Immigration for a torn nation
Leading the way on immigration reform
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 22:01
We need to repair a broken system and now is the time.
A day after a bipartisan group of senators released a plan for immigration reform, President Barack Obama spoke in Las Vegas on his own terms. His plan is founded upon three main pillars: reforming the legal immigration system, providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million current undocumented immigrants and improving the enforcement of immigration laws.
The compromise would also strengthen border controls, crack down on undocumented workers and provide provisional status to work and live in the United States. If accomplished, it could reunite families, provide visas and, after they make it to the front of the line, give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
A cause for concern, however, is the similarity of many aspects in the plan to those in previous immigration reform efforts. Major immigration reform has been attempted for over 25 years, though, and failed each time beginning with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The last major debate on the issue died on the Senate floor in 2007. Most previous attempts have focused on improving border security above all else, although illegal border crossings have dropped 80 percent since their peak in 2000 due to increased patrols.
An issue of this magnitude calls for a combination of several goals, all of which have been mentioned so far in this new plan.
Does a country in trillions of dollars in debt have more or less to lose? According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis from 2007, legalizing undocumented immigrants would raise federal revenue by $48 billion and cost only $23 billion in public services. Most economists will argue immigrants with a minimum of a high school diploma increase overall wages, and a study by the American Enterprise Institute shows immigrants with advanced degrees boost employment for U.S. natives.
Immigration reform will not be easy, and it will not necessarily work. After all, despite the plan being a bipartisan effort, the issue is still hot and controversial among the country’s major parties. It leaves the debate fierce and polarized with much of the heat coming from the Republican Party.
While there is a stress for quick action, everybody behind the reform realizes criticism will make reaching a consensus incredibly difficult. But it is important we are at least taking this step, especially at the beginning of the president’s second term. And lest the GOP forget that while its cries for immigration reform have often been the loudest, the party walked away with only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the last election. Party members can only protest so much.
Obama faced much criticism from Latino voters during his re-election campaign. These critics said not enough was done to tackle the immigration issues. He’s been granted a second chance – and a very large one at that. It’s fair to be optimistic this time around. The president needs to continue to push us in the right direction and end the immigration disarray.