Posted by on February 04, 2014 in Blog

By Firas Suqi
Spring Intern, 2014

Immigration is one of the few issues that both Democrats and Republicans publicly agree is in need of urgent action. While both parties have reached the conclusion that something needs to be done about immigration, the number of successful resolutions addressing immigration reform has continually evaded the agenda of Republican lawmakers over the last few years. This issue has affected separated Arab American families, who continue to wait in anticipation that immigration reform will grant visas to their family members and loved ones overseas.

During the State of the Union address last week, President Obama urged Congress to pass a piece of bipartisan immigration reform legislation by the end of the year. After President Obama’s attempt to rally the Republican-held House into passing the Senate-approved S.744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the GOP responded by revising their principles on immigration in preparation for discussion on the bill.

The principles outline an approach to immigration reform that ensures added border security and law enforcement measures, prior to implementing conditions that would grant citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants and provide other considerations such as giving citizenship preference to immigrants that meet the country’s most pressing economic interests. Following a recurring theme of modernization and reformation to immigration policy, GOP lawmakers have also expressed support for the use of biometric technology in tracking down and identifying visitors in the country on temporary visas.

Critics of the principles are concerned over the lack of language regarding a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who already work and reside in the U.S. Supporters claim the language demonstrates the GOP’s willingness to compromise with Democrats on a major piece immigration overhaul. All talk aside, the list of principles does demonstrate an interest in immigration reform on paper, but the level of Republican interest in passing legislation on immigration reform in an election year is a whole different story.

What does this mean for immigration reform in 2014?

With an election year looming overhead, President Obama and House Democrats eagerly want to pass immigration reform in effort to win the voter support necessary to take control of the Republican-held House. Republicans on the other hand, wish to delay the passage of any immigration reform in effort to use the platform to their advantage at the polls this fall.

Discussions on immigration reform will likely be contained exclusively to the campaign trails in 2014, raising little hope for S.744 in the House. While Republicans have made some concessions with the issuing of new principles on immigration, their stance doesn’t go far enough to suggest that the House will approve the comprehensive immigration reform passed by the Senate.

The main cross-partisan divisions in the discussion on immigration reform are in relation to the scale and rate in the application of immigration reform. Republicans prefer a gradual piecemeal approach, whereas Democrats seek to an all-inclusive piece of legislation addressing the entirety of the immigration problem facing the country.

That being said, the Republican changes made to their immigration principles can still be interpreted to provide hope for immigration reform in 2014. With potential to signal a seismic shift in the history of American immigration at stake, it will be interesting to see how immigration reform plays out in an election year. If anything, immigration reform will surely be echoed throughout congressional campaigns, a sign that may be disastrous to the potential of passing much needed reform, in addition to the desires of family members still waiting to reunited.

 

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