congress to pass the immigration reform 2013-2014, in which a number of issues have to be addressed such as what the immigration reform and how the relationship between congress and the presidency affects the passing the bill, the issue of the importance of legislating the immigration reform 2013-2014 has to be addressed, which method did the presidency try to use to get the legislation passed, how the presidential administration decided to persuade legislators to pass the immigration reform, What devices has the presidency used to try to influence congressional behaviour and how the devices are used. Lastly how the presidency strategy to achieve the reform has changed over time.
The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” or S.744 was a proposal introduced by Charles Schummer on April 26, 2013, for reforming the U.S. immigration system written by a bipartisan group of eight senators known as the 'Gang of Eight.' The bill tackled all areas of the immigration process from border and enforcement issues to legal immigration reforms (American Immigration Council, 2019).
It was to make changes to the family and employment-based visa categories for immigrants, it was supposed to make it easier for non-immigrant workers to work in all sectors of the economy, and provides legal status to 11 million illegal immigrants within the United States (American Immigration Council, 2019).
If passed enforcement measures such as undocumented immigrants will be allowed to register for the new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program almost immediately, before those in RPI status can apply to become lawful permanent residents. The Department of Homeland Security has to verify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy has been set up and active, 700 miles of fencing has to be be completed, 38,405 border patrol agents have to be deployed, and the E-Verify employment verification system has to be in place. (American Immigration Council, 2019).
However for this legislation to be passed by congress the legislative power (congress) had to agree with the terms of the legislative bill provided by the executive power (presidency).The relationship between the presidency and Congress has been a difficult one for several scholars as it has changed over the course of years (Han, 2011). The further apart the presidency and congress are the less likely a political agreement is going to be agreed, so factors such as the number of president loyalists from both the executive and legislative branch, leadership skills and popularity matter as it will make the process of passing bills to law easier (Han, 2011).
However, if the government is divided it would make policymaking as a tedious process, this encourages a partisanship approach which makes legislating bills difficult as individual parties will promote their interests which can create an inefficient government (Han, 2011).
The senate (lower part of congress) approved the immigration bill by 68-32 majority which 14 republicans joined the democrats to support the legislation which shows a bit of bipartisan approach as some members of the opposite party supported the legislation however the real test was whether the bill would pass in the house of representatives, in which Boehner who at that time was the speaker of the United states house of representatives made it clear that the house would not take senate bill and wanted to do its own job developing an immigration bill (Washington Post, 2019) .
The information provided in the above paragraph is further supported by the fact that by stating that they want to deal with the immigration bill in chunks that the members of the house of representatives can deal with and the American people can get behind (the Guardian, 2019).
Obama’s administration changed their strategy in an effort to entice John Boehner and other members of the house of united states of representatives to change their minds by introducing a new five smaller scale immigration bills due to Boehner’s complaints about the document is too long to read which was true in retrospect as the document was 1300 pages. The new five smaller scale immigration bill dealt with increased border security, agricultural worker visas, a new employment verification system for employees and additional measures for local law enforcement agents to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. However, none of the bills says anything about offering undocumented immigrants a legal status (Washington Post, 2019).
The presidency wanted to signify that they want to use a Bipartisan in which Obama, in a Spanish language television Telemundo in which he addressed that he was not going to use executive authority to expand a 2012 decision to suspend deportations of young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents, because using it would undermine his credibility and make him seem like he is using a partisanship approach (Washington Post, 2019).
However, if Obama used his executive powers such as the veto power in which he can disapprove and veto it within ten days in which he must explain the reason why he vetoed it. This can strain the relationship between the presidency and Congress as the presidency can send a clear message as to where they stand on an issue even though it goes against a large legislative majority in congress (Pika and Maltese, 2013).
However, as the year was about to end, important issues such as Syria, the budget, and the debt ceiling were a priority and House leaders made no move to bring to the floor the committee-passed bills or formulate another strategy. The 16-day government shutdown in October deepened the rift between Democrats and Republicans, and Congress and the executive branch, and exacerbated tensions within the GOP. Later that month, GOP leaders concluded that there was not enough time left in the year to bring immigration legislation to the floor (Muzaffar Chishti, 2019).
In 2014 the republicans had a retreat in which they released their immigration principles in which like the senate plan raised issues on increased border security, new workplace hiring verification rules, and changes to the current visa programs for foreign workers and families. The republicans also stated who came as children, a group known as “Dreamers,” would be afforded legal status and, potentially, citizenship(Costa and O'kofee, n.d.).
However, the republicans clearly stated that the 10 million immigrants have no special path for citizenship for breaking immigration laws however they allowed immigrants to work in the country if they meet provisions such as paying taxes, admitting that they broke the law and learning English(Costa and O'kofee, n.d.).
[bookmark: _Hlk25097693]The principles also emphasized that immigrants could not attain legal status until border security benchmarks were attained (Costa and O'kofee, n.d.). The approach used by the republicans is a partisan approach due to their reluctance to comprise with the democrats over how to best deal with the illegal immigrants(Costa and O'kofee, n.d.).
This is further implemented by the republicans by not being satisfied with the senate bill fine of $2000 which only amounts to $7 per month. The republicans also realised that the conditions they mentioned such as paying taxes will be very difficult to enforce and lastly the criteria for passing the criminal background check has a major loophole (Parker, 2014).
The immigration bill needed a commitment to fiscal responsibility, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)approximates that the bill will save about $135 billion during the first decade of implementation, a figure that involves the cost of securing the border (Parker, 2014). The bill will also save taxpayers as much as $685 billion in the coming ten years. That's a savings of almost $1 trillion ($820 billion) over twenty years (Parker, 2014).Moreover, the CBO approximates that the Senate bill pledged to reduce illegal immigration from one-third to one-half in the ten years following its enactment (Parker, 2014). The Republicans however refused this bill due to them not wanting to lose their country to immigrants.
The presidency chances of getting the immigration passed reduced drastically when in June 2014 Eric Cantor lost the Republican primary election to Dave Brat (Washington Post, 2019). It was a loss that many advocates believed that spoiled the remaining hopes among immigration advocates because David Brat did not share the same views on immigration issues.(Washington Post, 2019).
Individuals who have worked under Cantor however noted that he supported the notion of fixing the immigration system however through small-scale issues such as border security and legal status for young undocumented immigrants (MIN KIM, 2014).
This is the reason why Cantor lost the Republican primary to Dave Brat because he failed to convince his party that he had the same notions of immigration system as they do. This shows a chance for a bipartisan approach to be adopted by both the presidency and congress wasted and it furthers the notion of partisan approach especially on the side of congress (MIN KIM, 2014).
In conclusion the presidency tried using a bipartisan approach to pass the immigration reform however due to the presidency and congress conflicting interests especially in the house of representatives using a bipartisan approach became difficult to put in actuality, this is because the house of representatives which was basically republicans did not Want to grant illegal immigrants citizenship due to factors such as it came with a huge fiscal responsibility, uncertainty of accurate information of immigrant background checks. However other factors such as the budget and debt ceiling took precedence and made the immigration reform not a top priority agenda for congress. All this encouraged the partisan approach and the reform did not pass.
- American Immigration Council. (2019). A Guide to S.744: Understanding the 2013 Senate Immigration Bill. [online] Available at: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/guide-s744-understanding-2013-senate-immigration-bill [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].
- Han, L. (2011). New directions in the American presidency. New York: Routledge, p.86.
- Washington Post. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/06/26/timeline-the-rise-and-fall-of-immigration-reform/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019]. (Washington Post, 2019)
- Pika, J. and Maltese, J. (2013). The politics of the presidency. 8th ed. SAGE, pp.219-220.
- the Guardian. (2019). John Boehner refuses to be drawn on immigration citizenship debate. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/21/john-boehner-house-immigration-bill [Accessed 13 Nov. 2019].
- Muzaffar Chishti, F. (2019). U.S. Immigration Reform Didn't Happen in 2013; Will 2014 Be the Year?. [online] migrationpolicy.org. Available at: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/us-immigration-reform-didnt-happen-2013-will-2014-be-year [Accessed 13 Nov. 2019].
- Costa, R. and O'kofee, E. (n.d.). House GOP leaders embrace immigration fix that includes legal status for undocumented. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/house-gop-leaders-embrace-immigration-fix-that-includes-legal-status-for-undocumented/2014/01/30/c49ab006-89f3-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Parker, C. (2014). The (Real) Reason Why the House Won’t Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. [Blog] Brookings. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2014/08/04/the-real-reason-why-the-house-wont-pass-comprehensive-immigration-reform/ [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
- MIN KIM, S. (2014). Cantor loss kills immigration reform. [online] POLITICO. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/2014-virginia-primary-eric-cantor-loss-immigration-reform-107697 [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019].