Why the Gun Control Fail Doesn't Doom Immigration Reform

Immigration reform comes with the support of a broad set of interest groups.

April 18, 2013— -- As you've probably heard, the gun control bill was essentially body slammed by the Senate yesterday.

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats went from calling for serious gun law reform to pretty much asking for the bare minimum, background checks. And they didn't even get that.

The bill represents the biggest defeat of Obama's tenure, and, as media outlets suggested yesterday, raises questions about whether the president's influence is already beginning to wane in his second term.

The next priority on his agenda is immigration reform. So, will an immigration bill suffer the same defeat?

Anything's possible, but if it did, it wouldn't be for the same reasons.

The most recent gun control push was born from the national tragedy in Newtown, and the emotion that went along with it. Obama had the support of most Americans -- polls have shown that more than 80 percent support background checks.

But he didn't have the votes, even in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Unlike gun control, immigration reform isn't at the front of the agenda because of a single event. A mix of interest groups want to see it happen, and Washington is listening.

They can't afford not to. Since the mid-2000s, reform supporters have been assembling a broad coalition in support of a bill. Immigrant rights groups, big businesses, labor unions, universities, tech companies and agriculture are all in favor of some type of immigration reform.

There's also a political imperative. After Republicans lost the presidential election this November, it became clear that the party could not continue to allow Democrats to take more than 70 percent of the Latino and Asian vote. If they do, demographics will make their party obsolete.

Immigration reform enjoys a degree of bipartisan support, which isn't the case for gun control right now. Most observers seem to think it will cruise through the Senate, and find its real challenge in the Republican-controlled House. But even there, a bill will have its supporters.

Another difference between the two issues is the power of the National Rifle Association (NRA), something that Matt Barreto, a co-founder of the public opinion firm Latino Decisions, mentioned in a conference call today on immigration reform.

"My perspective is that the gun bill is entirely about the influence of the NRA," he said. That's not the case when it comes to immigration, he said. "There's not a huge group like the NRA that can go and push its muscle around in Washington."

Finally, the immigration bill isn't entirely an Obama imperative. True, he marked it as a top priority in his second term and has drafted his own legislation. But the bills drafted in Congress -- with support of both Democrats and Republicans -- are the only ones expected to have a realistic chance of passage.

Could immigration reform fail? Of course. Let's not forget, it's Washington we're talking about. But it won't be because of the same issues that sunk gun control.

With reporting by Jordan Fabian