“Now is the time,” President Obama iterated in his State of the Union address. Immigration reform is coming. A vast majority of the American public, about seven in 10, supports a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, according to a Gallup poll.
The naysayers have lambasted the proposed reform, calling it amnesty. They say that allowing the undocumented population to eventually become citizens would essentially be rewarding criminals. They also point to Ronald Reagan’s Immigration and Reform Act of 1986, which legalized some three million undocumented immigrants at the time, as a major example of why the new proposal wouldn’t work.
Well they’re missing the big picture.
When our elected officials talk about comprehensive immigration reform, they really do mean comprehensive. The 1986 act was like trying to use a bandaid to stop a hemorrhage. The main crux of the bill was just to grant a pathway to citizenship for the existing three million or so undocumented immigrants, without trying to address the underlying root of the issue.
It’s very different this time.
While the reform of nearly 30 years ago and today both share common aspects, including legalization for the undocumented, strengthening of the existing borders, and preventing employers from hiring unauthorized workers, a lot has changed in three decades. Technology has progressed leaps and bounds, and more importantly, more attention now has been paid to our borders than by previous administrations.
Despite the claims of some immigration reform opponents, our borders now are as secure as they’ve ever been. We have more Border Patrol agents than ever, more fencing, more ICE detentions, and more money spent on border control. All while President Obama has been deporting people at a rate faster than his predecessor President Bush ever did. Net immigration from Mexico has dropped to zero since 2007.
In addition to creating a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented already in the country, the proposed framework will also streamline the existing immigration system top to bottom in order to ensure that the hardest working and brightest from around the world will have an opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Quite simply, this time immigration reform will truly be comprehensive.