Immigration reform is a combined social and moral issue. While everyone wants to see America’s borders secure and its citizens protected from terrorists, there is more involved to consider. First, there are a large number of illegal immigrants who have had children and raised multigenerational families in this country. Many of these people are law abiding and contribute to their communities and the tax base. Then there is the common stereotype regarding illegal immigrants that this is a Hispanic issue. Although a large number of Hispanics comprise this group, illegal immigrants also come from all over the world, including Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.
The new Homeland Security chief, Jeh Johnson, in his first comments regarding immigration, stated at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “An earned path to citizenship for those currently present in this country is a matter of, in my view, to encourage people to come out from the shadows, to be accountable, to participate in the American experience [and] American society.”
The plight of illegal immigrants has been an issue that both Republicans and Democrats consider a national priority. While the Republican plan calls for increased border security and enforcement of existing laws, the plan focuses on a path to legal status, not citizenship. Democrats support a 13-year pathway to citizenship; the Republicans, however, have stated that the Democrats’ plan equates to amnesty for people who have broken the law by entering the country illegally.
Immigration reform is, however, the one issue both Republicans and Democrats can show bipartisan support for during 2014. At stake are not only jobs but also votes. Both parties are seeking an advantage with these potential new voters and do not want to be on the wrong side of this historical debate.
This participation in American society will change America fundamentally once a decision is made on immigration reform. These new citizens will be eligible for many government programs, including Obamacare. The potential drain on the economy is what many Republicans are complaining about. However, the illegal immigrants are already here and causing the very impact that is feared because they already are using many of these services without paying directly into the system. Pulling illegal immigrants out of the shadows should actually help the economy as these legal citizens pay their fair share.