Political Odd Couples Should Pair Up for the Bipartisan Immigration Reform Party
By Brent Wilkes on 11/01/2013 @ 03:45 PM
This post was originally on the Huffington Post and can be read here.
If you listen carefully, you will hear the rare sounds of bipartisanship in Washington. I fear saying this publicly and jinxing the softer tone, the laying down of the sharpest rhetorical weapons, the actual sights of a Democrat and Republican walking around the halls of Congress together, in search of support for commonsense immigration reform.
Remember a couple of years ago when Republicans and Democrats paired up as "dates" to attend the presidential State of the Union Address? This is a thousand times better and more important.
The bipartisanship is happening, I venture to speculate, because this team of House members -- a Democratic freshman and a Republican sophomore -- determined that they came to Washington to get things done and they dared to lead on a policy issue that is vitally important to their families, their districts and the nation. Clearly, they decided the issue was worth incurring the wrath of fellow party members who are more accustomed to the ugly partisanship that has poisoned Capitol Hill.
This duo of new leaders -- first-term Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida and two-term Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California -- are proof that bipartisan immigration reform with an earned path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants can happen, if only their parties' leadership teams let it come to the House floor for a vote.
Denham was the first to break the ice. He was one of more than two dozen Republicans who, during the August congressional recess, said he favored immigration reform with earned citizenship. He fortified his commitment by taping a bipartisan video that called on the public to call Congress and demand action. Then, in recent days, he announced he would become a cosponsor of the Democrat's bill and added on to it his ENLIST Act, which would let undocumented immigrants become citizens after serving in the military.
The next day, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, a long-time supporter of immigration reform, signed on to the bill. On the third day, Rep. David Valadao, R-CA, became the third Republican to do so. As Valadao considered endorsing the House immigration reform bill, he told a California reporter, "If my signing on to it helps move the [process] forward, I'm happy to do that." Yes! Denham and Garcia convinced him the support was vital and he endorsed the bill. Denham and Garcia expect more to sign on.
The fundamental fact is that there is no reason for the House to delay a vote on a bipartisan bill that overhauls the immigration system, keeps tabs on border security, holds employers accountable, and most importantly, keeps families together.
The old and tired arguments against immigration by the nativists, such as immigrants taking jobs of U.S. workers, have been shot down by the facts and studies showing that immigration reform will add to the growth of the economy and help increase the viability of Social Security and Medicare.
The real reason why top leaders haven't worked together on this is that Republicans fear the minority Tea Party -- the group that led them down the disastrous path of the recent government shutdown -- and Democrats do not want to resolve an issue that would serve as a mighty club against Republican with Latino voters.
Excuse me, but to both parties, I say, "Wake up!" Both parties lose without immigration reform being accomplished this year.
There are slightly more than one dozen days left in this legislative calendar year, so Congress needs to hurry up and act.
And if the leaders won't, then perhaps the rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans can pair up and sign on to bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform.
The time is now.
Wilkes is national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
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