A retrospective analysis of the last serious bi-partisan efforts at immigration reform, in 2007 and 2013, which failed thanks to intense opposition by right wing Republicans.
When George W. Bush was re-elected president in 2004 with significant Hispanic support, he saw an opening for an immigration overhaul and a signature second-term achievement. He began pressing for action in 2006 in an Oval Office address.
[The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was a bipartisan effort led by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain. It proposed a path to legalization for many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including those who had been in the country for over 5 years and met certain conditions like learning English and paying fees and fines. The bill also proposed increases in legal immigration, a temporary guest worker program, and increased enforcement including border fencing. The compromise bill was the result of months of bipartisan negotiations and won initial Senate approval, but ultimately failed to overcome a filibuster and receive final passage in the Senate in June 2007 due in part to opposition from voters and interest groups on multiple fronts.]
The next big push came in 2013 and 2014. The re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 had exposed declining Republican appeal to Hispanic voters and persuaded party leaders that they must embrace an immigration overhaul to halt that slide.
While talks quietly got underway in the House, a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” emerged in the Senate. On the Republican side, it included John McCain of Arizona; Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star with Hispanic and conservative credibility; and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Democratic participants included Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Mr. Durbin and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
What emerged from months of deliberations was the 1,200-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
[The legislation proposed major changes to immigration policy. It sought to increase border security by adding fences, surveillance drones, and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents. It proposed a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, requiring them to pay fines and back taxes, learn English, and wait 10 years for a green card. The bill expanded opportunities for highly educated immigrants, allocating 55,000 new visas for those with advanced degrees. It also established a guest worker program for lower-skilled workers in agriculture, while mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers. The bill aimed to reduce backlogs in family reunification visas. It also sought to promote economic development in Mexico to reduce illegal immigration.]
In contrast to 2007, the bill cleared the Senate with surprising strength, attracting 68 votes, including 14 Republicans and all Democrats. Mr. Schumer said at the time that the level of support would force the House to take up the issue, a dynamic similar to today, when senators hope a solid Senate vote will propel any plan over House Republican resistance.
.Hoping to rally House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner used a party retreat in January 2014 to unveil a set of immigration “principles” that were heavy on border security. They also omitted a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, but instead proposed allowing them to remain in the United States and work if they met certain tests, including paying taxes and admitting they broke the law. But within days, Mr. Boehner was backtracking under pressure from the right, and the effort stalled. Boehner refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.