Comprehensive immigration reform has been on hold in the U.S. House of Representatives since the summer, having been sidelined as Congress grappled first with the Syria situation and then the government shutdown/debt ceiling confrontation. With the budget and debt issues having been resolved (at least for a few months), we look forward to renewed engagement in the House on immigration reform. Of course, there remain significant obstacles to be dealt with before that can happen, chief of them the fact that a consensus has yet to be reached within the Republican caucus on how to proceed. However, immigration reform is an issue too important to be shunted aside, and a governing party cannot avoid having a thorough internal debate to decide what its own solution to the problem is to be.
Immigration reform is an issue central to the future prosperity of the U.S. as a nation. It is an issue of economic competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy and of utilizing human resources in a way that maximizes the nation’s potential. This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a study “Immigration Reform: Implications for Growth, Budget and Housing” showing that immigration reform would increase economic growth and reduce the deficit. Skilled immigration reform that enables U.S. technology companies to have access to foreign-born workers and entrepreneurs would end the current policy of unilateral disarmament in the global competition for talent. Yet, as Congress seems to lurch from one crisis to the next, the ongoing crisis of a broken immigration system is left to fester like an open wound. This cannot continue.
We understand that immigration reform is a difficult issue for House Republicans to address, with diverse opinions existing within the caucus. However, a governing party (or a party that seeks to be seen as ready, willing and able to govern) does not have the luxury of picking and choosing only those issues that are convenient. To govern is to deal with all problems that the nation confronts. Of course, this does not mean they must support any kind of immigration reform. House Republicans have made clear that they cannot support the Senate reform bill. They must now come up with a House Republican version of reform that they can support. That effort is well under way in the form of their piecemeal legislative approach. Whether that approach comes to fruition through House passage of the kind of immigration reform that most Republicans can support will signify whether the party is a governing party, or simply content to be in opposition.