Last week, two House Republicans who had been trying to draft a comprehensive immigration package dropped out of bipartisan negotiations. In a joint statement, Texas Republican Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson said that they had “reached a tipping point” in the talks and “can no longer continue” working on a “broad approach” to a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.
Their leaving basically dismantled the so-called Gang of Seven bipartisan group in the House that has long struggled to draft legislation. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) dropped out in June and the only Republican member that remains is Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. The group worked on and off for four years to write a comprehensive reform bill, yet in the end, it produced no results.
Currently sitting in the House however, is the comprehensive bipartisan bill S. 744 which the Senate passed with overwhelming support in June of this year. Even as the House bipartisan group working on immigration could not reach a compromise, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the Judiciary committee pledged action on immigration reform legislation. Goodlatte said members of his committee were working on four separate bills in addition to four that the committee had already approved as well as a bill to give DREAMers “an earned path to citizenship”. The House Judiciary committee has already approved a bill on agricultural workers, another on high-skilled visas, a harsh interior enforcement bill, and a fourth to require employers to verify their workers’ legal status.
Although the House has yet to take concrete steps forward on immigration reform, a piecemeal approach could result in House approval of a series of bills that could lead to negotiations with the Senate on a compromise immigration reform bill. At the same time, Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Filemon Vela (D-TX) introduced their own comprehensive reform bill last Friday. “The House discussion on immigration reform hasn’t been an honest debate about good policy, it’s been a one-sided refusal to take the issue seriously,” Grijalva said in a news release. As the month of September comes to an end, GOP members are still struggling with a full agenda, from Obamacare, to the budget to debt .
Inaction however, is not an option.
Thousands of immigrants and their families marched this past weekend in Los Angeles demanding the House take action on immigration reform. The realities of the effect of inaction, the contributions of immigrants, the creativity of individuals and the heartfelt stories of families were on full display as they walked through the streets of Los Angeles uniting their faces, voices and hearts for immigration reform.
Since the last major overhaul of our immigration system in 1986, the federal government has spent an estimated $186.8 billion on immigration enforcement. This astronomical figure however, did not keep unauthorized immigrants out of the United States, nor did it persuade any immigrant already here to leave. We now have 11 million aspiring Americans living in our communities and contributing to our economy. Increased enforcement spending is a waste of our dollars.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, from 1998 to 2012, 5,570 migrants died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The loss of lives will continue if Congress fails to act. Furthermore, several studies confirm the economic benefits of immigration reform. As our country continues to grapple with a slow economy and high unemployment, the opportunities of bringing the smartest and the brightest, the entrepreneur sprit of immigrants and the tangible creation of more jobs are lost to a waiting game. The time is right and the time is now. It is time to put politics aside and pass a commonsense immigration process that keeps families together, reinforces the American entrepreneurial spirit and allows aspiring citizens to become fully integrated members of our communities.
As Rep Mario Diaz-Balart said: “This great nation doesn’t just need a solution to its broken immigration system. It deserves one.”
So let’s get moving.