Immigration reform is dominating the media after a group of Democratic and Republican senators released a legislative framework on Monday. President Barack Obama is expected to follow suit today, giving his thoughts on reform during a speech in Las Vegas.
After immigration reform efforts collapsed in 2010, supporters are hopeful it will find traction this time around. While no one expects an easy road, here are five differences from the last effort that show reform might have a better chance now:
1. The Latino Vote
President Obama received overwhelming support from Latinos in his November re-election, winning 71 percent of that demographic. Analysts linked Republican candidate Mitt Romney's defeat to his support for "self-deportation," and conservative strategists and opinion leaders called for the party to shift gears.
A memo recently leaked by a Hispanic organization with ties to the GOP shows the new immigration message some would prefer to hear from Republicans. Here's one example:
"Do use 'undocumented immigrant' when referring to those here without documentation," but "Don't use the word 'illegals' or 'aliens,'" and "Don't use the term 'anchor baby.'"
2. Bipartisan Support
The recent immigration reform outline presented by the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" offers a narrow path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That's garnered some praise from immigrant rights groups and scorn from right-wing politicians who equate it with "amnesty" -- mass legalization with no penalties.
The bipartisan agreement on a path to citizenship isn't entirely new. In March 2010, Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) endorsed earned legalization for undocumented immigrants in a Washington Post op-ed. This time around, however, they've got a bigger tent, with three other Democrats and three Republicans joining them. And they have the political momentum from the election.
3. Better Timeline
Speaking of momentum, immigration reform still has it -- for now. One of the reasons the last reform effort failed was because it didn't get off the ground until more than a year into the president's first term. And even after Schumer and Graham put out their blueprint, they didn't do much else.
This time around, most observers think a bill needs to pass this year to have a chance. So far, the timeline put forth by the senators reflects that. Schumer said he expects a bill to be ready by March and for Senate to act on it immediately. But if the bill stalls, or if the "Gang of Eight" falls apart, the reform effort could crumble.
4. Immigration Enforcement Is Up, Immigration Is Down
President Obama's record number of deportations during his first term have earned him the nickname "deporter-in-chief." And the federal government spends more on immigration enforcement -- $18 billion -- than on all major federal criminal law enforcement. Add to that the fact that migration from Mexico is at zero, and it makes for a convincing argument that the time is ripe for reform.
5. DREAMers Might Hold More Political Power
Last time around, DREAMers were a driving force in moving the issue forward, often taking a more radical stance than other immigrant rights groups. When Schumer and Graham failed to put out a bill by summer 2010, DREAMers got rowdy, holding a hunger strike in front of Schumer's office and forcing the issue back into the media spotlight.
Since then, the Obama administration has created a program that lets some young undocumented people live and work in the U.S., and more than 150,000 people have been approved. Whether the new program will give DREAMers a louder voice in the debate remains to be seen, but they could potentially move the issue forward again.