Will They or Won't They?

By Mark Krikorian on April 23, 2010
As I've written before

, there isn't going to be a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill reaching the president's desk this year; it's just not going to happen. But there is going to be a lot of sturm und drang about it, as the president signaled in his comments today on the subject.

Byron York has a piece today where he asks "So why are Obama, Pelosi and Reid going forward?" He opts for the fifth of his five possible explanations: "They're fully aware that the public doesn't want 'comprehensive' reform but are racing to do as much as they can before the elections take away their power to defy the public's wishes."

I actually think explanation number four is much more likely: "They want to be able to tell the most ardent supporters of reform that they tried." In fact, that's precisely what Tamar Jacoby is afraid of, as she points out in a WaPo op-ed today: "A symbolic, partisan effort — such as introducing a bill that cannot pass — would be worse than no action at all and could set the cause back for years." In fact, a year ago I was on a panel with two prominent supporters of amnesty and one of them put it this way: "We can't afford to lose again," referring to the earlier 2006 and 2007 failures to pass amnesty.

In a sense, this may expose a tension between those concerned about the interests of the Democratic party and liberalism more generally, on the one hand, and those focused exclusively on amnesty and increased immigration on the other. The former see an immigration debate as a gamble that might pay off, preventing the demoralization of Hispanic Democrats and maybe even offering an opportunity to argue, once again, that the GOP is mean and nasty. The latter — for whom immigration is job Number One — realize that another debacle where the Senate yet again rejects amnesty could mean it won't come up again for a decade.