White House Pushes, Republicans Contemplate Immigration Reform

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Washington, DC – The White House today (July 10) released a report supporting the US Senate-approved bipartisan immigration reform bill, calling it a boon to the sluggish US economy and arguing that America’s immigration system is broken and has not kept pace with changing times.

In the report titled, “The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System,” the President’s National Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council, Office of Management and Budget, and Council of Economic Advisers detailed the range of benefits to the US economy that would be realized from passage of commonsense immigration reform, and the high costs of inaction.

“America has always been a nation of immigrants, and throughout the nation’s history, immigrants from around the globe have kept our workforce vibrant, our businesses on the cutting edge, and helped to build the greatest economic engine in the world,” the report said, noting, “Today, too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living and working in the shadow economy. Neither is good for the economy or the country. It is time to fix our broken immigration system.”

Earlier in the week, there was a note of heightened expectation on the part of millions of illegal immigrants hoping to attain legal status in the United States, but at the same time, a number of members of Congress, whose forefathers landed on the shores of the US from other countries and were granted legal access, have been standing firm in their opposition to granting the same rights.

The US Senate saw the culmination of the first phase of the ongoing immigration debate with the passage of S.744, the bipartisan immigration reform bill, in the US Senate by a 68-32 margin on June 27. Although the prospects of the measure sailing through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in its present form are slim, pressure is building to stabilize the US immigration system.

Four top Republican (GOP) Senators, Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), and Marco Rubio (FL), have joined hands with four Democrat counterparts, Michael Bennet (CO), Robert Menendez (NJ), Dick Durbin (IL), and Charles Schumer (NY) (together called the Gang of 8), to work hard at hammering out a compromise. The bill they formulated passed the Senate, but House Speaker John Boehner, along with a majority of the GOP Congress members, many associated with the Tea Party, has announced his pariah approach to the Gang of 8’s legislation.

Like many positions associated with President Barack Obama, the first Black President in American history, the opposition to the Senate bill was intensified by what was perceived to be cooperation between the Gang of 8 and the White House, which was intensely involved in lobbying for the measure.

The Senate bill, seen by some as biased in favor of Hispanics, has prompted an anti-immigration organization, The Black American Leadership Council, to call for a rally against immigration reform titled the “March For Black Jobs” on July 15 on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Conservative groups allege that the Senate bill would make it easier for illegal immigrants to gain legal status, while at the same time it would quash the hopes of those who want to come and join their family members in the US. During several meetings held this week on the Hill, white conservative members of Congress, representing mostly white districts, stressed that their constituents were against passing any kind of legalization bill at this time.

Hosting an anti-immigration meeting in a hall packed to capacity on Monday night, Republican Congressman Steve King from Iowa felt passage of the bill, “would hurt Republicans.”

“I don’t think you can make an argument otherwise,” King said, adding, “Two out of every three of the new citizens would be Democrats.”

Opponents argue that what began as a Congressional debate over concern for a limited number of illegal immigrants who fit a narrow guideline – having entering the US at a very young age and who know only American culture – has morphed into a much larger bill.

Partisanship is driving much of the debate. With the increasing number of Latino-background voters, Democrats and Republicans alike are seeking ways to effectively court their support.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents immigrated from India, came out in favor of limited immigration reform in an editorial in the National Review this week, putting forward a three step formula: securing the border, guest worker visas and increasing legal immigration – but Jindal opposes the comprehensive immigration reform passed by the Senate.

Governor Jindal spoke against the Senate version of the bill, which has the backing of President Obama, saying, “Washington as usual is focused on what’s good for political parties, instead of focusing on what’s right for America.” Jindal’s proposition for successful reform of the immigration system would involve changes made more slowly and in stages.

In the meantime, the fate of millions of illegal aliens and their family members will continue to hang in limbo.

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