By Javier Palomarez
What is deterring GOP members from calling a House vote on immigration reform isn’t a ‘trust deficit’ – it’s simply inertia. The release of GOP principles on immigration placed the question of immigration at the spotlight again, perhaps the closest we’ve ever been to finally passing comprehensive immigration reform. So, where is the vote?
The distance between President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Leader McConnell may be vast – however, these leaders have publicly agreed that we must fix our broken immigration system. In fact, both Democrats and Republicans have labeled immigration reform as an economic and national security issue.
Quite simply, if inaction once again allows the opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform to escape us, such hesitation will ultimately prove detrimental to our economy, and possibly, our national security.
Passing immigration reform would increase productivity and lift wages for all workers. It would increase tax revenue, offsetting any new spending required. And it would increase GDP by nearly one percent.
We understand that – given the difficult political climate in Congress – passing a bipartisan compromise will be difficult. But if we can’t readily agree on the politics, let’s at least agree on the numbers. Numbers don’t lie.
Passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation will significantly reduce the deficit. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate-passed bill would reduce the deficit by $850 billion, lowering the federal debt as a share of the economy by 7 percent. Rather than hiding behind an elusive ‘trust deficit’, let’s discuss immigration reform reducing America’s deficit.
Both parties must challenge their members to avoid “poison pills” that will derail the legislation. Both parties also need a strong dose of political courage to come together and pass comprehensive immigration reform for the sake of our economy. America’s business community is watching closely.
Some Democrats are now proposing that we pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, but don’t put the law into effect until 2017. This gives plenty of time to continue to secure the border, establish a streamlined and effective system to process our nation’s more than 12 million undocumented immigrants, and integrate this valuable segment of workers and entrepreneurs into our economy. And while many Republicans are advocating for residency as a first step, they cannot eliminate the option of a path to citizenship – for those immigrants committed to the many years of work and financial hardship required to obtain it. Quite simply, this isn’t amnesty, so where is the vote?
The status quo is unsustainable. Passing immigration reform is an economic imperative, and it will positively impact millions of businesses across America in every sector. But it will also provide a substantial boost to our economy, by increasing productivity, lifting wages, promoting investment and spurring economic growth. It will also help alleviate one of our nation’s most pressing needs — deficit reduction. No issue fundamentally unites the priorities of both parties like comprehensive immigration reform. No issue has ever garnered so much support from diverse interest groups — from business, to labor, to faith leaders, to even public safety… so, where is the vote?
Palomarez is the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.