From across the Political Spectrum, a Call for Immigration Reform

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By Ali Noorani

Our nation’s history is one of immigration. It has defined our identity and strengthened our nation culturally, economically, intellectually and spiritually.

As Congress debates immigration reform, the National Immigration Forum seeks to continue this tradition in way that is fiscally and legally responsible, while recognizing the contributions of immigrants to our communities and our country. More and more, voices across the political spectrum are echoing these values and supporting reform.

It’s no secret that our current immigration laws are inadequate and out of date. We need comprehensive reform that addresses the moral, security and economic problems with our current system and that includes a road map to earned citizenship for hardworking aspiring Americans. Comprehensive reform will result in immigration policies that reflect our traditions as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

Ultimately, Congress must bridge policy and politics to create sensible, compassionate and long-term immigration solutions for our country and all of its residents. To help make this happen, the forum has helped bring together the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform (BBB) network.

For over two years now these faith, law enforcement and business leaders from across the country have been working together to call for comprehensive immigration reform that ensures our security and respects the rule of law, but also acknowledges the importance of immigrants to our economy and our communities.

This coalition changes the game on immigration reform with its range and number of voices. Leaders from across partisan lines, across industries and across the country have found common ground on the issue of immigration. Today’s debate is fundamentally different from those in previous years because people who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business are making it clear that they want a common-sense immigration process.

They began developing this new consensus with regional summits in the Mountain West, the Midwest, the Southeast and our nation’s capital on how to move our nation forward on immigration. And with a bill on the Senate floor and rumblings in the House, they are continuing to put their words into action, encouraging members of Congress to reform an immigration system that has been politically, economically and morally broken for far too long.

Faith leaders bring a unique and persuasive approach to the debate, urging an immigration process that respects the God-given dignity of every person and seeking just immigration laws that leave no person in the shadows and no family torn apart. They highlight how the Bible speaks clearly and repeatedly to God’s concern for the immigrant and how its followers are called to care for the stranger among us.

Law enforcement officials want to focus their attention on keeping their communities safe, not on enforcing federal immigration laws. Too often, law enforcement officials are forced to play the role of immigration enforcement agents.

Public safety increases when everyone in a community has trust and confidence in law enforcement. Officers can most effectively protect their communities’ safety when all victims and witnesses, regardless of immigration status, feel safe working with them.

Immigration is also a shot in the arm for American business and the American economy. Businesses depend on immigrants as producers and consumers, workers and entre- preneurs.

The United States has a reputation as the land of opportunity, ingenuity and innovation, and our businesses want to keep it that way. But in order to compete in the global economy, we need to be able to compete in the global talent market with a common-sense immigration system that is navigable and fair. We need a process that celebrates freedom and values hard work across the economic spectrum, welcoming the engineer as well as the farm worker.

As Nebraska business leaders have pointed out, the state relies on immigrants to fill its workforce. With huge agriculture and food and restaurant service industries, immigrants are a key part of the labor force.

The current immigration system makes it extremely difficult for immigrants to get one of only 10,000 green cards allotted each year for America’s service industry. And the “Help Wanted” signs at restaurants are a strong pull. Our economy requires an immigration system that allows for a reliable labor force.

Immigration reform is not just good policy, it’s good politics. Following the 2012 elections, the tides turned. Both Democrats and Republicans understand that immigration is one area of common ground where bipartisan solutions are possible. And constituents of all stripes are speaking out to show their members of Congress that they have the political support to step up and do what is right.

For too long the immigration debate has been dominated by heated rhetoric that has only worked to derail the issue. But this new consensus of voices leads the charge in reasoned, sensible reform efforts.

Constituents from across the spectrum agree on immigration’s positive impacts and the need for broad reform. We have reached a point in the debate where the positive sentiments on immigration transcend political, geographic and vocational lines.

There is a new consensus on immigration reform, and it’s one that our members of Congress can—and must—follow.  

For more information, visit www.immigrationforum.org.

Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, one of the leading immigrant advocacy organizations in the country.

Immigration in Nebraska