In the wake of news that a large bipartisan majority of Americans support smart, accountable immigration reform, there seems to be some real movement in Washington to getting reform actually done. It seems that now that the people are leading, our leaders are following.
After years of stalemate, events are moving quickly, already revealing several major developments early this week.
First, just on Monday, a group of eight United States Senators revealed a bipartisan immigration plan to reform our broken immigration system. Some of the principles outlined are far from perfect, including a fair amount of magical thinking about the effectiveness of throwing more money and technology at border security. And the proposal is far from fully formed, with actual legislative language yet to come. But what’s surprising and momentous about the proposal is the fact that several conservative Republicans have committed in writing and in public to allowing immigrants an earned path to citizenship, a central tenet that’s necessary to real reform. It’s a good sign that serious legislating might be afoot.
Not to be outdone, President Obama countered – or, if you prefer, complemented – this Senate plan on Tuesday with a speech and set of principles of his own.
The very first passage of the White House’s fact sheet sets the tone:
America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.
It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.
And it gets better from there:
It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.
We’ve heard President Obama say the right things before. We’ve even heard his usual opposition in Congress say many of the right things before, too, though admittedly not lately.
What’s important and different this time is the palpable sense that something seems to be happening – that public mood and public moment seem to be in sync.
The specifics of this plan are going to be important. We know that there are many politicians who’d prefer a plan that’s designed to punish immigrants and—in the words of Mitt Romney—“encourage them to ‘self-deport’.” We know that many politicians are fine with simply doing nothing at all about this vital issue. And we know that both types of politicians will be weighing in.
So it’s up to us—all of us—to speak out and make sure that we do not miss this opportunity to deliver real change to a broken system.
We know that Long Islanders support smart immigration reform.We hope politicians get the message.