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Comprehensive Immigration Reform Prospects Appear Dim Following Cantor's Defeat

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) historic primary election defeat in Virginia on June 10, 2014, in favor of the vocally anti-"amnesty" Tea Party-backed David Brat suggests that Congress may not enact comprehensive immigration reform this year, according to many commentators.  They have observed that Republicans are unlikely to want to address immigration issues in the near future now that Cantor has been defeated unexpectedly, in part because he was willing to consider measures such as a modified Dream Act for young undocumented immigrants.  Even Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who won her primary while supporting immigration reform, noted that it was in the "forefront" of Republicans' thinking that "in the state of shock that we are all in,…right now [comprehensive immigration reform is] not where we need to go.  She acknowledged, however, that "[t]hat doesn't mean it's off the table."

Candidates who want to win primaries generally must cater to their parties' extremes and portray themselves as purists.  On the other hand, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is pro-immigration reform, won his June 10 primary.  Some argue that immigration issues shouldn't take the blame for Cantor's defeat, and that many realize that our country's prosperity depends on resolution of thorny problems in the system.  Others say that Cantor had simply grown out of touch with the people in his district, and that immigration was only one reason for his defeat.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) said, "I'm not one of those who thought Eric Cantor was an advocate for immigration reform.  In fact, I thought he was an obstacle.  So I don't think this is an impediment to immigration reform.  I don't think the race was about immigration; it was about a lot of other things."

With the 2014 midterm elections coming up, many candidates may not want to take any further political risks in the short term.  Incremental progress may still be possible even if passing comprehensive immigration legislation remains out of reach.  Stay tuned.

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