Congress must pass timely, mass immigration reform
After exit polls in the 2012 presidential election showed President Barack Obama winning 71 percent of the Hispanic vote over Gov. Mitt Romney, some Republican leaders are finally broaching the subject of immigration reform with proposals that could garner bipartisan support. If progress is to be made, immigration reform must come in a broad package in order to avoid letting the issue be put on the backburner like it was in 2006 and 2007.
The “Gang of Eight,” a group of four Democratic and four Republican senators, recently unveiled its comprehensive plan to reform the immigration system. Although it faces a treacherous road in the nation’s increasingly partisan capital, the plan features reform efforts that could please both parties.
The proposal would first work on securing the borders. The “Gang of Eight” also intends to create a better system to prevent people from overstaying their visas. Perhaps the most controversial part of the proposal, and the part that is likely going to have trouble getting through a Republican-controlled House, would allow undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pay a fine and then be allowed to work in the U.S. without the risk of deportation. These workers would still have to apply for citizenship and would essentially be at the back of the line in the waiting process, but this is a step in the right direction.
Reform advocates are hopeful that the support of influential GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will be able to push a comprehensive bill through both houses, though already divisions within parties are already visible.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he wants to break immigration reform into a series of small bills. Perhaps in an ideal world Cantor’s idea would work — each section could be focused on and debated separately and, theoretically, the result would be solid immigration reform. Unfortunately, anyone who follows politics or who hasn’t lived in a hole for the last 237 years knows that Washington is pretty far removed from an ideal world.
If immigration reform was broken into separate pieces, the first bill to get passed into law would inevitably deal with securing our borders. It’s the least controversial approach supported by the president and GOP leaders, but Democrats in the Senate might try to block such a bill, fearing that they would lose their bargaining chip if legislation that secures our borders were passed without other immigration reform.
The feeling in Washington and from the president is that it’s time to pass immigration reform, but the window of opportunity is a narrow one. In 2014, members of Congress will be up for election again and will likely try to avoid acting on any controversial legislation.
Breaking up immigration reform would be too slow, too unpredictable and likely to result in more deadlock. Immigration reform needs to be passed in a comprehensive bill to fix a clearly broken system that hasn’t seen major changes since 1986. Risking further political divisiveness with small bills to change the immigration system would truly be an injustice to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today.
—Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.