Friday, January 18, 2013

Porque Reforma Es Necesario

Earlier this week, we noted the renewed push for comprehensive immigration reform. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) talked to The Sun's Tovin Lapan about what he expects in a comprehensive immigration reform bill. After all, he runs the Senate floor.

“There will be nothing done in my Senate (on immigration reform) without a pathway to citizenship,” he said. [...]

“We have spent a huge amount of money on border security, and both our northern and southern borders are more secure,” Reid said. “Frankly, Mexico is doing much better economically, and that has helped the issue a lot. We can’t build a fence of 3,000 miles because no matter how high we build it, they can build a ladder taller than that fence. So I think we have about expended our energy on border security.”

Reid said immigration reform was one of his top two issues for this session. Currently, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are working on a bipartisan proposal they hope to unveil by the end of this month.

“People will have to move to the back of line. They would have to pay some penalties and fines, and they have to work, stay out of trouble and work on speaking English,” said Reid, offering general principles for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal residency. “That would bring people out of the shadows and really help everybody. It would be good for family reunification.”

Reid, who credits his 2010 re-election to Hispanic support, said he had no issue with E-Verify, the federal system for employers to check the immigration status of job applicants, but that it would have to be used much more widely to be effective.

“We have to make the employer sanctions not a Catch-22,” he said. “No one can do it right. If you are an employer, you have trouble, and if you are an employee, you have trouble. So these are some of the things we need to work on that are totally doable if there is a will. That’s why I hope McCain sticks with it, because it will be a great legacy for him.”

We've seen the results of the current broken system. The federal government keeps spending more and more on "border security". Yet the system remains broken.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the federal government spent more on immigration enforcement —$18 billion —than on every other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. The spending on Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection dwarfs the combined $14.4 billion spent on the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service.

The U.S. has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement since President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 —which first made it illegal for employers to hire undocumented workers along with strengthening U.S. border security. Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. now spends 15 times as much on immigration enforcement as it did in the mid-1980s. And the number of deportations and immigration-related prosecutions has also jumped along with the increased spending[...]

But the high costs and increasing number of deportations continue to show exactly why Congress needs to address comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. With comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship, the U.S. would see a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product —the largest measure of economic growth —over 10 years in addition to $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over just three years if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were legalized.

This is why Senator Reid and President Obama continue to insist on truly comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. It simply makes economic sense. And yes, it makes security sense.

And for a growing number of Republicans, it's finally making political sense. Perhaps most don't want to admit it, but they've also been stung by Colin Powell's cogent condemnation of their recent "minority outreach". Keep in mind that Powell was George W. Bush's first Secretary of State.

Any wonder why Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) has changed his tune on immigration over the past year? And he's not alone. Some prominent Republicans are even vowing to put their money where their mouths are on immigration reform.

On Thursday, [Former Commerce Secretary Carlos] Gutierrez held a press conference in Washington, D.C., with a group of leading business, religious, and law enforcement officials announcing a combined effort to pressure lawmakers into backing immigration reform.

“Business, badges, and bibles,” Gutierrez told reporters. “I think all three of those groups could have done more in 2007.”

The leaders who were gathered at the event took care to stress that they expected both parties to do their part and for the White House to keep guns and budget fights from delaying reform. But lest there be any confusion over the intended audience for their own campaign, the organizers provided a nine-page packet of recent quotes from exclusively conservative politicians, activists, and pundits — everyone from Rep. Paul Ryan to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade — expressing support for reforming immigration laws.

Gutierrez is doing more than just speaking out on the issue. He’s creating a super PAC dedicated to supporting Republican politicians willing to back a bill legalizing undocumented immigrants and reforming the immigration system. This is especially important in the House, where Republicans have been quieter on the topic, individual members are more insulated from the Latino voting bloc, and leadership has a weak hold over its caucus.

“We’re going to do something that hasn’t been done in the past: we’re going to put money behind the problem,” Gutierrez said, adding his organization will “give cover to people to come out and admit they are for immigration reform.”

Gutierrez said his fellow organizers haven’t decided whether their super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, might be used on offense to target anti-immigration politicians in primaries as well.

As we've noted before, Republicans' "TEA" powered base still refuse to even consider comprehensive reform. It remains to be seen how pro-reform Republicanos try to work around and past "tea party" opposition to virtually anything and everything that isn't further militarization of the border & mass deportations.

Yet despite this, there finally seems to be a convergence on matters of immigration reform. For the first time in decades, we're seeing a critical mass coalesce behind comprehensive immigration reform. The broad majority of Americans support comprehensive reform. Economic & fiscal concerns demand reform. Both Harry Reid and Barack Obama won their last (respective) campaigns on the promise of delivering reform. And now, we're seeing at least some Republicans recognize the new political reality by demanding reform.

So will it happen? Or is this the better question: Who can afford for it not to happen?

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