Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Year's Message of Hope for Immigration Reform by Robert Gittelson, President, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Over the past several years, I have made it a personal tradition to offer a New Year's Message of Optimism regarding the chances for CIR in the upcoming year. However, this year I am more hopeful than ever that next year - 2013 - will finally be the year that brings true legislative relief to our long broken immigration system. I sincerely feel that the "stars are alligned," and the political odds favor CIR sooner rather than later. The stars actually began to allign in 2012, and the thoughts that I wrote for last year's New Year's message have proven to be, in theory, correct.

Last year I wrote, "I would also offer my guarded optimism about a possible comprehensive immigration reform in the not too distant future. While I do not expect to see a CIR pass in 2012, I do see that Congress is, quietly but sincerely, moving in that direction. Again, there remains a long way to go, and the fact that 2012 is an election year makes any serious discussion of CIR a topic that can probably only be addressed after the election... I believe that there exists cause for optimism for advocates of immigration reform. Many conservatives are moving cautiously in the direction of a CIR solution. There exists in this country, and importantly in our Congress, an emerging consensus that we must address the inequities that are inherent in our current and outdated immigration policies. However, we will still need time for the politics in this country to catch up to the policy. Again, I urge patience. However, I am reasonably certain that our patience on this issue will soon pay off. 2012 should be the year in which we see the beginnings of movement toward a more just and efficient immigration policy."

Indeed, 2012 has proven to be a year in which we did see the beginnings of a bipartisan conversation about finally addressing CIR legislation in a meaningful and serious way. 2012 did bring us some relief, of sorts, with the President's Defered Action for Children of Arrivals, or DACA. I must admit, I didn't fully see that coming in last year's message, although I did predict some action toward relief for "DREAMers." I wrote, "All year, I have been discussing with (members of Congress and the Administration) the importance of passing the DREAM Act, or at least a version of the DREAM Act that will help hundreds of thousands of hard working, high achieving, and innocent young men and women to emerge from the shadows, and to live their lives in dignity and legality, in the light of day. Importantly, I have been meeting primarily with Republicans, and quietly but sincerely, many of them have been listening. It is still too early for me to say publicly exactly what will happen or when, but I am convinced that something positive will indeed happen, and soon."

DACA has, in fact, been something positive from a policy point of view, (if not politically). It does offer important protections to some small percentage of undocumented people. However, it is only a small percentage of the problem, it is not law, just policy, and at the end of the day is only a small bandaide, where major surgery on our broken immigration system is required.

Therefore, I believe that we have significant cause to hope for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. Conversations that have not happened in years are now happening on both sides of the Hill in Washington. Several of the participants from the discussions in 2005 - 2007 are no longer serving, and there are new faces and fresh ideas that are being brought to bear. Still, to date the conversations are preliminary. No consensus yet exists as to how we solve our immigration problems, or even if the new legislation will offer a path to citizenship or simple legal status. Furthermore, no consensus exists as to the legislation itself. Should it be a series of piecemeal measures, or a larger comprehensive bill?

However, I am confident - even in light of the dysfunctional "fiscal cliff" fiasco - that as the days and weeks go by, consensus will take shape, and we will see legislation soon. Furthermore, I think that the public will have a serious role to play as this legislation unfolds. I urge everyone that cares about this issue - pro or con - to make their voices heard. The public should get involved. Write your Congressmen. Go to rallies. Attend coffee clatches with your representatives. Write Letters to the Editor. Be proactive. If you believe that their should be a pathway to citizenship, say so. If you don"t believe that there should be a pathway to citizenship, then make your argument to that effect.

Finally, we should all make our opinions known to our representatives, but I caution everyone to please keep an open mind, and please be respectful of the opinion of others. This is a difficult and contentious issue, and tempers are sure to be hot. At the end of the day, this is an American problem, and we need an American solution. The question is, is Washington ready to provide that solution? I think that the answer will prove to be yes, they are. But our legislators will need our support, and our backing for them to make a controversial vote. Many on the right will be looking over their shoulders at primary opponents waiting in the wings. Many on the left will be looking over their shoulders at their traditional supporters, who might not like some of the concessions that will need to be included in what will surely be a bipartisan piece of legislation. At the end of the day, we must all realize that a compromise means that both sides must give up some of what they want, in order to be able to give our country what it needs - an "exceptional" immigration solution that is fair, that is just, and that actually solves the problems for decades to come. Are we up for this? I think that we will find out in 2013 that we truly are, and it will be a great, great, day for America. More importantly, it will be a great, great day for Americans - both new and old.

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