By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN
A Republican rout in November would usher in a class of Senate freshmen who ran on pledges of no amnesty for illegal immigrants — a changing of the guard that could doom President Barack Obama’s already faint chances of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first term.
Immigration reform advocates could see turnover in 17 seats held by Democrats and Republicans who, at one point, voted for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a POLITICO analysis of the Senate campaign field. In all cases, the Republicans running for those seats have vowed to never support a legalization program or at least not consider it until the border has been certified secure.
This means the Democratic vision of immigration reform, which couples tough border enforcement and a crackdown on employers with plans to legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants, would need to shift much further to the right to stand any chance in a closely divided Senate.
“The prospects for victory of comprehensive immigration reform are slim,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group.
If predictions for a broad Democratic defeat in the midterm elections prove accurate, immigration advocates could start out in January with as few as 30 senators on their side. A total of 73 senators backed a key test vote on immigration reform in 2006, but that coalition shrank to 46 when a similar bill came up in 2007. The Senate is the battleground on immigration because a bill would originate there, where 60 votes are needed to pass anything controversial.
The outlook for immigration reform turned gloomy last month when Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) became the third senator to lose this year among those who once supported a legalization program.
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