In five or ten years, will we look back to the summer of 2013 as the moment when politicians from both parties stepped up to the plate, demonstrated real bipartisan leadership, and passed the most sweeping comprehensive immigration reform in more than a generation? Or will we look back and shake our heads at what could have been, at the so-close-yet-so-far calculus of a cynical Congress that caved in to a noisy band of anti-immigrant malcontents who had no business defining national policy?
Extensive polling from around the country demonstrates that Americans from both parties want comprehensive immigration reform. Business leaders from farms to Facebook are calling for it. The AFL-CIO and US Chamber of Commerce are for it. Faith leaders from every major denomination are unanimous in their support. And people in the pews are putting feet to their faith, spending literally millions of man-hours every year working directly with immigrants: teaching English, providing food and shelter, resettling refugees, visiting people in detention.
The technicalities are indeed complex – that’s why it’s a 1,000 page bill. But this is no rush job. Every Senator has had weeks to consider the legislation and offer suggestions. While the anti-immigrant special interests are busy inventing excuses for scuttling the whole thing (Eg “It’s Amnesty!” “The border isn’t secure yet”), most Americans understand that we can’t let this historic opportunity pass us by.
“Americans can walk and chew gum at the same time, so they believe our government should be able to do multiple things at once too. We can strengthen our borders and hold employers accountable for hiring off the books at the same time we create a path to citizenship for immigrants without papers. The fact is, we won’t have control over immigration and integrity in the system until we do it all. The American people are ready for reform, and they are ready to move forward,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
A recent Elon poll here in NC found that 80% who responded support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the US if the process included a background check and payment of fines and taxes.
Immigration reform is good for North Carolina and its good for the economy, especially our agricultural industries and the high tech sector. But most importantly its the right thing to do. Our faith teaches us that when one part of the community suffers, we all suffer. We will not be silent when our brothers and sisters live in fear. The “Nuns on the Bus” tour reminds us that whatever our background, we are in this together.
When Senator Hagan voted against the DREAM Act two and a half years ago, she said that she only supported a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to immigration. That day is here. Together with tremendous support from business, labor and community leaders we are counting on her support.
As Senator Burr examines this bill, we invite him to consider the bipartisan compromises that have been made to create a solution that is fair to all sides of the immigration debate. Several of his colleagues, including Senators Flake, Graham, McCain and Rubio, have already shown great leadership in crafting and supporting this legislation. We are counting on Senator Burr to join them.
-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate