As Debt Ceiling and Shutdown Crises Near An End, Obama Resumes Immigration Push

October 16, 2013

The twin manufactured crises that have been the sole focus in Washington for weeks (the debt ceiling and the government shutdown) appear to be finally headed towards resolution. Reports early Wednesday indicate that Speaker Boehner is willing to vote first on the Senate-crafted bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. This could happen as early as Thursday, though parliamentary obstruction by hard-line tea party conservatives in the Senate could still push the bill-signing into the weekend. But baring drastic changes, the government looks to reopen by next week.

The reopening of the government has been eagerly awaited by many immigrants. While USCIS has remained in operation during the shutdown, the Department of Labor has not. This has paused or delayed the filing and processing of Labor Condition Applications, Prevailing Wage Determinations, and PERM Labor Certifications, causing difficulties for some H-1B visa holders. Once the DOL is back open, processing of these applications will resume.

While the details of the agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt limit are still being ironed out, President Obama is not waiting to turn his attention back to immigration, telling Univision on Tuesday that “”the day after [a debt ceiling agreement is reached], I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform.”  Speaker Boehner’s consistent invocation of the Hastert Rule has prevented such a vote thus far.

John Boeher (R-OH), currently still serving as Speaker of the House.

However, he looks ready to violate that (arbitrary and non-binding) rule in order to end the financial crises, raising the remote possibility that he could do so again to pass immigration legislation. Also possible (though far from likely) is that Boehner, who has this week been called “the weakest speaker in history” by Minority Leader Pelosi, will not be able to maintain his leadership position. A new speaker could have more credibility with the Tea Party, and therefore more freedom to operate and negotiate on immigration reform. [UPDATE: According to various reports, the speaker’s position is safe for now.]

In any case, the ongoing chaos within the Republican party has (as was predicted by some) created a new but small opening for Immigration Reform to pass this year, and President Obama looks eager to press that advantage.

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