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US Should Reform Immigration

Graphic by Noah '15.
Graphic by Noah ’15.

In the wake of furious governmental debate over Syria and the recent government shutdown, it might seem unsurprising that the House will postpone voting on an immigration-reform bill that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who do not have an excessive number of legal convictions and have lived in the United States since December of 2011.

Although the bill has been championed by activists and business leaders alike, the proposed increased monitoring of immigrants has received condemnation. It seems unbelievable that the House of Representatives could delay a decision on the bill, widely hailed as providing a much-needed economic and humanitarian reform, because of a completely distinct issue like Syria. The widespread demand for such a measure aptly illustrates the argument that there is no good reason to delay passing the bill. The House’s allusions to Syria therefore constitute little more than a face-saving measure for the hopelessly gridlocked body.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, also known as S. 744, was drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators in the spring of 2013 and passed by the Senate in June. But by attempting to please both sides of a polarized system, the bill struggles to satisfy both Republican and Democratic representatives in the House. S. 744 provides a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants, an issue important to Democrats, and increases the number of skilled workers permitted to enter the country. But it also strengthens border security in an attempt to placate Republicans. While both parties can find something to agree with, there is also much they can dispute. In addition, some feel that the proposed mandatory use of E-Verify, an online system that enables employers to check if employees are permitted to work in the U.S., violates the Constitutional right to privacy. Although the expansion of E-Verify is hotly contested, the bill’s ability to provide legal status and security to members of American society greatly outweighs the indignity and inconvenience of the use of a verification program.

The bill has also received great support from wildly different groups. In Los Angeles, both business and labor organizations came together to call for reform. More than one hundred major companies, including AT&T and Verizon, signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging them not to forget about immigration reform. The fact that businesses are so strongly advocating for reform proves that immigration reform is not just a humanitarian issue. Making provisions for both skilled and unskilled workers would boost the economy by increasing the flexibility and mobility of the workforce, enabling companies to fill crucial gaps in their workforces.

Although S. 744 has stalled in the House, its widespread support among Americans proves that it is a popular and desired measure. If the House of Representatives truly wants to shed its reputation as being an ineffective body, it should start by working to pass much-needed reform, not by hiding behind excuses like the Syrian crisis.