Bringing Immigration Back

More recently, the news headlines have been dominated by two things: the government shutdown and the imminent crisis of the debt ceiling. But not today.

Today President Obama spoke to activists at the White House in an effort to bring the focus back to immigration reform. From the White House East Room, Obama spoke of the benefits of immigration – namely that it will help boost our nation’s economy, reduce the deficit, and immigration is an issue that tends to garner support from all sides of the political spectrum. Something that Democrats and Republicans can come together for. Mind blown. That’s some Inception shit right there.

While some might say that the immigrants are simply going to steal “American” jobs (aren’t we a country of immigrants anyway?), immigration reform will actually create more jobs for people as well as increase the overall level of wages. Let’s look at it this way: more immigrants equals more workers, and more workers leads to an increase in cumulative earnings, and when more money is spent based on those earnings, our economy is strengthened.

Immigration reform ended up being placed on the backburner over the summer as other issues arose. However, the President’s and the Senate’s agenda to pass an immigration bill is not sitting so well with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In June, the Senate actually passed a bill, but the House then not so surprisingly rejected it. The bill would have overhauled immigration laws for the first time since the 1980s, and addressed security at the Mexican border, required employers to verify the immigration status of their employees, and opened up the doors to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Because of this sweeping reform, the immigration bill would also serve as an outstanding achievement for the President in a second term where he has been criticized for inaction. While the Democrats in the Senate are calling for a large package that will greatly reform immigration in this country (and add to Obama’s already long list of historical and ambitious moves), Republicans would rather have immigration reform come in the series of a number of smaller bills.

However, some members of the GOP are seeing the importance of immigration reform and why it should be done – in the 2012 election, Hispanics widely voted with the Democrats, meaning that if Republicans want any of those votes, they might want to think about the importance of citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in this country (most of which happen to be Hispanic). For the Republicans, their efforts to stall the bill proposed in June were due to the increases in border security – essentially, some members of the House refuse to offer their support for a plan that would let those that have entered into the country illegally eventually gain citizenship.

In a recent Gallup poll conducted in July 2013, more Americans align with the Democratic Party regarding their views on immigration and immigration reform, particularly Hispanics and African Americans. And although some may be in denial about it, the minority races of this country are quickly making up the majority of our population. Change is coming, but I won’t say I told you so, GOP.

Earlier this month, the House introduced its own version of the immigration bill. The Democrats in the House wanted to push for an early proposal even in the midst of the government shutdown, recognizing that many Americans – while disapproving of Congress’ job – still believe that they need to take on the proper issues, one of those being immigration. The difference in the bill proposed in October is that it does not include additional security and fencing along our border with Mexico.

In today’s address, Obama made clear that the bill must be bipartisan, combining the values of both Democrats and Republicans so that Congress can pull together in a common effort to update the America’s immigration system. The President stated that he was all ears, and would listen to any additional ideas from any political party because he wants one thing: to move forward. To make change happen. The Obama we saw this morning was something akin to the younger and more auspicious version we witnessed in 2008 where he toted a slogan of change we need and change we can believe in. Yes we can, he told us. And now in late 2013, he’s telling us again. The bill would be highly beneficial for business and labor, but the President isn’t as hopeful as he was in 2008. He did express that it is unlikely that Congress will pass the legislation anytime soon.

And maybe that’s the bigger issue here. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Politics nowadays has turned into a battlefield, one in which American citizens tend to be the victims. Our legislators are more worried about keeping their place in office rather than doing what’s best for this country. They would rather adhere to the extremes of their party lines than come together and find any common ground. But Obama summed up why those on Capitol Hill are so slow to change: “This is Washington, after all.”

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