Now that the government is up and running once again, President Obama has signaled that he plans to vigorously renew his push for immigration reform. A bipartisan group of Senators was successful in obtaining the passage of a comprehensive bill in June, but the House of Representatives has refused to put this bill to a vote. Instead the Republican-led House wants to focus on piecemeal immigration bills, taking up one issue at a time.
Many people in the Immigration community feel that the actual purpose of voting on smaller bills is to avoid having to engage in real reform; a significant number of House Republicans are against providing any path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. unlawfully.
These out-of-status families have been paying taxes and contributing to the American economy since they first arrived. This issue is at the core of why our country was founded in the first place. Colonists from England who settled here were willing to go to war because of the lack of representation they received, despite paying taxes and levies. Unless these mothers, fathers and children are eventually allowed to become citizens, they will never be able to vote in U.S. elections. Is it fair that an entire class of people in our society must pay taxes without ever having a say in the type of government they are funding?
- Immigrants unlawfully in the country have trouble finding and keeping jobs. They are constantly at risk of being taken advantage of by their employers and frequently forced to work for less than minimum wage. As studies have shown, legally integrating these immigrants into our workforce will not only protect their rights but will help improve the overall economy.
- Many immigrants that are the victims of crimes are afraid to go to the police because they are worried that they will be questioned and forced to reveal their status. Communities which are known to have large numbers of unlawful immigrants in residence are often targeted by criminals for this very reason.
- Public safety is at stake. Keeping our roads and highways safe is a priority, yet this goal cannot be achieved unless all drivers (including immigrants here unlawfully) are eligible for drivers licenses. This will at least ensure that every driver on the road has passed the required tests, and that proper identification can be displayed in the event of an accident. California recently became the 11th state in the country to act independently of the federal government and issue licenses to all eligible immigrants in the state.
If the House takes up piecemeal immigration bills one at a time without providing for a pathway to full citizenship, a great opportunity will have been wasted. It is up to Representatives of good conscience on both sides of the aisle to follow the Senate’s lead and do the right thing.