One Step Closer

What a week it has been in politics. Just when we had started to believe that inaction and regressive social policy could become the norm, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and even the Texas Legislature showed us that it’s still possible for government bodies to do what they’re supposed to do – reflect the needs and concerns of our people, even those who have historically been marginalized and disenfranchised.  And today, the Senate’s passage of S. 744, which recognizes that immigration reform is good for our economy, our democracy, and our society, has created what I hope is unstoppable momentum.

Motivated by a combination of political and demographic realities, understanding of economic opportunities, a moral imperative, and a coalition of strange bedfellows including immigrant rights groups, evangelicals, corporate lobbyists, and labor, the Senate worked out their differences and passed historic legislation.  To be sure, the bill leaves much to be desired. Excessive border security provisions are both costly and damaging to border communities and ripe for abuse of power and use of excessive force. The length of time from the bill’s passage to full citizenship is 13 years, in best case scenarios, which means many will be unable to vote, get government jobs, or travel without restrictions for over a decade.

But, for 11 million foreign-born Americans, who happen to be born outside the United States, the passage of S. 744 offers a warmer welcome to our country than anything so far. We are one step closer to fixing an outdated immigration system that has harmed our communities, restricted our economic growth, and limited the possibilities of our democracy. We are one step closer to keeping U.S.-born children with their immigrant parents. We are one step closer to increasing our GDP by 5.4 percent in 20 years. We are one step closer to bringing 11 million new citizens into the political process.

Now, we wait to see what the House can do to build on this momentum toward a more equal playing field for all. House Republicans would do well to note that a recent poll by Latino Decisions shows that 52% of Latino voters say they would be more favorable to the GOP if immigration reform is passed. Speaker John A. Boehner has said that the House will take up its own bill, one that that “reflects the will of our majority and the people we represent.” Last time I checked, the House represents 18 million Asians and 52 million Latinos. So, it’s time to reflect the will of the people – create an immigration system for the 21st century and beyond.