Those in national politics who are wary of the issue of immigration reform are easily embracing the notion that Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss in Virginia was all about immigration. Cantor, who had professed some hope Congress could work through the challenges of bringing about 12 million undocumented individuals into the American mainstream, was upended by a college professor who criticized with a broad brush those who are making Washington a career.
That was Cantor; he was good at Washington and enjoyed it. On Election Day, he was in D.C. Immigration may have been a slice of where he went wrong with his Republican base – but a small one.
Although the strange and tragic influx of children from Central America has captured this country’s attention – and tugged at our collective heartstrings – overall, the border between the U.S. and Mexico has never been tighter. With billions of dollars having been spent on thousands of border troops, an array of detection devices and sections of a massive wall, border interdiction is likely at a level that cannot be greatly improved upon. President Barack Obama has deported tens of thousands of illegal border crossers – far more than did his predecessors.
What awaits are the decisions as to how to resolve the fate of the 12 million in this country, many of whom have become a part of the American economy and play beneficial roles in the cultures of neighborhoods, towns and cities. Inaction continues to restrain the national economy, limits educational achievement for those in the 12 million and challenges law enforcement.
The Senate has a generally agreed on a package of immigration reforms, and that list needs to be debated in the House.
This is not about amnesty. Those in this country will have to identify themselves, show that they have been here for several years, have committed no crimes and have paid their taxes. They will then wait and then go to the back of the line – not the front nor the middle – to be able to secure their documentation. And documentation might or might not lead to citizenship.
In addition, there are proposed components of immigration reform that will make it possible for more highly skilled workers to come to the United States and for more foreign-born college graduates to remain here to work. Another component will better provide the agricultural workers desperately needed on U.S. farms. Agricultural organizations have been especially vocal, and specific, in advocating for that reform.
Not all foreigners want to remain in the U.S. year-round; legal status will allow them to return to their home countries as family ties or economy conditions warrant.
The uncertainties surrounding the 12 million have gone on too long. In the meantime, there continue to be missed economic opportunities, costs to not-for-profit and government social services agencies and to law enforcement as well as unnecessarily stressed family relationships.
It is time for members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to be leaders in exploring the possible solutions to what is one of the country’s most significant domestic challenges. We urge members of both political parties to say, yes, broad immigration reform will be good for the state and for the country and then to get to work on finding solutions.
The necessary work will not be any easier tomorrow.