Mark Halperin’s answers this week in TIME.
Why is Washington at a standstill over immigration reform?
Dealing with immigration is harder than a week-old bagel. Rewriting immigration laws requires the kind of bipartisan cooperation that remains elusive inside the Beltway. Exhibit A of the dysfunction is the colossal fight over the deficit and the debt ceiling. But immigration is a special challenge because of the host of questions it raises: how to control the Mexican border, how to invite attractive candidates for legal immigration, how to handle employers who rely on illegal workers and how to deal with the 11 million or so people who are already in the U.S. illegally.
Which party benefits most from this political stalemate?
Democrats, already dominant with the rising tide of Hispanic voters, stand to gain in the 2012 election and could lock in many Latinos to long-term party allegiance. Hispanics aren’t a monolithic bloc, but they are heavily aligned with the Democratic perspective, especially over a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here now. So far, the GOP has bowed to the fervent anti-illegal-immigration sentiment in the conservative grass roots. No one has stepped up to replace George W. Bush or John McCain as a strong proponent of broad legal changes.
What happens in this vacuum?
State legislatures are hard at work passing new laws that crack down on illegal immigrants and those who harbor and employ them, although the courts have struck down some punitive provisions. Recent protests in Georgia, where a strict new law drew thousands of marchers to the state capitol, demonstrate how volatile the issue remains — and not just along the southwest border.