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Conventional Wisdom Watch: Why Immigration Reform's Obituary is Premature

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Immigration Reform Makes More Sense Today than Yesterday: It Solves a Problem, Creates More Taxpayers and Reduces Cost, Restores Rule of Law

Washington, D.C. – For months, some pundits in Washington have been itching to write the obituary for comprehensive immigration reform.  Predictably, they’re using last night’s special election in Massachusetts as a chance to dust off their drafts.  But here’s why these pundits—and conventional wisdom—are wrong when it comes to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.

As the results in Massachusetts demonstrate, Americans remain angry and frustrated at the status quo.  They want real action on real issues that will benefit the average hardworking American.  They want our politicians to focus on solving problems not scoring political points.  They want jobs created, our economy restored, and fairness in the tax system.  When it comes to immigration reform, every ingredient is available for a solution that works for America: a bi-partisan solution that has support across all party lines; a requirement for those here illegally to get legal, pay taxes, pay a fine and get to the back of the immigration line. 

Voters will not be satisfied if yet another problem is ignored, another can is kicked down the road.  The cost of delay is enormous: more illegality, less rule of law.  More and bigger budgets to pay for feckless deportations.  And more and more exploitation by unscrupulous employers, which only drives down wages for all workers in America.

“Immigration reform is a rare issue that solves a problem all Americans believe is real — with lasting benefits to every American, not just undocumented immigrants,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “If our political leaders can’t find common ground with an issue that creates more taxpayers, generates more revenue, improves the rule of law and decreases illegal immigration, then heaven help the nation.  Comprehensive reform of our immigration system is a common sense approach that will help our economy and help the American people get back on their feet again.”

Not only is the need for comprehensive immigration reform just as pressing today as it was yesterday, but the politics of the issue have not changed following the Massachusetts election.  Democrats still need to show they can solve tough problems like illegal immigration; Republicans still need to show that they can engage in an immigration debate without demonizing Latinos or sacrificing progress and common sense to impress their base.

“The obituaries for immigration reform have been prematurely written before, but the facts that make reforming the immigration system imperative are alive and well,” said Sharry.  “The economy needs it, the American people want it, and the times demand it.  Congress should take a bipartisan approach to fixing a system that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle agree is broken.”

Immigration reform can be done, should be done, and must be done this year.  Here’s why:

1)    The American people are tired of politicians complaining about issues like the broken immigration system but solving nothing.  Broad majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support comprehensive immigration reform that requires undocumented immigrants to get right with the law, instead of a mass deportation or enforcement-only approach.  We can think of no other issue in recent history where conventional wisdom has been so out of line with the facts, and politicians continue to misread the American people on this issue at their own peril.

2)    Fixing the broken immigration system is part of fixing the U.S. economy, because we can’t restore fairness to the system on a shaky foundation.  Comprehensive immigration reform will add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy, drive up wages for all workers, and support nearly a million jobs.  It is crucial to stabilizing key industries, and reducing the race to the bottom that favors unscrupulous employers over honest competitors and workers.

3)    Immigration reform was always going to be a bipartisan effort.  Unlike other issues like health care, the coalition to enact comprehensive immigration reform has always been bipartisan in nature, and the bill was always going to require support from both Democrats and Republicans to become law.  That is why Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) reached out to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to work on a bipartisan approach from the beginning.  The Massachusetts election does not change that reality one iota.

4)    Latino and other immigrant voters want action, and they want action now.  The President and Democratic leaders promised action on comprehensive immigration reform during their campaigns, and Latino and other voters intend to hold politicians accountable to their campaign promises.  Republican leaders also need to rehabilitate their Party’s image with Latino voters in order to be viable in upcoming House and Senate races and future Presidential contests.

While pundits in Washington continue their “cynicism as usual” approach to analyzing the election results, we hope the broader message of the Massachusetts election will ring out: American voters expect action and accountability on tough issues.

“Immigration reform is an American problem that requires bipartisan leadership and represents a real opportunity for the parties to prove that they can work together, build solutions, and deliver for the American people,” Sharry said. “Rather than the cynicism exhibited by so many pundits and politicians in Washington, Americans clearly want politicians to deliver real change.  Ironically, given its bipartisan past and potential for a bipartisan future, comprehensive immigration reform stands a greater chance of enactment than other Democratic priorities, so long as Democratic leaders lead and Republican leaders set aside partisanship for policymaking.”

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America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.