With the number of legislative days in 2013 dwindling, we face the likelihood that immigration reform will not see floor action in the U.S. House of Representatives this year.  While statements this month by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) saying there would be no vote on immigration this year, and by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) saying the House would not go to conference on the Senate bill have led to widespread wailing and gnashing of teeth, supporters of immigration reform cannot give in to despair.  The act of leaving one’s native land and immigrating to the U.S. in search of a better life is one of the most hopeful acts imaginable.  Those of us pushing for immigration reform cannot but be true to that spirit as well.

For one thing, Speaker Boehner’s comment refusing to conference with the Senate bill passed in June is not, as some have characterized it, a refusal to take up any immigration bill at all.  House Republicans have consistently expressed their opposition to the Senate bill and declared their intention to address the issue in their own way.  Whatever form this effort takes, any effort should be welcomed as a sincere attempt to counter the Senate approach with a House approach in addressing the immigration crisis.

While conventional wisdom would seem to dictate that nothing consequential and controversial gets enacted in an election year, we should not give up.  Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh argues that “the last major immigration reforms were passed during election years, and it can happen again”, citing the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.  Besides, the conventional wisdom is based on the assumption that momentous things did get done in non-election years.  To give up on 2014 after what has happened in 2013 would be to accept the complete dysfunctionality of our political process year-in and year-out.

With so much attention focused recently on Congressional calendars and election year politics, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that immigration reform is urgently needed out in the real world to fix a badly broken system.  That system continues to work against the U.S. national interest every day that reform is delayed, as U.S. technology companies are prevented from hiring skilled foreign students and entrepreneurs who go on to contribute to innovation in other countries.  CCIA will continue to push for action to address this crisis.  As long as immigrants look to the U.S. with hopes for a better life or a better way to utilize their skills, we must not lose hope in pushing for immigration reform.

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