This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.
When it comes to immigration reform Senator John McCain has been a ray of sunshine. Even during the toughest parts of the Gang of Eight’s negotiations he was upbeat and positive. So when McCain recently said he was concerned about immigration reform, then I knew we are really in trouble.
The issue of immigration has yet again been pushed to the back burner. In fact, some would claim that it’s not even on the stove but out of the kitchen. Comprehensive immigration reform was supposed to be passed by now, or at the very least voted on. But, this summer’s Marathon Bomber and now a potential strike on Syria in tandem with an upcoming debt ceiling battle have left immigration little oxygen.
Arizona Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva recently reminded us that members of Congress are elected to multitask. But bitter partisan stalemate has set this Congress on track to being one of the least productive in history, with only about two-dozen laws being passed.
Issues of national security and the economy are indeed important. They should take precedent. However, taking precedent doesn’t mean that all else is ignored.
The inability of Congress to get its act together and address the issue of immigration will not only hurt immigrants but the state of our economy and our larger national security.
Comprehensive immigration reform is seen as a subordinate national issue, but the fact is that it is intertwined with all facets of our economic and societal health. A recent study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, shows that among other economic benefits, immigration reform would reduce the federal deficit by over $2.5 trillion. And the same positive economic effects would trickle down to the state and local level with an estimated $68 billion in tax revenue over the course of ten years.
In the area of national security, a comprehensive immigration reform would only make us safer. Our physical borders and ports of entry would be made more secure through more boots on the ground and surveillance advancements. And the United States would be safer through an accurate count of who in fact is here in the country. Having millions of people in the shadows is not smart national security.
American economic and security interests are bolstered by a comprehensive immigration reform. The emphasis being on the “comprehensive” part. House Judiciary Chariman BobGoodlatte recently said that some components of immigration reform should be coming up in October. However this piecemeal approach is ineffective because the multiplicity of issues regarding immigration require a comprehensive solution. In the absence of a comprehensive solution immigration, which Democrats would unlikely vote for, immigration would continue to endure the same problems it has for the last couple of decades.
But the inability of Congress to negotiate, and hence multi-task is only reinforced by the political calendar. Once the 2014 election season rolls around politicos on both sides will seek to further avoid a controversial issue like immigration. Moreover, congressional members with already short attention spans will be devoted solely to the task of getting re-elected.
This means that there are only a couple of weeks left before immigration reform is definitively dead. If this is the case then what happens? Do we look to 2015, 2016, or perhaps 2020? The clock is running out, and more importantly Congress’ inability to walk and chew gum will likely doom immigration reform for the short and medium term.