There will be an event on Capitol Hill this week that will tell us a lot about the future of comprehensive immigration reform. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Senate Gang of Eight reform proposal. It doesn’t have any great official purpose; the Gang bill hasn’t even made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, much less the full Senate, and is not before the House. So the House committee meeting will be all talk. But the session could tell us a lot about whether House Republicans will be able to support anything that resembles the Senate proposal or that there is an unbridgeable divide between the two.
There are serious doubts about whether the GOP-led House and the Democrat-led Senate can reach an agreement. Even the title that Republican House committee chairman Bob Goodlatte has given to the hearing could spell trouble: “S. 744 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Lessons Learned or Mistakes Repeated?” The “S. 744 in the title is the Gang of Eight bill, while the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act is the spectacular failure — one that led to the arrival of millions of illegal immigrants in the United States — that many of today’s lawmakers say they would like to avoid. Just bringing up 1986 is something Republicans who oppose comprehensive reform do a lot; Democrats, not so much. But on Wednesday, it will frame the whole issue.