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Immigration Reform Update

United_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2.jpgThe Senate made major progress towards immigration reform in 2013 when it passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) – a broad proposal for reforming the nation’s immigration system. The House, on the other hand, has preferred a “step-by-step” approach to immigration reform. Five separate bills have passed out of the House committee, but a comprehensive immigration reform bill has yet to be heard on the House floor. Much of the debate surrounding immigration reform has fixated on the following components of the immigration system:

Undocumented Immigrants

Almost two-thirds of Americans support providing a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. The Senate’s Bill establishes a path towards legalization for qualifying undocumented immigrants. However, it is a rigorous 13-year path with many requirements and application fees in addition to at least $2,000 in penalties. None of the bills that have passed out of the House committee address a path towards legalization for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. While various House Republicans support granting these immigrants legal status, they do not support efforts to design a special path to citizenship.

Border Security

Americans are also concerned with protecting the nation’s borders. One of the key components of the Senate’s Bill is to improve security of the border between Mexico and the U.S. by doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, adding hundreds of new miles of fencing, and installing surveillance technology. In the House, bipartisan immigration reform bill H.R. 15 calls for as much border enforcement and security as necessary to be able capture 90 percent of people who attempt to illegally cross into the U.S. The bill also establishes a plan that would ultimately enable border agents to be able to monitor the entire border.

The U.S. is missing out on numerous economic opportunities and over $5 billion in additional tax revenues as a result of the “broken” immigration system. Thus, immigration reform cannot be put off any longer. It is time for the House to bring comprehensive immigration legislation to the floor for a vote and for a real reform of immigration legislation and policies to finally happen.