U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez announced yesterday he will not seek Chicago's open mayoral seat, citing what he described as an ongoing obligation to seeing an immigration reform bill passed in Washington. "I am 100 percent committed to fighting for fairness and justice for immigrants, and to continue the battle for comprehensive immigration reform," the congressman said.
So what's next for immigration reform in Washington? With trends suggesting the GOP will gain seats in the November mid-terms and possibly win the House of Representatives outright, the prospects for a bill that provides a way for undocumented immigrants to normalize their status appears to have dimmed. While some Republicans have been willing to deal on immigration in the past, the current political environment makes such negotiations more difficult. The DREAM Act, which once garnered bipartisan support, failed to get a hearing on the Senate floor in September, with all 41 Senate Republicans voting against ending debate on the bill. U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the man who would be the new House Speaker if the GOP takes that chamber, discusses only securing the U.S.'s borders to stop a "flood of illegal immigrants" on his web page.
Some pro-reform Senators, including Illinois' Dick Durbin, are promising to bring up the DREAM Act in the upcoming lame duck congressional session. Doug Rivlin, a spokesman for Gutierrez, said the House is following the Senate's lead on the issue right now, and the outcome of the elections will play a big role in whether there's any movement on immigration this year. The DREAM Act is most likely to get a hearing. One factor that will determine whether or not DREAM comes up in the lame duck session, according to Rivlin: the extent of the Latino and immigrant vote in places with closely-contested races, like Nevada, California, and Florida. Ahead of November 2, Gutierrez has recently focused pushing Democrats to appeal to Latino and immigrant voters to "stave off an anti-immigration disaster." In Illinois two years ago, "New Americans" comprised an estimated 10 percent of all registered voters.