The recent revelation that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people has more far-reaching effects that many have anticipated. One of these effects is the possible stalling of immigration reform in the U.S. Congress. When Congress returns to session on September 9, the most important issue on the agenda may no longer be immigration reform but whether the U.S. military should intervene in Syria. This could present numerous political problems for pro-immigration government leaders including President Barack Obama who may need to sacrifice political capital reserved for pushing through immigration reform instead on pumping up support for Syria.
As an immigration attorney in Austin, I understand that for many communities the issues in Syria are a minor concern, but in a democracy like the U.S. these issues must often be debated. While there is still considerable hope that Congress will pass at least some parts of immigration reform in the coming months, the debate on Syrian military action does seem likely to at least slow down the Congressional process.
The primary reason the issue of Syria poses a threat to immigration reform is that Congress’ schedule could be swamped by political wrangling. Congress is already facing a full schedule with major economic topics like the debt ceiling. In October, the Treasury Department will reach the cap on debt issuance, likely leading once again to conflicts between parties about how to proceed. If some Republicans in Congress decide to follow through on threats to force a government shutdown, it could spell a disaster for the economy. This will likely force the hand of the President and legislative leaders to engage in political brinksmanship or vigorous negotiating.
The President, who has championed immigration reform in his second term, may be restricted in pushing through immigration reform. President Obama has publicly declared to the American people and the international community his desire to strike at military installations in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons which may have even been deadly sarin. The American people, however, and much of the international community are reluctant to engage in another Middle Eastern conflict, so the President may need to expend his tenuous influence over Congressional members to push through a vote authorizing military action.
If the President spends his political capital to win Congressional support for Syria and raising the debt ceiling, he could have precious little if immigration reform hits a roadblock. The U.S. House of Representatives has already made very little progress on producing a comprehensive immigration reform package, although some leaders have publicly voiced their support for certain measures like visas for skilled workers and citizenship for immigrant children. Pro-immigrant groups had been feeling optimistic heading into the fall Congressional session due to vigorous campaigning during the recess.
Having been an immigration attorney for many years, I know that a sweeping reform of such a complicated system as immigration is unlikely to occur without many delays and arguments from both sides. While Syria and other issues are likely to slow progress, this is an important issue and one that deserves attention from government leaders.
Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC has been providing legal representation in the areas of immigration and family law to clients in the Austin, Texas area for many years. To learn how Lyttle Law Firm can assist you, please call (512) 215-5225.