Crowley, a co-sponsor of a House reform bill that has stalled after the Senate’s thumbs down, said that “everything” was still on the table with regard to reform.
However Crowley, the Democratic Party’s deputy chief whip in the House, provided a sober assessment of prospects for a revived effort in the 435-mebmer House in a phone interview with the Echo.
“I for one am looking at getting a comprehensive bill out of the House, though some in the leadership think otherwise,” he said.
Given the doubts, even within pro-reform ranks, Crowley admitted that it would be very difficult to muster enough votes for a bill in the House right now.
“You need 218 votes for a bill to pass and that may not be presently possible,” he said.
Additionally, the Queens congressman said that even if the House did pass a bill, the present mood in the Senate would mean that such a development would be “to no avail.”
Crowley was critical of current Republican moves in the House intended to push through a bill that would deal with just border security and controls without addressing other immigration issues such as a path to legalization for the undocumented, and a guest worker visa program.
Both these ideas were supported by President Bush in the run-up to the Senate bill’s recent failure.
Crowley, however, was critical of both the president and his GOP colleagues in the House.
“The president is a lame duck. In the end he was unable to deliver the (Senate) votes,” Crowley said.
He said that House Republicans were now seeing immigration and border control as a wedge issue. But they were making a mistake in doing so
“The mood across the aisle is in favor of border enforcement only. But my friends are living in a dreamland. They are now in a minority. They lost the lection last year in part because people didn’t think they could deliver on comprehensive immigration reform.”
Simply shoring up the nations frontiers would not solve the problem of the undocumented and illegals, argued Crowley. And there was no way that the undocumented and illegal population – estimated at 12 million with thousands of Irish in those ranks – could be kicked out of the U.S.
As far as the undocumented Irish were concerned, Crowley was nothing if not sympathetic.
“All I can say is hang in there, don’t give up hope,” he said referring to the undocumented.
“We are going to get there. We have to get there,” he said with regard to reform.
“Yes, securing our borders is part of any bill but so too are individual people.”
While the prevailing view was that comprehensive reform would now be on hold until after the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, Crowley said he could never rule out the possibility that reform could emerge before the 110th Congress ends its term
“You never know. It could possibly come up again,” he said.
“I genuinely believe that this country still wants to attract the best and the brightest people from Mexico, Ireland or India, the people with the greatest drive,” Crowley said.
With that as his guide, Crowley said that he and those of his colleagues who are like-minded on the issue would continue to argue for comprehensive reform.
“We won’t stop until it’s over,” he said with regard to the reform campaign.