Here’s a prediction you don’t often hear from inside the beltway: Immigration reform that strengthens border security, grows the economy, and gives 11 million undocumented immigrants an eventual shot at citizenship will be signed into law within the next few months. That is most definitely not the prevailing view of political reporters who seem hell-bent on writing the obituary for immigration reform. Naming the next reason Congress won’t pass commonsense immigration legislation has become a D.C. parlor game. But the game is getting old because it should be obvious to all that if immigration reform crashes, there will be one and only one reason: a failure of leadership by House Republicans.

The push for legislation this year will not be derailed by extraneous factors like a vote on Syria or an artificially constricted legislative calendar. The votes to enact meaningful reform already exist. The only question is whether House Republicans will allow them to be cast.

- Marshall Fitz

The naysayers – pundits and press - first asserted that President Obama only wanted to use immigration as a political cudgel; but the administration gave the Senate space to maneuver legislatively while supporting the process and keeping the urgency high. Then the narrative shifted to why cost concerns would kill the legislative effort; but the Congressional Budget Office concluded that reform would lower the deficit by $820 billion over the next 20 years. Cynics then maintained that a divided Senate could not reach 60 votes on anything controversial; but the bill passed with 68 Ayes. More recently the rationale portending defeat was that a nativist grassroots uprising over summer recess would scare Congress to inaction; but pro-reform forces out-hustled, out-muscled, and out-classed restrictionist opponents in August – it wasn’t even close.

Now the Beltway boo birds have a new theory - that the debate over Syria has crowded immigration reform off the agenda. But this is just as silly (and just as wrong) as the other proffered reasons for doom and gloom. Does the House have other important issues on its plate, including Syria? Of course. But Congress, despite its undeniable dysfunction, can and must address multiple issues of national importance at the same time. And unlike the Senate, the legislative machinery in the House allows for swift action when the will to act exists. The only question is whether House Republican leaders have the necessary will to deliver.

If they don’t have it already, there are a number of powerful incentives for them to develop the will to enact common sense reform.  Most importantly, there is overwhelming public support – in the high 70s including a strong majority of Republicans – in support of legislation that, like the Senate bill, combines smart enforcement with legal immigration reforms and legalization with an achievable path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here. This public support was reflected in the energy and engagement of communities across the country in August when well over 1300 pro-reform events occurred.

What’s more, while the House grapples with budget questions this Fall, immigration reform presents a golden opportunity for them to show their seriousness about growing the economy and reducing deficits. There is broad bipartisan consensus – now formally endorsed by the nonpartisan CBO - that immigration reform will trigger strong economic growth while significantly reducing the deficit. Passing immigration reform is not only popular, it is fiscally prudent.  

And despite the hand-wringing about internal divisions within the Republican rank and file on this issue, it is plainly in the party’s short and long-term political self-interest to move forward. For starters, it would take off the table an issue that has divided the party and has badly damaged its brand with the American public. It would win them credit with Latino voters, the fastest growing segment of the electorate who they cannot continue to alienate. And it would defy current perceptions that this is a majority party incapable of governing.

The push for legislation this year will not be derailed by extraneous factors like a vote on Syria or an artificially constricted legislative calendar. The votes to enact meaningful reform already exist. The only question is whether House Republicans will allow them to be cast.  

Marshall Fitz is Director of Immigration Policy at American Progress where he directs the Center’s research and analysis of economic, political, legal, and social impacts of immigration policy in America.

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