By Mary Kate Cary |
The bipartisan Senate framework for an immigration overhaul signals a dramatic change in the politics of and prospects for immigration reform. With eight heavy-hitters signing on to an agreement that will pave a road to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, the question is no longer if but how quickly the Senate will act. And with the president launching his push for immigration reform today in Nevada, the gathering momentum is tangible.
November 6 was plainly a game changer for this issue. Statements by Republican elected officials and commentators in the immediate aftermath of the election reflected awareness that passing immigration reform has become an existential imperative for the party. Immigrant bashing and nativism have no business in 21st century American politics and the one concrete way that the Republican Party can move beyond the ugly rhetoric of the far right is to embrace sensible (and humane) immigration policies.
Poll after poll show that more than two thirds of Americans support the type of reform reflected in the senators' framework. The reason is obvious: Americans are idealists but not ideologues and they recognize that it is in our collective self-interest to achieve a pragmatic policy solution to what has been a vexing political problem. Americans reject the notion of a second class of citizens but they want to be sure everyone has earned the privilege of citizenship. They want a secure border, but they also want a level playing field for all workers and employers.
Of course, a framework of principles is only the first step. It includes a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, an amplified version of employment verification that takes into account due process, and a recognition of the need for both high- and low-skilled immigrants, all while acknowledging the need to protect the rights of American workers. But questions remain: Will, for example, the border security benchmarks that precede legalization prove impossible to meet, creating a pathway to citizenship in name only? Will LGBT families be included in the final legislation? Nonetheless, in conjunction with the president's push and strong signals of bipartisanship on the House side, this is an important first step on the road to reform that serves America's best interests and highest values.
About Marshall Fitz Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress
Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA
Darrell West Director Governance Studies at Brookings Institution
Mark Krikorian Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies
Rosemary Jenks Director of Government Relations at NumbersUSA