Harry Reid: ‘We cannot wait’ on immigration reform

HARRY REID: ‘WE CANNOT WAIT’ ON IMMIGRATION REFORM…. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) spoke over the weekend at an immigration rally in Las Vegas, vowing to tackle the reform issue quickly. The senator said he has 56 votes on the legislation, and needs to find “a handful of Republicans.”
Speaking before a crowd of more than 6,000, Reid, a vulnerable incumbent, assured his audience of his commitment. “We’re going to come back, we’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform now,” he said. “We need to do this this year. We cannot wait.”

Reid’s motivations are hardly a secret. The senate leader not only has a genuine interest in the issue, but he’ll also need considerable support from fast-growing Latino communities in Nevada if he has any chance of keeping his job.

So, does the legislation have a shot? Ezra Klein ponders its chances.

As Ron Brownstein frequently points out, Obama won fewer than 40 percent of working-class whites in 2008. Congressional Democrats may well do even worse this year. But it’s hard to believe they can do that much worse, or that they can do much to change their standing among this group. It’s also not clear that immigration is a big motivator for these voters: The GOP tried to use it in 2006 against the Democrats, and the effort pretty much fell flat on its face.

Actually, it did worse than that: It drove Latino voters toward the Democrats. Obama won 67 percent of Hispanics in 2008 — a much better showing than Democrat made in 2004. The fear in 2010, however, is that Hispanics won’t show up to vote. If Democrats actually pursue immigration reform, their participation becomes likelier. And if Republicans — or tea partyers, or conservative talk radio — overreact to the prospect of immigration reform, their participation becomes virtually assured.

That last bit also suggests another reason Democrats might want to see immigration on the agenda: It’s got the possibility to tear the Republican coalition apart.

We already saw these divisions play out during the last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform — Bush, McCain, and other establishment Republicans backed a reform push, while the base flipped out over “amnesty.” Even now, GOP officials are well aware of the dangers — alienate a growing segment of the population demanding improvements to a very flawed status quo, or infuriate the right wing that Republicans need to keep motivated.

If Dems are looking for wedge issues that might improve their midterm prospects, this one might do the trick.