By Leslie Wollack
While the true prospects for comprehensive immigration reform remain murky, the desire for Congressional action that will end the national divisiveness is palpable. Support for action is coming from all sides, with the US Chamber of Congress and the AFL-CIO joining together to demand legislation that includes a path to citizenship, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) offering his own proposals, remarks by President Obama in his inaugural address and Congressional leaders stepping forward to work on the outlines for action, it appears that Congress will have another opportunity to debate the issue which has alluded compromise for so many years.
The results of the 2012 election and the impact of the Hispanic vote have helped spur this new push for reform and the return of a bipartisan effort to make the issue a priority for Congress. Bipartisan agreement helped bring a comprehensive bill before the Senate in 2007, where it was later defeated. Efforts to revive the issue did have not bipartisan support and were unsuccessful in the 112th Congress.
NLC supports comprehensive reform in a resolution initially proposed several years ago by an Immigration Task Force that was composed of members from across the organization representing various perspectives on the issue. At its leadership meeting in early January, the NLC Board of Directors reaffirmed comprehensive reform as a key priority for the organization.
Noting that immigration has been a source of innovation and economic growth throughout the nation's history and is especially important to our cities, the NLC Board identified the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level as an urgent need. Congress' failure to act puts local officials in charge of enforcing a federal responsibility and diverts local law enforcement resources from pressing local needs.
The Senate is expected to act first on immigration reform. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has already announced the Judiciary Committee he leads will be holding hearings on the issue. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will lead the bipartisan effort in the Senate, along with several other Senators expected to play a key role.
Other stakeholders in the debate will include the faith community, businesses and unions. NLC partner organizations including the US Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties and National Conference of State Legislatures who all have taken similar policies in support of comprehensive reform
In the days ahead and as the outlines of a bill begins to take shape, we will be encouraging local officials to get engaged in this debate, identifying the impact of inaction at the local level and the need for Congress to act. The economic impact of immigrants in our community includes the creation of new jobs, the additional contributions in federal, state and local income tax revenues that would come from undocumented immigrants coming out from underground and the contribution of immigrant business owners to economic growth.
Details: NLC's National Municipal Policy on immigration can be found here.