Target: The “Gang of 8” Senators proposing immigration reform: Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Goal: Ensure the policymakers who have written immigration reform move forward on their proposal, do not cave to hardline right wing extremists, and pass comprehensive immigration reform
After the 2012 election, the country was propelled into discussion of comprehensive immigration reform. With Mitt Romney losing an overwhelming amount of the Hispanic and Asian vote, Republicans felt the urgency of addressing this issue that has long remained broken and inert. With 11 million people living and working in the United States without proper documents, the importance of immigration reform cannot be overstated.
President Obama gave a speech on the topic at the end of January 2013, calling for comprehensive reform. The plan outlined on the White House website contains four major components, including strengthening border security; cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers; earned citizenship; and streamlining legal immigration. A bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” presented their plan after The President’s speech, which also offers a path to earned citizenship. Although bipartisan attempts at a path to citizenship are not novel, this time around there is a more expansive and diverse coalition backing the measure.
The weekend following the State of the Union in February, in which President Obama also called for immigration reform, a copy of the White House’s draft immigration proposal was leaked. Predictably, republicans like Marco Rubio with political gains to be made by publicly defying the President rebuffed the plan. Rubio, who has been anointed “The Republican Savior” by TIME Magazine, issued a statement saying that if the president’s eventual proposal follows the draft described in the leak, it “would be dead on arrival in Congress.” This dramatic and reflexive statement comes despite the fact that the leaked draft was just that: a draft. President Obama called the lack of CIR “the biggest regret” of his first term, and he is likely trying to send a message to the legislative branch that he does not want CIR to become another legacy of a “do-nothing” Congress.
Republican complaints with the draft do speak to a central caveat of the bill yet to be fleshed out: whether undocumented immigrants would have to wait to begin acquiring citizenship until the U.S. border with Mexico is secure. The Senate bipartisan plan makes a pathway to citizenship conditional on border security first, while Obama’s immigration proposals do not. However, it is incredibly difficult to explicitly define how secure the border really is. President Obama has followed through with almost all of the border security that the Bush administration had requested. Violent crime in border cities has also dropped steadily in recent years.
The true triumph of immigration reform isn’t contingent on first “securing the border.” What must be accomplished first is a system that ensures the legal status of workers, with a regulated supply of migrants and strident penalties for employers who violate the law. The President is determined to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform this year, and has said he will hold Congress to a deadline. Urge Congress to remain steadfast on progressive immigration reform.
Dear “Gang of 8” Senators,
American policymakers have a historic opportunity to answer for the mistakes and inertia of the past. The only remaining barrier is the skepticism of politicians, who cower to xenophobia and grandstand for political gamesmanship. As evidenced by the results of the 2012 election, immigration reform is not only politically practical and economically logical; it is a reflection of our ideals as a country. Almost every American can trace his or her roots back to an immigration story, and it is high time we value today’s newcomers with the same pride and respect as the men and women who sacrificed so much to leave their homes and build this great nation.
Please remain steadfast in your commitment to passing this legislation. We understand the difficulties that have arisen in the past, and that continue to make immigration reform a challenge. We are confident that your bipartisan coalition will signal to Congress and the American people the objective importance of dealing with this issue. Please continue to work together toward a humane and reasonable immigration system, and stand up to the vocal minority that is trying to sabotage your efforts. You are on the right side of history, and you will be remembered for your courage.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jonathon McIntosh via Creative Commons 2.5