These days, there are daily advancements on the road to the realization of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). President Obama campaigned on it. The House of Representatives needs it. The Senate has a bipartisan Gang of Eight working on it. It appears that all parties are ready and set to cross that finish line.
Yet, audible in all of this positive and productive activity on CIR are the disruptive, unproductive, and familiar voices of restrictionists such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) – the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) member of Immigration Reform Caucus, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Smith is responsible for the 3 and 10 year bars which he pushed into law by championing the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). These 3/10 year bars have resulted in a mass of undocumented individuals who are essentially stuck in the United States, massive spending by our federal government, and immeasurable grief and heartache for families all over our country.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) appears to be unable to comprehend the urgent need for CIR by stating: “Republicans will never win Latino voters in any case, because they are government-dependent and will always vote Democratic as a result: They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.” Use of such language is beneath the office which he holds in trust.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to the framework by his Senate colleagues, saying the guidelines “contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to undocumented immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country.” Mr. Lee’s statement is just factually untrue.
Regrettably, Senate history is littered with the unsuccessful efforts of “gangs” charged with solving the many issues facing our country. Remember the Gang of Six working on the debt ceiling? Or the other Gang of Six on healthcare? How about the Gang of 14, regarding the filibuster? We need to be vigilant and vocal by reminding everyone that we need CIR because it is good for America, not because it may or may not favor any particular party.
Let us not erect new barriers in the form of astronomical fees, unconscionable wait times or impractical procedures as a price for CIR. If the road to legalization becomes an obstacle course, it will ultimately result in people not coming out of the shadows. Let us stay true to the spirit of real, comprehensive, bipartisan reform so we don’t have to do this again.
Written by Ally Bolour, AILA Media Advocacy Committee Member