Congress Resumes Immigration Debate While City Leaders Focus on Local Impact

June 17, 2013

By Leslie Wollack

While Congress resumes the debate over immigration reform, city leaders focused on the need for reform in their cities and the positive impact on local economies that common sense reform would bring to their communities.

In Salt Lake City, Mayor Ralph Becker, NLC 2nd Vice President, and Summit County Councilman David Ure held a closed door immigration roundtable last week with state lawmakers, business leaders, clergy and champions of immigration communities. Local leaders touted the potential to Salt Lake City as an international market. The discussion among bipartisan leaders addressed the opportunities for immigration reform and the value of immigrants to Utah communities.

If federal immigration reform fails to pass, Becker told the Deseret News, the city will do its best to help people feel secure, and to provide educational opportunities to residents regardless of their citizenship status.

"Immigration reform is critical to helping us be successful as a city," Mayor Becker told the Deseret News.

For local governments, the benefits of immigration reform include the boost to local economies. The Immigration Policy Center has compiled information on estimated economic benefits of immigration reform highlighting just how important that economic opportunity would be.

The Senate began debate on June 11 of its immigration overhaul proposal, S 744 with an overwhelming vote of 82 - 15 to begin consideration. Discussion quickly turned to the controversial issue of border control at the U.S. border with Mexico. An amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was tabled after extensive and contentious debate. The amendment would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to establish and maintain effective control of the southern border for six months before beginning the path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. The Senate voted 57 - 43 to end consideration of the amendment.

Debate will continue this week. Numerous amendments have been introduced, including several limiting eligibility of legal immigrants to receive federal benefits including a five-year waiting period for health benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

With so much at stake in the debate on immigration, local officials should call their representatives in Washington and urge their support for a comprehensive and balanced approach to reform. For local governments and the national economy, legalized immigration means a boost to local economies and the national economy.