Immigration Reform Back On Track

News came out recently that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has teamed up with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on the matter of immigration reform. According to an article from The Politico, efforts at forming alliances with unlikely allies, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), are supposedly underway.

Given the changed landscape in the present Congress, these developments augur well for a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. Other events of note include Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) failed bid for Chairmanship of the Immigration subcommittee in the House. Representative King was a known immigration hardliner but he lost out to the less controversial Rep. Elton Gallegly of California.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) also allegedly made a comment that could mean that he’s ready to revisit immigration reform.

Immigration reform continues to be a priority for President Obama. In his 2011 State of the Union address, he expressed his readiness to proceed with immigration reform and called on Congress to do the same. He also remarked that this country should stop deporting young talented people who could enrich the nation.

Immigration reform, he said, is needed for our economic recovery. Indeed, twelve million newly-documented immigrants could do this country a great deal economically.

Many studies have discussed immigration’s economic implications. The Center for American Progress, for example, found that a mass deportation strategy would cost $2.6 trillion in gross domestic product over the next ten years, while CIR would lead to a $1.5 trillion economic growth. A temporary worker program could raise the GDP by $792 billion, according to the study. The research group believes that CIR will raise the wage floor for all workers, produce more income and spending by newly-legalized immigrants, and result in more tax revenue for the government.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) introduced a bill called Reform America’s Broken Immigration System Act. The bill calls on Congress to pass legislation which supports national and economic security, such as the DREAM Act and AgJobs, and aims to implement a “rational legal immigration system to ensure that the best and brightest minds of the world can come to the U.S. and create jobs for Americans while, at the same time, safeguarding the rights and wages of American workers”.

Senator Reid’s bill would require all U.S. workers to obtain identification and impose tougher penalties on employers found violating labor and immigration laws. It also proposes that those who are here illegally be held accountable by requiring them to earn legal status through a series of penalties, sanctions and requirements, or else they will face immediate deportation.

The senator said in an interview that the prospects of his proposal in the 112th Congress are good. His optimism may be buttressed by support from organized labor and business groups, both of which understand that something needs to be done with the country’s broken immigration system.

Even former House Speaker and rumored presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has joined in on the call for immigration overhaul. In an attempt to reach out to the Hispanic community, he said at a forum late last year that although he is not for amnesty, he is for applying “common sense to the immigration debacle”.

Politicians are aware that Hispanics are the fastest growing group of American voters. Republicans and Democrats alike will continue to woo them by promising immigration reform.
However, CIR is an issue that touches upon all immigrants’ lives and cuts across racial lines. The President has made clear in his address that his administration is committed to passing immigration reform on his watch. We should likewise remain hopeful and do what we can to support immigration reform.