Broken Borders: Will Immigration Reform Be Next?

Congress last enacted immigration reform legislation in 1986, when millions of illegal immigrants were granted amnesty and enforcement measures were strengthened. That effort proved ineffective at curtailing the flow of illegal immigrants, 12 million of whom are now estimated to reside in the United States.

Varying Views on Immigration Reform

Three years ago, President Bush failed to pass a reform bill after a protracted effort and heated partisan debate. Much of the controversy then surrounded Bush's proposed path to legalization for undocumented immigrants already in the country -- a move opponents decried as amnesty for law breakers.

Several of the current reform proposals include such a measure, which has received support from members of the administration.

The Schumer-Graham proposal calls for a "tough but fair path forward" for undocumented immigrants, and Gutierrez's House bill lays out a similar plan.

Both would allow illegal immigrants who have jobs, are in school or serve in the U.S. military to "earn legalization" by registering with the government, passing background checks, learning English and paying taxes and fees.

Despite the bipartisan support and enhanced enforcement measures in both plans, several anti-immigration groups are already lining up against such legislation, saying it would be bad for the recovering American economy.

"If immigration gets teed up next, I think you'll see most of the Tea Party movement be even stronger on this," said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, an anti-immigration group whose 930,000 members want a moratorium on all forms of immigration.

"What we were able to mobilize in 2007 to beat back the [bill] is nothing compared to what we'll mobilize this year," he said.

However, proponents of immigration reform warn that Obama and Democrats' failure to address immigration this year could have negative political consequences.

"It's important that the president at least go to bat for this [Hispanic] community," said immigration attorney Michael Wildes, because they "will go just as quickly to the Republican side" if they don't receive support from Democrats.

Latino voters represent the largest minority voting group in the country, and while they vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their turnout could be key in close races -- including the 2012 presidential campaign.

"So many wonderful things this administration has done that have really improved the quality of life for the Latino community in general would be overshadowed because they failed to act on this critical issue," Gutierrez told ABC News.

"I think we're going to learn a lot more in the very near future" as to whether the administration is going to take this on next, he said. "I've made it very clear to everyone who will listen that I want this president to lead on comprehensive immigration reform."

Even as prospects for immigration reform in 2010 remain uncertain, people like Teodoro are not planning to back down.

"I feel like we need to keep pushing," she said. "[On] controversial things, people always tell you to wait. The reality is we can't wait and the only way to make them do it is to push them."

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