Posted on October 31, 2013 · Posted in Frank Friday, P-cubed News

The federal budget dispute, which has dominated U.S. national news, has overshadowed other matters of national urgency for many months now. For instance, comprehensive immigration reform, one of President Obama’s top second-term priorities, has not been able to gain the necessary traction in Washington as partisan divisions over health care took center stage. However, in the last several days, immigration advocates have found unlikely allies in a coalition of business executives, prominent conservatives and evangelical leaders, who all want House Republicans to put immigration legislation on the floor before the end of this year.

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight,” introduced a Senate Immigration Bill, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” or S. 744. The group, which included Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), supported a bill that provides a broad proposal for immigration reform. Key issues that are included in the bill: border security; immigrant visas for the 11 million currently undocumented immigrants, including young people brought to the U.S. as children; nonimmigrant visas for skilled workers and less skilled workers; a more robust internal verification system, and jobs for low-income youth.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 16th, 2013, and passed on June 27, 2013. It now depends on the House Republicans to act on this important piece of legislation, but like many other issues immigration reform is also trapped in the partisan gridlock of Washington.

A new report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center entitled, Immigration Reform: Implications for Growth, Budget and Housing, shows that immigration reform would benefit the U.S. economy.  The report, which looked at issues like tax revenues, economic growth, and the impact of public spending, shows that over the long-run, immigration reform would help to increase the number of workers by over 4%, and generate new housing construction of $68 billion per year. In addition, the presence of new and younger workers and a bigger economy would help to reduce deficits by over $1 trillion over the next 20 years. In a letter accompanying the release of the report, the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center wrote, “Immigration reform would be a powerful instrument for economic revitalization…Fixing our broken immigration system will benefit the economy. It …demonstrates that how Congress crafts reform matters to the overall economic performance.”

The unusual coalition that has come together in the last few days to lobby the House to take up the matter of immigration reform for discussion includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Immigration Forum;, a Silicon Valley PAC; and the Partnership for a New American Economy, led by Mayor Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch and Bill Marriott, Jr. Business leaders are concerned that without comprehensive immigration reform that can help to bring talent and innovators to the country, the U.S. will lose its competitive edge in the global economy.

The Republicans, however, are divided over the Senate proposals. The sticking point is the fate of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Some conservative members like Representative Ted Yoho from Florida and Representative Steve King from Iowa fear that the support of any immigration bill would be used as a “Trojan Horse” and lead to a policy of amnesty for the illegal immigrants already in the country.

The time for serious discussions on immigration reform is now. At a minimum, Republican lawmakers need to demonstrate in good faith a willingness to discuss the wide range of proposals in the Senate bill. Both House Democrats and Republicans have to rise above the bitter partisanship that is now associated with politics in Washington in order to move forward on this critical issue.

Tell us where immigration reform is headed? What are the most critical issues that the House needs to consider? How does the immigration bill impact you? Share your thoughts and join the debate.

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