The problem: while absolutely no one ran trumpeting support for the measure, quite a few Democrats took positions against it.
In many of the races, Democratic and Republican candidates seemingly tried to outdo each other in sounding tough, calling for aggressive border security and steep fines on employers of illegal immigrants and denouncing legalization provisions as amnesty. Rep. Nick Lampson, a conservative Democrat who'll replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a suburban Houston district, has said he doesn't favor "a guest-worker program for people who broke our law to come here." Incoming Democrats Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney, both of Pennsylvania, also have called for toughened measures and assailed Republican opponents for being soft on immigration, according to a media account of their races. Murphy ran TV ads pledging support for toughened enforcement and opposing amnesty
(Bush immigration plan has new chance by Dave Montgomery The Detroit Free Press November 12 2006)
The newly elected Democratic House members will, of course, be very focused on entrenching themselves in their districts. The whole party will be focused on regaining the Presidency in 2008. There can be arguments about how potent immigration restriction is as a vote winner, but no one is suggesting Amnesty and immigration acceleration is popular at all with voters (as opposed to lobbyists).
Furthermore the issue is not going away. The voter concerns which upstaged it and came to dominate the campaign’s final weeks are more transient:
A Pew Research Center exit poll showed 30 percent of those polled nationwide said illegal immigration was an "extremely important issue," but only 52 percent of them said they voted for Republican candidates, while 46 percent of them voted for Democrats.
Corruption, ethics, terrorism and Iraq ranked higher than immigration as concerns among those questioned in the Pew poll.
(Expectations rise for immigration reform By: Edward Sifuentes NCTimes.com November 11 2006)
Corruption and ethics will if anything be a Democratic problem by 2008, and the departure of President Bush is likely to de emphasize overseas adventurism as an issue. It was difficult this year for the Republicans to capture the immigration issue effectively, given fact that the White House was the biggest Treason Lobby culprit. Democrats might well prefer not to let their opponents make the issue their own.
The Christian Science Monitor has a sensible editorial on the subject (Illegal-immigration temptation The Monitor’s view November 13 2006)
President Bush may have won at least something in last week's election. A Democratic Congress could lean more closely toward his ideas on dealing with illegal immigration. But before the two now try to look bipartisan and pass something quickly, they should scrutinize the tea leaves in the ballot results… More than 3 in 5 Americans say the issue of illegal immigrants is either "extremely" or "very" important, according to this election's exit polls. The new Congress will need to separate the urgent need to curb illegal immigration in a post-9/11 world from other immigration concerns, such as providing business with cheap labor.
A big change to remember is that a substantial section of the public is now up to speed on the issue. Any news story with a comment thread is likely to be swamped by angry, articulate and surprisingly sophisticated restrictionist comments (See, for instance, Residents Respond To Immigration Proposal by Pablo Bello The Morning News Friday November 10 2006). House members can count on getting an earful on the matter. This battle is not over.