We Can’t Afford to Delay Immigration Reform

The launch of a new immigration reform campaign emphasizes that real solutions on the economy, health care, and other key issues will require action on immigration, write Angela Kelley and Vanessa Cárdenas.

Participants in a march for immigration reform carry a large American flag. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Participants in a march for immigration reform carry a large American flag. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Watch or read John Podesta’s remarks

The immigration debate is alive and well in Washington. Leaders from the Center for American Progress, NAACP, AFL-CIO, the National Council of La Raza, agriculture industry, and other groups gathered yesterday to launch a national campaign for immigration reform.

The Reform Immigration for America Campaign is fully focused on finding the votes needed to pass immigration reform and making sure that President Barack Obama stays true to his promise of working on the issue this year. To that end, the campaign has brought together over 700 advocates from more than 35 states to participate in a series of meetings, trainings, and town halls in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to make immigration reform happen this year. The events include over 120 lobbying visits over the next three days.

But leaders such as Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, NAACP President and CEP Ben Jealous, and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Baker Holt weren’t the only ones talking about immigration yesterday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) both addressed the Asian American and Pacific Islander Summit yesterday and singled out immigration as a top priority.

The White House followed these statements by solidifying its commitment to bring congressional leaders together to discuss immigration reform. It announced that the president will host a bipartisan bicameral meeting of members of Congress on June 17.

The question that remains is whether there is the political will, especially in tough economic times, to move a reform package. Yet as Podesta stated at yesterday’s event, "we need solutions that restore the rule of law while aiding our economy by making taxpayers of all immigrants. So, to those opponents of reform we say this—immigration reform and economic recovery are not at odds with each other, but rather go hand in hand."

There are many challenges ahead of us, and immigration reform is a multifaceted and complex issue, but policymakers can no longer afford to delay. If we are really serious about facing and fixing our country’s problems, immigration should make it to the top of the list. If we don’t do anything, immigration will remain the legislative pothole that Congress hits each and every time it tries to move a big issue forward. Health care? Education? Appropriation bills? The unresolved debate of how to reform our nation’s immigration laws will slow down and slam all other domestic priorities.

If we want to pass smart policy solutions that support economic recovery, immigration must be at the top of Congress’ agenda along with health care and energy.

Watch or read John Podesta’s remarks

For more information about immigration reform, see:

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Angela Maria Kelley

Executive Director, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Senior Vice President, Center for American Progress

Vanessa Cárdenas

Vice President, Progress 2050