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Who's Afraid of Immigration Reform?

Dreading another partisan brawl, Congress drags its feet on a bill
From left, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Representative John Carter (R-Tex.)
From left, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Representative John Carter (R-Tex.)Photograph by Cliff Owen/AP Photo

After the government shutdown ended, President Obama said he wanted Congress again to take up languishing immigration legislation, with the goal of passage by yearend. That’s unlikely, and not just because a majority of House Republicans still oppose a bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Democrats from states with large numbers of Hispanic voters, who are concerned Obama is so intent on signing an immigration law that he might water it down to attract GOP support, are in no hurry to meet his deadline if it means compromising on citizenship. “There are some Democrats who would rather get it done, and others who would rather have the issue” linger, says Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a network of business groups that promotes legal immigration.

Not that the two parties are in a mood to talk about immigration—or anything else. The shutdown and debt limit fight further poisoned Republicans’ already toxic relationship with the White House and Democratic leaders. “There’s no discussion about immigration” on either side, says Texas Republican John Carter. In September he left a bipartisan group that was working on a deal in the House. “I have a heart for fixing immigration, but not sure the will is there.”