Immigration Reform Process

More from this show

The United States Senate is considering what could become the first comprehensive immigration reform law in decades, but such controversial legislation encounters procedural pitfalls along a path to potential success. Patrick Kenney, Dean of the Arizona State University School of Social Sciences and a political science professor, will discuss the bill’s path to becoming law.

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The U.S. Supreme Court said a -- Sent a Texas case back to appeals. It leaves affirmative action programs in place but sets the stage for future challenges. The high court reinstated a death sentence of an Arizona man convicted of killing another man years ago. The court overturned a ninth circuit court of appeals ruling that tossed out the death sentence of Edward Schad. For a full recap join us next Monday as ASU law professor Paul Bender reviews the decisions. The U.S. senate today voted on a border surge amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Or at least vote order whether or not to continue to debate the amendment. Here to talk about the vote and other procedural moves, we welcome Patrick Kenney, dean of ASU's school of social sciences and a political science professor. Good to see you again.

Patrick Kenney: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Today's vote basically in a debate.

Patrick Kenny: The senate is unique. And for a long time, throughout its history, senators have the right to talk as long as they want to debate a topic on the floor of the senate. And it got so difficult to get to a vote, the senate put in rules, the last change about 30 years ago, where you could vote to end the debate, debating nonstop debating is known as a anybody, you can vote -- Filibuster. It's called a cloture. You need 60 votes to end the debate. And that's what they did.

Ted Simons: This allows for future votes here coming up I would imagine right quickly, on the first of all the amendment, talk about the amendment to the big bill.

Patrick Kenney: So the amendment to the big bill is to tighten or increase dramatically actually border security to the tune of something like $30 billion. They call it a surge, kind of reminiscent of what we did in Iraq, we'll send more border security agents there, more fencing. And the reason, the main reason the senate is interested in this is to encouraging Republicans to come on board with the broader immigration bill. Because Republicans in particular conservative Republicans have been very concerned about the bill, certain aspects of it, especially the path to citizenship. And they have always argued all along they want the border secured first, so this is an effort to secure the border first and then move on the broader bill.

Ted Simons: And today's cloture vote suggests enough Republicans have gotten on board.

Patrick Kenney It looks like -- There's democrats in the senate, so they had to pick up Republicans to get to 67, we quickly glanced before it looks like there's votes, so they have picked up anywhere from 12 to 15. I haven't seen the actual votes, but anywhere from to Republicans.

Ted Simons: And we're talking unmanned surveillance drones, doubling the border patrol agents, I guess doubling the 350-mile fence.

Patrick Kenney: Right.

Ted Simons: Correct me if I'm wrong, it sounds like they're being put in place over the same amount of time it would take for some of the permanent resident card folks to actually get their cards.

Patrick Kenney: Exactly. So implementation of this kind of thing is going to take quite a while. And part of this notion is that this has to be in place before we can actually start activating a lot of paths to citizenship. It delays things a little bit, and I think a lot of the people that are concerned about it that helps them a little bit.

Ted Simons: Where did this idea for this surge come from? It sounds as though money was found with the congressional budget office, said, look at the big bill, it means more money?

Patrick Kenney: There's been a lot of people estimating what it costs. One of the most reputable estimates often comes from the CBO, the congressional budget office, it's known as a nonpartisan. They've got a lot of talented analysts there that work for the CBO, and their estimates over the long haul is that the immigration bill will reduce government spending over the long haul. So they're arguing some of that could come from this. It won't be revenue neutral, but it's a way for Republicans concerned about the size of the government spending to go on board with this much spending towards the surge.

Ted Simons: I'm curious from the Republican angle, that's a lot of money. For anything.

Patrick Kenney: Right.

Ted Simons: And yet it's being used to justify moving forward with this legislation.

Patrick Kenney: Right. So this is a really important step, I think, in the negotiations. So the gang of eight, four Republicans, four democrats V. moved this debate much further than we had even back in ‘06. Most likely the reason the senate is very interested in this is because of the election results that we saw in the last two presidential elections. Latino vote is growing in the country, and it -- Especially last time was whoppingly lopsided for the democrats. And there's certain areas in crucial states like California and a lot of the southwest, if the Republicans don't work at least work on immigration, these blocks of states start to move out of their possibility of winning that, it starts to change their dynamic. So I think a lot of forward-looking Republicans, John McCain, Jeff Flake in particular, are saying, wait, we need to engage in this debate and start thinking about this issue.

Ted Simons: So this is bipartisanship, maybe out of necessity for some, but bipartisanship nonetheless. Encouraging signs?

Patrick Kenney: Yes, probably. Because this is a hard issue. And those of us that study American politics argue election does make a difference. And sometimes they make more dramatic differences than others. And this is a case where I think the election made a dramatic difference. And it's forcing a lot of senators to sit down and talk that haven't done before. And you're right, bipartisanship has been in fit and starts over the last years, but after some elections you've seen these kinds of activities.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, we still have the house to go through. Now, first of all, what do you see -- Rand Paul, senator Rand Paul basically said I know what goes on in the house and this is dead on arrival. Has he got a point?

Patrick Kenney: He has a point. The votes they need 218 in the house to pass this, and the Republicans have more than 218. If the Republicans want to stand in the way of this they can, without any real big difficulty. At least at the moment. It doesn't mean they might not have problems later but they can if they want. This kind of amendment is aimed not only at the senate, but at the house as well. So they're hoping to build some coalitions in the house.

Ted Simons: In terms of just in general politics, back on the hill, when the senate shows this much bipartisanship, does it not often seep over into the house.

Patrick Kenney: Yes. Historically, yes. The last 15 years it's harder to predict. Historically yes. There is a group of Republicans in particular in the house, in particular who have been opposed to this legislation all along, dating back, eight, 10, years, and they're in larger numbers than they were. So the question for the Republicans is can -- The question for the democrats or for the senate in some kind of -- Is, can they put together a coalition of mostly democrats and some Republicans? That's what they'll be trying to do in the house. I think it's probably possible given what we're seeing in the senate.

Ted Simons: Yeah. OK. So I guess we'll have to see. Bottom line, if this goes through, McCain, Flake, President Obama, all considered winners?

Patrick Kenney: I think so, yeah. I think -- Most likely, yes. And if it goes through, there's many Republicans who can vote against it and have it still go through. So they will be OK in their own constituencies if that's needed, but I think overall if you take the long historical look, we needed to do something on this issue, this is a very long, complicated border with Mexico, Mexico is an ally of ours, we need to figure this out over the long haul this, is probably a good thing.

Ted Simons: Very quickly, will democrats be hurt more? I know a lot of liberals aren't happy with this border surge quote unquote. Will democrats be hurt more by the border surge, or will Republicans who vote for this be hurt more? We're talking next primaries.

Patrick Kenney: That's exactly where the problem occurs, in the primaries. Because the primaries tend to be more ideal logically concentrated, so we'll have to see. But that is exactly their worry. It's hard to predict, we're a little too far out. But you are seeing compromise on a complicated issue and I think that's probably a good thing.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Patrick Kenney: You're welcome.

Patrick Kenney:Arizona State University School of Social Sciences, Dean and a political science professor

Tempe Trolley

Health Care Study

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Earth Day Challenge graphic with the Arizona PBS logo and an illustration of the earth

Help us meet the Earth Day Challenge!

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 12

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

The Capital building with text reading: Circle on Circle: Robert Lowell's D.C.
May 2

An evening with ‘Poetry in America’

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: