Time does not seem to be on the side of the controversial immigration reform bill. One reason proponents wanted a quick votenow pushed back into Junewas that they feared just the sort of storm from the left and the right they are now feeling.
One shorthand way to gauge the bill's prospects of eventually getting passed is to keep an eye on the market shares of Western Union. The stock has been edging downward for the past month or so but has started to climb again, rising more than 2 percent Wednesday.
Many Washington analysts see Western Union stock as a financial surrogate for the chances of a comprehensive bill reform winning passage since many immigrants use the company to send money back home. (Remittances from Mexicans working abroad reached nearly 3 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product last year, according to Morgan Stanley.)
Immigration reform is seen a negative for the stock, as it might reduce the overall level of immigration or encourage some immigrants to head home. In any event, it adds a level of uncertainty that investors hate. So a rising stock means, inversely, less chance of passage.
As it is, remittance levels have turned lower of late, a shift some analysts blame on a weak U.S. housing market that may be hitting immigrants in construction jobs. But if the downturn gets more pronounced, it might really pinch the Mexican economy, though less money flowing from the United States may push that government to make needed economic reforms. Anyway, that is the Wall Street take on immigration reform.
As far as what Washington insiders are saying, here are a few nuggets I have picked up:
One veteran Washington watcher makes the point that while many foes of illegal immigration hate this bill, the longer the debate goes on, the worse it is for the GOP. The reasoning: The anti-amnesty, restrictionist wing of the party is now getting a huge media platform, and its vocal views may turn off Hispanic voters.
Indeed, the immigration bill could be a key factor in propelling a "Southwest strategy" for Democrats in 2008, where the party's White House hopeful will try to woo Hispanics in Colorado (site of the 2008 Democratic national convention) and New Mexico to win those swing states.
The analyst said the relationship of the GOP to immigration reminds him of a scene in the film Rocky, when champion Apollo Creed is watching film of contender Rocky Balboa beat up some lug. Creed's manager tells him that Rocky is "all wrong for you." And immigration, that analyst contends, is "all wrong for the GOP" as 2008 approaches.