Where the Immigration Reform Debate Stands

The national immigration reform debate seems to have phased out for the time being, with the government shutdown and near default on the nation’s debt in October dominating headlines and Congress members’ agendas.

Demonstrators gather in Chicago to protest the nation’s immigration laws.

Comprehensive immigration reform, however, remains a top priority to both President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, as well as a number of Republican members of Congress. Those who favor reform argue that the economic benefits of immigration reform alone outweigh the arguments of those who oppose reform based on a belief that providing a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is equivalent to providing amnesty for those who crossed the border illegally.

So where does the debate stand?

Arguments for Immigration Reform

A huge coalition of organizations, business groups, labor unions and others have united behind immigration reform for economic and moral reasons. Groups and companies as diverse as Microsoft and the American Farm Bureau, as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have formed an unusual and unexpected partnership to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

These groups, as well as like-minded individuals, have cited startling economic statistics as a reason for the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform would result in the following:

  • $109 billion in new tax revenue would be raised over the next decade if the 11 million undocumented immigrants living on American soil gained legal status.
  • Cumulative earnings for American workers would be boosted by $470 billion over the next decade.
  • A cumulative increase of $832 billion in GDP over the next decade.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the Senate immigration reform bill would decrease the deficit by $158 billion in the first ten years after implementation, and then an additional $685 billion in the following decade.

Pro-immigration reform advocates also cite the fact that they live, worship, attend school and work with members of the immigrant community. They realize that immigrants are human beings who want to join the American way of life, and feel that it is immoral to do nothing when these members of the community can be making huge contributions to the economy and society should they receive legal status.

Arguments Against Immigration Reform

Those who argue against comprehensive immigration reform cite several reasons for their opposition. Among these arguments are:

  • The “amnesty” argument. Many congressional Republicans, such as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), have argued that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants is equivalent to amnesty and these individuals should not receive this status because they broke the law to get here.
  • The belief that an incremental, piecemeal approach to reform would be better implemented than a comprehensive plan.
  • Distrust in President Obama. Some opponents of reform argue that the President needs to better enforce existing laws before passing new ones. Some groups also believe that the President won’t enforce security provisions in the bill, citing his delay of a piece of his healthcare law until 2015.

With the growing population of immigrant communities and the economic benefits that reform would result in, it appears increasingly likely that comprehensive immigration reform will be passed in the coming years.

What do you think? Should Congress act on immigration reform? Does the U.S. need it? Could it benefit the U.S. economy?

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