Political column: It’s time for immigration reform
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
In June, the Senate passed a major immigration reform bill for the first time in almost 30 years. Since the initial passage in the upper house, the effort has largely stalled, mainly due to the August recess, the Syrian conflict and the government shutdown. With the Affordable Care Act implementation in a state of quagmire and a rise in partisan attacks, the president—looking to change the national dialogue—is turning again toward immigration reform.
The current state of immigration in the United States can be described as subpar at best. There are approximately 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing within our borders. Enforcement has been on the rise with a record high of about 400,000 deportations in the last few years. However, the population still remains the same, meaning the United States is at a standstill.
The Senate bill passed this summer looks to amend some of the current problems with our system. It attempts to provide an easier path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Among other requirements, the bill will help grant citizenship to illegal aliens if they are not criminals, are willing to pay a fine and have maintained constant residency since 2011.
Even before those qualifications are met, 700 miles of new fencing must be installed, the number of border agents must be doubled and a new tracking system for those entering and leaving the country must be established for the path to citizenship to be effective.
Supporters of the bill include the president, many Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Many House Republicans do not favor the passage of such legislation without more conservative elements being added. As of now, it has not even been brought to the House floor for a vote, and it likely will not happen before the end of the year.
From a political perspective, the passage of this bill can be critical to the Republican brand. Hispanics make up one of the largest voting blocs in our country in the coming years, and their support is critical to winning elections. In 2012, the President won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, meaning Republicans are missing out and will continue to miss out on a substantial share of the electorate should they do nothing else to gain Hispanic support.
The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that offers spending estimates on most bills, made a report that outlined the fiscal benefits of the reform bill. According to the CBO, there will be an increase in the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and 5.4 percent in the 10 years following that. The reform bill also appeals to deficit hawks by helping lower the deficit $200 billion in its first 10 years, followed by another $700 billion the next 10 years.
There are approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in our country now. It is foolish to assume they can all either instantly become legal citizens or instantly be deported. These are real people with lives and families of their own searching desperately for prosperity. Regardless of the political or fiscal effects of the immigration system of our country, there needs to be something done to help 12 million people get out of a state of legal limbo.