As an immigration attorney in Riverside, it’s a question I hear almost every day.

“Do you think,” ask clients, “we’ll have immigration reform this year?”

It’s a tough question.

Immigration reform resembles a ping pong match.

Ping.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the President met yesterday with two senators, Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham, whose support are crucial to immigration reform.  Presumably, the purpose was to ask them to hasten a blueprint.

Pong.

Just a month ago, immigration reform seemed dead.  After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election, Newsweek’s blog, The Gaggle, reported the chances of having an immigration reform bill had become dramatically slimmer.

Obama’s State of the Union Speech also contributed to the pessimistic outlook of pro-reform leaders.  Many observers felt his reluctance to address immigration reform was tantamount to abandonment.

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, head of the largest U.S. Hispanic Christian organization, labeled Obama’s 38-word commentary “a crumb” to satisfy the hunger of immigrant communities.  He added it marked the death knell of immigration reform in 2010.

Ping.

The disillusionment articulated by Rodriguez was a stark contrast to sentiments last fall.

In November, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano stated the Obama Administration would push for immigration reform in 2010.

Shortly afterwards, Congressman Louis Gutierrez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009.

Pro-immigrant leaders expressed optimism about the prospects of immigration reform.

Pong.

Prior to these gestures, despite Obama’s bold campaign promises, immigration reform languished for several months after his victory.

At a populist pit stop in my neck of the woods last spring, the president was taken aback when posed a question about immigration reform.  The question was not surprising for a Southern California audience.  Yet, Obama’s response resembled a rookie batter swinging at one of Josh Beckett’s curveballs.

And The Winner Is . . .

The president understands the volatility of reform. He has tried to appease both sides of the immigration equation.

However, with midterm elections around the corner, the issue is reaching a boiling point.

Very soon, the administration will have to fish or cut bait.

The Democratic Solution: Counting Votes

Before joining the bar, I spent several years working in political offices.

I learned the art of counting votes.  Before diving in too deeply.

Given the uncertain political climate in a midterm election year, my guess is the president will take a middle-of-the-road approach.

He cannot go too far in promoting pro-immigration legislation or he’ll lose the support of many moderates.

On the other hand, as Politico’s Ben Smith points out, Obama must push some of his campaign promises to maintain the enthusiasm of immigrant communities which strongly voted for his party two years ago.

My hunch is that one or two “safer” pieces of the pro-immigrant agenda will be taken up in the spring or early summer.

But like I tell my clients, don’t bet the house on it.

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