As President Barack Obama is sworn in for his second term on Monday, we should take a moment to celebrate the work we did to get to here, but also consider how our country must come together and achieve a common vision for our future.
Any conversation about achieving this vision should include the passage of commonsense immigration reform. On Election Day, we were clear about the direction we want this country to go. We sided with a platform that calls for good jobs and an economy that works for all, insists everybody pay their fair share, and calls for passing commonsense, accountable immigration reform.
Immigration reform is one leg of the stool for creating more good jobs. It would level the playing field for all workers by ensuring that unscrupulous employers cannot continue to take advantage of undocumented laborers, thereby raising the wage floor for all workers.
Immigration reform strikes at the heart of what's most important to the 2.1 million members of SEIU. It's about our shared value that if you work hard, and you play by the rules, then you deserve opportunity. It's about fixing our broken system and growing our economy in a way that benefits all of us. And while extreme, right-wing Republicans waste time obsessing over a costly border fence and attempting to politically capitalize on xenophobia, the majority of Americans have decided that a commonsense plan is the right approach. Overwhelmingly, Americans believe that reform must include earned legalization with a clear pathway to citizenship.
An overhaul of our immigration system that begins with legalization for the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States would provide a powerful boost to our economy. It would mean additional $1.5 trillion in cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) over the next ten years. Moreover, the same plan would generate nearly $5.4 billion in additional net federal tax revenue over the next three years -- adding to the $11.2 billion paid in state and local taxes by households headed by unauthorized immigrants in 2010 alone.
All of this, of course, against the backdrop of some $18 billion spent on immigration enforcement, (and that is just 2012) -- notably 24 percent more than spending for the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshal Service and the ATF, combined.
As we celebrate President Obama's inauguration, media, pundits, politicians and other leaders will offer suggested roadmaps for a second term. Whether the roadmap focuses on jobs, economic growth, tax fairness, income inequality or otherwise, ignoring the critical role that commonsense, accountable immigration reform can play is doing disservice to the future of this country. Passing commonsense immigration reform is not just about what is best for our economy and our country, but also about ensuring that every worker is respected, every worker is paid fair wages, and that every worker has a voice on the job.