Broken Borders: Will Immigration Reform Be Next?

Thousands expected in Washington on Sunday to push for immigration reform.

ByABC News
March 19, 2010, 9:05 AM

March 19, 2010— -- Renata Teodoro will come to Washington, D.C., Sunday to prod lawmakers to grant her the "American" status she's long desired.

Teodoro, 22, has been an undocumented resident for 16 years. Her mother, sister and brother were deported to Brazil in 2007.

This weekend, Teodoro will join thousands of activists and immigrants who will descend on the nation's capital to urge Congress and President Obama to act on immigration reform.

"I want to see them have courage" to pass an immigration reform bill, Teodoro said.

Seeing an end in sight for the health care debate, dozens of grassroots organizations have upped the pressure on lawmakers to take up the issue of immigration reform. But with little political capital left to spare and Democrats facing a grueling fight ahead in the midterm elections, experts say the chances for immigration reform happening in the near future look to be slim to none.

"It's obviously very difficult to see an immigration reform bill happening this year, given all the other issues on the legislative agenda," said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It's big, complex legislation."

Democrats and the White House face a slew of other pressing hot-button issues, from climate change to financial reform.

Obama has pledged "unwavering commitment" to immigration reform, but he has yet to outline a specific proposal for fixing what both Republicans and Democrats call a broken system. In his State of the Union address, Obama only offered a few words on the subject.

"It was almost painful," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said of the president's apparent lack of enthusiasm for immigration reform in the address. "It was like, wow -- that was like root canal for him."

Gutierrez introduced comprehensive immigration legislation in the House late last year.

Experts say the president wants to convey that immigration reform is on his agenda but that proponents need to be patient.

"I do think the president has signaled clearly his intention to pursue a reform bill at some point," Alden said, but "the White House has stopped talking about timetables."

Obama last week met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, immigration advocates, and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who have been crafting bipartisan legislation in the Senate.

In an op-ed today in the Washington Post, Schumer and Graham emphasized the need for reform.

"Developing a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity," they wrote.

Obama on Thursday urged Congress to act on Schumer and Graham's proposal "at the earliest possible opportunity" and said he would "do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year" on immigration reform.

"My administration will be consulting further with the senators on the details of their proposal, but a critical next step will be to translate their framework into a legislative proposal, and for Congress to act at the earliest possible opportunity," the president said in a statement.

While both Republicans and Democrats argue immigration reform is needed, lawmakers have made little headway in recent years.

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.