"I think it's absolutely going to end, but I think it's going to take a while," Gomez told students and faculty at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
Now that the United States and Cuba have diplomatic relations, it's "harder and harder to justify specialized treatment" of Cuban migrants, said Gomez, who spoke at Flagler College as part of the Forum on Government and Public Policy.
"There's a lot of push" to change the law, Gomez said, but he doesn't expect anything to happen for at least a year for several reasons, including the fact that the current Congress is "verifiably one of the least productive in history." (For more on the debate over the immigration law, see "Investigating the Cuban Adjustment Act").
Gomez said he expects immigration to continue to dominate the 2016 election. One thing everyone agrees on - whether they are to the left or right - "is the idea that the federal immigration system is a disaster," he said.
- April 23, 2010: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, also known as Arizona SB 1070. Arizona had some 400,000 illegal immigrants in the state at the time and this was the governor's attempt to stop the northbound flow of migrants, something the federal government had failed to do. Other states followed with copycat legislation of their own.
- Nov. 4, 2012: President Obama won re-election. The election had turned into a race where candidates pushed to see who would be toughest on immigration. Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he favored "self deportation." He said:"The answer is self-deportation...people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here." Such comments destroyed Romney's popularity among Hispanics. He wound up getting only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the worst for a Republican presidential candidate in decades.
- June 27, 2013: Republicans saw they were increasingly unpopular among Hispanics. Four Republican senators and four Democratic senators got together and created a sweeping immigration reform bill. It would have required all employers to use E-Verify, used to ensure workers are documented. It also called for $38 billion in funding for border security. The bill passed in the Senate, but was shot down in the House. Anti-immigration activists grew even more frustrated.
With that as a backdrop, Donald Trump joined the 2016 presidential race, accused Mexico of sending criminals and rapists to the United States and suggested an end to birthright citizenship.
Gomez said Trump has pushed the other candidates to the right on immigration issues. For instance, candidate Ben Carson has said he wouldn't rule out military drone strikes as a way to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the southern border. The 2012 debate "seems quaint" by comparison, Gomez said.