Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants Would Allow Progress on Many Issues

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True immigration reform that deals practically and responsibly with the 11 million people living in the United States without immigration status has proven elusive over the past decade. Partisan gridlock has repeatedly prevented Congress from overhauling the immigration system. As a result, the only constants in our nation’s immigration policy during this period have been massive increases in border and interior enforcement efforts. These showed some results at the border but no tangible decline in the resident unauthorized population until the start of the Great Recession of 2007–2009, during which undocumented immigration slowed to a net zero, with slightly more people leaving the country than entering it.

With the re-election of President Barack Obama due in part to unprecedented Latino support, the punditry is now, belatedly, suggesting that the time has come for Congress to overcome the paralysis and enact legislation that creates a pathway for our 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship. It appears that the inside the Beltway conventional political wisdom is finally catching up to American public opinion, which overwhelmingly supports dealing with these immigrants in a smart and sensible manner.

Over the past decade enforcement policies have not only failed to deliver commonsense reform but have also impeded progress on a host of other important national issues. The ripple effects of having such a large unauthorized group of people among us hampers our ability to rationally debate issues like health care, education, taxes, benefits, and identification.

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