Commentary, Featured

Bipartisan Immigration Amendments Die in the US Senate

February 16, 2018

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

A small glimmer of hope that Congress could work to find common ground on immigration reform faded this week when the Senate failed to muster enough votes to pass any one of four bipartisan proposals it considered.

On Thursday, the Senate voted on four different amendments dealing with immigration, but none of them received the 60 votes needed to pass. Each proposal dealt with DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that has allowed over 700,000 undocumented immigrants to study, work, and live in the United States without deportation.

Trump called for an end to the DACA program by March 5 unless Congress passes an immigration reform bill to extend or modify the program. Although a court injunction has stopped Trump’s end of the program, DACA participants, known as Dreamers, have been left to face an uncertain future in this country as Congress seems unable to find common ground on dealing with DACA, Trump’s proposed border wall, border enforcement, and annual limits on legal immigration.

The most generous of the amendments, drafted by Republican John McCain and Democrat Chris Coons, would have given Dreamers a path to citizenship without including funding for Trump’s border wall. Only four Republicans voted for the amendment.

On the other end of the political spectrum, an amendment offered by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, and supported by Trump, would have connected a long-term solution for Dreamers with $25 billion for the border wall, and an overhaul of the current system of immigration visa lotteries and relative immigration policies. The amendment only got 39 votes to pass when most moderate Republicans and nearly every Democrat voted against it.

It’s estimated there are over 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., all living with the uncertainty of being deported and separated from their families and losing everything they have worked to build in their adopted homeland.

For Dreamers, it’s an even worse situation because they were brought to this country as minors, and really have little connection to their ancestral homes. They have graduated from school here, have started their careers here, and some have even served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.

If there is a logical place to start with real immigration reform, resolving the status of Dreamers should be a no-brainer.
These young adults applied for the DACA program, submitted fingerprints and backgrounds, and have met the requirements of school and work without any criminal records. They are tax-paying adults that want to continue realizing their American dream.

Yet, Congress cannot find a way to resolve the easiest of the nation’s immigration issues.

Instead, ideologues continue to perpetuate partisan battles over a border wall that nearly all immigration experts agree is a waste of money when dealing with border protection.

Political posturing for the next election has kept Congress for addressing real immigration reform. Trump and his hardliners are convinced (and afraid) that any immigration deal without a border wall with hurt them in the upcoming elections.

Democrats, on the other hand, believe that giving in to Trump on his border wall in exchange for a solution on DACA will hurt them with their progressive and liberal base voters.

So, here we are, at a crossroads on one of the most important issues facing Congress. Immigration affects tens of millions of individuals, and billions of dollars a year in economic activity.

Everyone knows that there is no physical or practical way to deport all undocumented immigrants in the country, nor does anyone really want that to happen.

Our economy would crash overnight if 10 million people left en masse. Workers would disappear. Shoppers would disappear. This country as we know it would be changed for years to come.

So, the myth of mass deportations is clearly off the table. The only real solution is some form of legalization, path to citizenship, or amnesty. There is no other solution that would not result in economic chaos.

But, Congress can’t even deal with the 700,000 people that took the steps to participate in DACA. The first step that should be easy now seems impossible.

If that’s the state of our politics, then how can Congress ever deal with the much larger issue of the 10 million other immigrants left in legal limbo?

Our country has maintained an underground immigrant economy for too long. By ignoring the problem and failing to offer a real solution, Congress has left 10 million people to work and live with the uncertainty of being deported. These workers are vital to the U.S. economy, pay taxes, and are left vulnerable to losing everything they have.

Democrats and Republicans alike have created this untenable situation. Their failure to put politics aside to find a real solution to our immigration system has and continues to hurt people.

Every American should demand immigration reform to protect people, families, and our economy. We all have a vested interest in dealing honestly with the reality that undocumented immigrants are here, they are integral to our economy, and we have more to lose than gain if they leave.

America is a melting pot of cultures and has grown into the wealthiest country in the world based on its diverse and growing population.

Without immigration, the U.S. would decline economically, and would soon lose its preeminence as a world power.

Congress must deal with immigration now and find ways to embrace immigration while still protecting our borders from criminals and terrorists.

National security means more than just pointing our guns toward our border; we need to secure our future from the inside out.

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