Does Immigration Reform Go Bye Bye With Bayh?

The movement for reforming immigration is getting set to receive another setback as Evan Bayh, two-time centrist Democrat Senator of Indiana and a sure vote of immigration reform, has decided not to seek re-election this November. I am still waiting for the bomb to drop and an affair to come exploding out of the closet, but in the meantime, Senator Bayh joins the list of four other Democrat Senators not contesting the 2010 elections.

Given his centrist policies and bipartisan record, Senator Bayh appealed to independent and moderate voters. Without him, Democrats will have a hard time holding on to the seat, which is being challenged by politicians like Rep. John Hostettler and GOP-backed Dan Coats, who both prefer enforcement-only policies.

With 13 Democrat incumbent seats up for grabs and 12 Republican ones, even 6 Republican Senators are retiring, leaving the eventual Senate make-up wide open. This is probably why supporters would like to tackle the issue before November and also see it as a game-changer of sorts.

While immigration reform has always been a bipartisan issue, Senator Schumer (D-NY) did indicate that he was having trouble finding bipartisan support for the Senate comprehensive immigration legislation. Bayh also stated that shrill partisanship and gridlock helped him make the call to leave Congress.

Democrats are up against an increasingly anti-incumbent mood and look set to lose more seats, and hence more votes for worthy legislation. GOP Senator Mel Martinez (FL) turned in his resignation last year, setting the stage for a showdown in Florida. Immigrant rights champion Senator Ted Kennedy (MA) passed away and his seat was filled by Senator Brown who is set against any pathway to legalization.

At the same time, passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill is not just about counting votes. Congressional will is also important and thus far, we have seen very little movement on this front. However, people have the power to change intent and sway legislators. Without mass escalation and uprising, immigration reform looks more unlikely in 2010.

Maybe it is time to shift gears and call for the passage of smaller bills like the United American Families Act, AGJobs, and the DREAM Act as worthy down-payments.

Video Credit: AssociatedPress

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