As the House left for summer recess, it left one of the most publicized bills of the past year on the table, without a vote. For the first time over 25 years, it looked as though there was potential for a drastic change in policy on immigration. Yet, Congress did what it does best, and decided not to introduce the bill before the summer recess, leaving its fate unknown.
On Friday, President Obama claimed that he was “absolutely confident that if that bill was on the floor of the House, it would pass.” Yet, now this seems less and less plausible.
Immigration reform is a necessity for the United States. There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. A vast majority hail from either Mexico or Latin America, and make up a crucial portion of the nation's workforce. Many of these immigrants are paid below the minimum wage and are therefore more attractive to employers as opposed to American citizens who must be paid the minimum $7.20 an hour.
A counter-argument from the liberal side has been that many of these immigrants are doing work that many Americans do not wish to do, a fact that is also true in many scenarios. This is too big a problem to be ignored, and when comprehensive immigration was announced, it seemed too good to be true.
The bill, proposed by the so-called “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators, called for reform a variety of fronts. The bill increases the amount of border security personnel, creates a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants, increased employer verification, and other provisions. Illegal immigrants may become eligible for citizenship only after they have paid off due taxes and remained good members of society. The bill is projected to generate close to a trillion dollars in revenue for the United States by 2044, and is projected to minimally affect the current unemployment rate (raising it by 0.01%). The bill issues visas to certain workers, which has raised some eyebrows, due to the fact that a substantial portion (about 20%) of immigrants have overstayed their visa, and are therefore illegal.
That said, the bill overall has minimal downsides. The Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the bill is projected to grow the U.S. economy, and help reduce the deficit. Yet, there seem to be many doubts in the House. The house would rather pass a series of smaller bills as opposed to one larger comprehensive bill. The main doubts come from House Republicans, who seem to quarrel with the path to citizenship.
Yes, this bill is not perfect, from both liberal and conservative standpoints, but it's the first major bill that addresses the issue of immigration. With over 11 million people affected, it is necessary for comprehensive reform, and it is dubious that the Republican House would actually introduce bills that Senate Democrats could support. This bill was unique in that it reached a compromise that many legislators could support. Polling from Quinnipac, shows that people overwhelmingly support this bill, which begs the question: Why would it not be introduced in the House?
House Republicans are do not want this bill to pass, as they do not want to give Obama a political victory. They continue to attempt to deny any major bill under Obama’s presidency in order to tell their constituents that he is unable to accomplish anything. When an overwhelming portion of the public support such a bill, it is the job for Congress to approve it. Yet, the elected officials are so determined to limit Obama, that they have failed to see the practicality of passing comprehensive reform.
It's shameful that one of the nation’s most pressing issues will go without reform (at least for the foreseeable future), because a few members of Congress simply wish to not give Obama a win.