Growing Support Proves the Time Is Now for a Path to Citizenship
The daily headlines in major newspapers and broadcast networks tell the story of why commonsense immigration reform has gained momentum on Capitol Hill.
"Immigration's latest ally: Christian Right," is the headline in today's Politico. "Odd Fellows' Work Together On Overhauling Immigration," National Public Radio said in its recent joint interview with "odd fellows," SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior V.P. Randall Johnson. "How the Politics of Immigration Reform Have Changed," writes the Brookings Institution's governmental studies scholar Darrell West in the Huffington Post.
The are several reasons why the 2013 immigration debate is far different from those of past years. The main one -- politics -- became obvious the night of Nov. 6, when Latino voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his talk of "self-deportation" of undocumented immigrants. Casting broad influence over the outcomes of election in key races, the Latino vote proved lawmakers cannot ignore the changing demographics across the U.S. and in many congressional districts.
Second, the business community is working for immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million who are currently undocumented because it is good for the economy and it is good for business. Businesses can grow stronger and more profitable when their entrepreneurs and employees don't have to fear expirations of scarce visas or deportation.
As headlines suggest, the faith community also sees immigration reform as a moral imperative. Mathew Staver of the conservative, faith-based Liberty Counsel wrote in the Washington Times, "my own contemplation has led me to conclude that we must unite behind an immigration process that is fair, that respects every human being's God-given dignity, that protects the unity of our families and that preserves our standing as the world's standard-bearer for freedom."
Not lost in the discussion is the fact -- supported by public, bipartisan polling -- that voters are demanding a long-term fix to the broken immigration system that includes a pathway to citizenship. The recent bipartisan poll showed a solid 77 percent of voters favoring a full package of immigration reforms that includes a pathway citizenship, regardless of party affiliation, ethnic background, or region of country. Among Evangelical voters, 83 percent supported commonsense reform; among Mainline Protestants, the approval rate was 80 percent; Catholics backed the plan by 77 percent.
Voters also want Congress to act and said they would support politicians who lean into this issue and back a fair and permanent solution. Fully 53 percent of those polled (including 53% of Republicans) said they would be more likely to vote for their member of Congress if he or she votes for the plan, only 8 percent of all voters (and 8 percent of Republicans) said they would be less likely to back the representative. One-third said the Member's vote on immigration reform wouldn't matter.
Unfortunately, the House Republicans are the last ones to get on board. A hearing by the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee this week leaned against a pathway to citizenship. The hearing served as a reminder that we have to remain watchful over the legislative process to make sure that voters learn who are the champions of reform and who are the ones who will try to obstruct the process.
We have much work to do between now and when the President signs a bill into law, but we are committed to making sure Congress approves reforms that include a reasonable and fair path to citizenship and that protect the rights of all workers.