Immigration reform is languishing in Congress. When will the undocumented be legalized?
Immigration reform has broad popular support. Also the legalization of the undocumented would generate a positive economic impact for the country. Why is dying? Image: Sundry Photography / Adobe Stock

Immigration reform suffered a severe blow on the night of September 19 when a legal action was rejected. That action sought to pass various bills in the Senate that would have legalized the undocumented. Is there any hope left for 8 millions of immigrants?

The Parliamentarian of the United States Senate, Elizabeth MacDonough, declared that three bills were prohibited within the budget approval process known as “reconciliation.” These bills supported the legalization of “Dreamers” (young people covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA), beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and essential workers (such as agricultural workers).

Why is immigration reform dying?

Let’s briefly review how the legislative process works. Currently the Senate has 50 Democratic and 50 Republican senators. For a law to be passed there, 60 votes are needed. It goes without saying that Republican legislators do not support these immigration reform bills. So, what can be done?

Democratic senators decided not to introduce these immigration bills in the traditional way. Instead, they decided to include them within a $3.5 trillion mega spending bill so that they could get around the lack of Republican support.

The problem arose when the parliamentarian MacDonough said that this reform represented “tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact” since it would change the immigration status of eight million people. She also said it would increase the deficit by an estimated $140 billion in 10 years.

Serious mistakes and many to blame

MacDonough is wrong. Multiple studies reveal that the legalization of the undocumented would generate a positive economic impact for the country in the long term in regard to taxes, purchasing power, and the creation of new businesses and jobs.

For example, a path to citizenship for essential undocumented workers and DACA recipients would increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. It would also generate more than 400,000 new jobs, according to a study by the University of California, Davis.

Immigration reform has broad popular support. Poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of Americans support giving the undocumented a path to citizenship. Despite this, Republican legislators have preferred to turn their backs on millions of families because they have been motivated by fear of their small, but loud ultra-conservative base.

Since the beginning of the year, various groups such as the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) decided to continuously work to push this legislative effort. Sadly, other social organizations rested on their laurels and did not exert pressure in time, or limited themselves to symbolic acts, which look nice on social networks but have no real impact.

When will the undocumented be legalized?

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the enormous importance of immigrants as essential workers that help keep our economy afloat. Will we turn our backs on them now?

Many argue that the huge influx of immigrants to the border in recent months undermines a favorable political climate for immigration reform. For decades, the United States has benefited from raw materials from these countries. Isn’t it time for the richest nation on the planet to do something to improve living conditions in places like Central America?

Voters must pressure legislators so that millions of immigrants who have contributed to the growth of this nation are not left behind. Those of us who believe in the importance of social justice cannot give up hope.

Find this article in Spanish here.

Diego Barahona A.

Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas?

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