With government operations back in full swing, the issue of immigration reform is again taking center stage. However, with the departure of two more Republicans from the original “Gang of Eight,” it is clear that any new immigration policies will be met with tough opposition.
Just before the summer, things looked pretty positive for immigration reform. The Republicans, looking to widen their support base, seemed willing to compromise on a few issues in order achieve a better immigration policy. Yet, the Gang of Eight was unable to come up with anything to please both parties and in June, Rep. Labrador (R-ID) left the group due to concerns over immigrant access to healthcare. The other two departing Republicans left in mid-September, leaving the once hopeful group down to five members. Thus, any sort of immigration reform will most likely be making an appearance from the platform of one party, rather than the previous bipartisan group.
One of the obvious hurdles for immigration reform will be the Tea Party. Since the group views illegal immigrants firstly as criminals, they are against any sort of amnesty — or amnesty like — deal for those that are already in the country illegally. One must also remember that many in the Tea Party want English declared as United States’ official language. This hardline approach to immigration is in strong opposition of what many Republicans and Democrats would like to see in any new policy. Yet, given the events of the shutdown, it is clear that the Tea Partiers will make themselves heard.
As bleak as it might sound, there is still plenty of reason for optimism for upcoming immigration reform, albeit a cautious optimism. Fueled by Romney’s loss in 2012, the Republican Party is still looking to expand its conservative base. In addition to appealing to the Latino vote, immigration reform with a path to citizenship should excite the fiscally conservative. New Pew estimates indicate that nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants are residing here in the United States. This large group represents a relatively untaxed population that — depending on individual earnings — could lead to a much higher tax revenue in future years. The fact is that these immigrants are already using many services that tax dollars go to fund (roads, mail, emergency care, etc.), so it makes little sense not to give the rest of the benefits of U.S. citizenship in exchange for tax revenue and civil service such as jury duty.
Between the government shutdown and the Gang of Eight derailment, I can certainly understand those who have become less optimistic about the future of immigration reform. Admittedly, I have less hope now than I did six months ago that something will actually be accomplished. However, it should be clear to both parties that the immigration problem is here to stay until we as a nation do something about it. There is no doubt that compromises will have to be made on both sides of the aisle, but a clear path toward citizenship is essential.
The Tea Party is bound to oppose this path, regardless of what concessions will be made toward national security. Yet, this reform can still happen if the people, and especially us students, take a few minutes to call or write our congressional representatives. By supporting immigration reform in this very tangible way, Republicans and Democrats alike will see that the support of the nation is behind reform, not the Tea Party.