Last week was a time of crisis and conflict: the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent hunt for the culprits, the fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, even the refusal of many senators to pass a gun control bill with provisions supported by most Americans, all kept the nation glued to the news. However, in the background of these crises, a crucial policy battle was taking place: the fight for adequate immigration reform. At this moment, political opportunists are asking us all to ignore the urgency of immigration reform, and make it take a backseat to the incidents of last week. While these tragedies certainly deserve our remembrance and respect, we must also acknowledge the need for immigration reform extends far before last week, and respect that the outcome of this bill could change the lives of the nine million undocumented people in our nation for the better.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley started the slow down of the immigration reform bill last Thursday, when he contended during a Judiciary committee meeting that, "Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system."
The bill does not shy away from addressing issues of national security and its ties to immigration regulations. As even Fox News reports, the bill addresses, "improved Visa tracking, securing U.S. borders, improving the employee verification system known as E-Verify and providing a path to citizenship." Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said at a hearing, as a response: "I urge restraint in that regard … Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous attacks of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people." Robert Costa reports the "tweaking process could take months, which is just fine with many Republicans, who’d like the public to have as much time as possible to chew over the controversial elements of Obama’s prized bills. The caucus consensus is: The more time Congress takes to consider a bill, the more time the public has to sour on its components." It’s clear that attempts to try to slow down immigration reform based on these crises are part of greater political agendas.
What is more important is the vital need for immigration reform as soon as possible. The bill provides a vehicle for citizenship that is far from perfect: most estimate it would take about 13 years, and all provisions will be contingent upon strict regulation to make the good enforceable. However, the bill still is vital to better and stronger immigration policy.
Senator Chuck Shumer dressed Grassley down hard today for his comments on Thursday, and we can only hope that is an indication of how our conversations about immigration reform will progress. This bill is overdue, and we should not pander to those who look to crisis to dissuade progress on such a pivotal issue.