Originally posted on Huffington Post
American voters chose to renew their contract with a President whose vision of economic vitality involves three distinct pillars — innovation, education and rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. Nearly two years ago, during his 2011 State of the Union address, Mr. Obama, speaking eloquently of this generation’s “Sputnik Moment,” recognized that immigration reform was key to this goal and declared he was “prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.”
By reelecting President Obama and, at the same time, retaining a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the American people — including a whopping 70-plus percent plus of Latino voters — have directed both parties to work together to implement Mr. Obama’s vision. The electorate spoke loud and clear Tuesday, ordering Washington to put aside partisan politics and overhaul America’s broken immigration system so that our families remain safe and together, our businesses regain their competitive edge in the global economy and due process is restored and protected. Amid the incessant post-election punditry and analysis one thing is crystal clear; the American people have demanded positive immigration solutions and an end to the anti-immigrant/Latino extremism that has polluted the immigration debate.
On Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner, sounding a conciliatory tone after the votes were counted, said that his party is “ready to be led.” The President should take him at his word and immediately invite the Republican leadership to sit down with him in an effort to forge a bipartisan overhaul of America’s broken immigration system.
To be sure, there is plenty of common ground to work with. Last spring Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) showed bipartisan leadership by introducing the Startup Act 2.0, legislation designed to boost the American economy by creating incentives for entrepreneurs to start new business. And there is much more both parties can agree on such as green cards for foreign students who’ve graduated from American universities with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees; raising the arbitrary caps on visas for highly skilled immigrants; making the temporary visa system more business-friendly; building a functional temporary agricultural and seasonal workers program; and getting rid of the red tape that delays visa issuance.
These commonsense solutions will boost America’s economic recovery and, at the same time, attract the best and the brightest to America’s shores. What’s more, these ideas are a win-win for both political parties because they recognize what the credible studies have told us for years — that creating incentives for high skilled immigrants is the key to America’s economic growth, job creation, and long-term economic vitality.
But for immigration reform to be comprehensive and sustainable the Republican party must recognize and respect that the American people have flatly rejected the appalling and divisive positions of the fringe anti-immigrant restrictionists. The voters refused to be swayed by the politics of fear, including the heartless, self-destructive policy of “self-deportation” for the 12 million undocumented mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who toil in America’s shadows. In fact, quite to the contrary, CNN’s exit polling showed that 65 percent of voters want to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to earned citizenship.
And there are hopeful signs that the Republicans may be taking notice — albeit slowly. Wednesday night Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the GOP has a “demographic problem,” and it comes down to immigration reform. He lamented that his party is going in the “wrong direction” and said that if Mitt Romney had received 40 percent of the Latino vote the former GOP candidate would now be President-elect. Significantly, Graham appeared to acknowledge that the only way for the GOP to regain its footing with Latino voters is by supporting a humane resolution (i.e. a pathway to lawful immigration status and eventual citizenship) for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Americans — liberal, moderate, and conservative — overwhelmingly support a commonsense approach to immigration. This is consistent with scores of other studies conducted by pollsters over the years. American voters long for a modernized immigration system that will create jobs for American workers, protect American families and restore due process and fairness.
Thankfully, the 2012 election is history. Now it’s time for President Obama reach across the aisle and get to the difficult task of fixing America’s broken immigration system.