As Congress debated immigration reform, some pundits suggested Republicans need immigration reform, while Democrats only want it.
It is true that Republicans need immigration reform. Working on such proposals is good economic policy and allows Republicans to meet with more minority communities. It opens the door to discuss Republican values, policy agenda, and important issues facing individuals and families across the country.
The reality is that President Obama has only offered endless rhetoric on immigration reform, but it is Republicans who are now taking up the task of actually crafting an immigration reform plan that offers real solutions.
- Rosario Marin, Former U.S. Treasurer
However, saying that Democrats want immigration reform is questionable.
In 2007 Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and then-Senator Obama were instrumental in killing the bipartisan immigration bill.
In 2009 and 2010 many minority communities expected President Obama to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform package, given that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Democrats controlled Congress during that period.
After the President failed to act on his campaign promise – make immigration reform his “top priority” during the first year of his term – immigration reform advocates went to the streets. Tens of thousands rallied in Washington chanting “sí se puede,” demanding President Obama take action on comprehensive reform. But the plea fell on deaf ears. The president ignored their cries for reform and chose to prioritize a host of other issues: Obamacare, tax hikes, business regulations, and stimulus spending.
He left advocates and minority groups frustrated and without an explanation.
Now that Senate Republicans have led and negotiated an immigration reform bill out of the Senate, President Obama is urging for the speedy passage of the bill. He is making the economic case for immigration reform; he notes, correctly, that fixing the immigration system will reduce the deficit and strengthen the middle class. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said the Senate’s bill will save taxpayers $197 billion over 10 years and billions more over 20 years.
Given that immigration reform would boost the economy, why didn’t the President act in 2009 or 2010, when our economy was in shambles? In fact, if he was actually concerned about the deficit, then he should have acted in 2010, when he promised substantial deficit reduction in his State of the Union address. Instead he continued on a spending binge fueled by the stimulus package and passed Obamacare, which will increase the deficit by $109 billion over a ten year period, according to the CBO’s estimates.
For Democrats to say they truly want immigration reform is completely disingenuous.
The reality is that President Obama has only offered endless rhetoric on immigration reform, but it is Republicans who are now taking up the task of actually crafting an immigration reform plan that offers real solutions. They are working to make our immigration system more functional, efficient, and accountable–one that strengthens families, expands economic opportunity, upholds the rule of law, and maximizes our public safety.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll see if Democrats will work toward a workable solution after years of failing to walk the talk. If Democrats really want immigration reform, they must be committed to dedicating resources to secure the border, because even most Congressmen have said they would likely support a form of legalization for undocumented immigrants, if the right border security standards were reached.
The ball is now in the Democrats’ court. Will they choose to work with Republicans and pass a long-term solution to our broken immigration system or to punt the political football?
Rosario Marin was the 41st Treasurer of the United States and is co-chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance.