Never too soon for bipartisan border reform
With elections over and ballots (somewhat) counted, most of us are taking a breather from anything remotely political and getting ready to enjoy the holidays. Others are keeping an eye on the too-close-to-call races while early and provisional ballots are verified and counted throughout the coming days.
Yet some are jumping straight back into the fray. Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham are among those ready to return to policy-making with their proposals for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.
According to an AP report, Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, have restarted talks with each other after abandoning the effort two years ago over an immigration reform proposal to take to Congress next year.
Both acknowledge that a path to citizenship would be part of the solution to long-term reform, albeit with some strings attached, like paying a fine for entering the country illegally and getting background checks.
There are other proposals, like increased border security, that are less realistic without addressing related issues like the demand for illegal substances in the United States.
But the senators are taking a step in the right direction by approaching the issue in a bilateral manner and agreeing to discuss the matter with each other, rather than preaching to their own choirs, as has been the hallmark of the last two years of Congress.
This is an opportune time to address comprehensive immigration reform. With Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s number one priority missed (to make President Barack Obama a one-term president), he and other senators and representatives can turn their focus on to issues that matter, like Graham has.
Even though the economy and education lead among issues most important to the Hispanic community in the United States, immigration is bound to grow along with the population.
Hispanics make up 16 percent of the American population. In Arizona the number is even higher, at 30 percent.
Additionally, the country has already seen beginning steps, albeit slow, to taking on immigration reform as a whole. In 2010, the DREAM Act, legislation to provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents, came as close as ever to passing in Congress.
And this year Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing DREAM Act-eligible students two-year work permits, given certain qualifications such as having arrived in the United States before turning 16.
With his re-election, Obama may well extend the deferred action program through the end of his second term. It is also a chance for him to sincerely address immigration reform, which he failed to do during his first tenure.
Despite all the rhetoric, immigration reform seems to have some common ground among citizens, according to an AP exit poll from Election Day.
According to the poll, more than 65 percent supported a path to legal status. Even half of all Republicans supported this approach.
Only about 30 percent of those polled favored mass deportation, indicating a populace much less divided than the 538 members of Congress.
Senators and representatives should reflect the wishes of the people they are elected to represent. Schumer and Graham are taking the first steps to follow that.
If 65 percent of the people support a legal path to citizenship for immigrants, then 65 percent of Congress should abide by that and take a serious approach to long-term immigration reform.