Former President George W. Bush added his name to a list of leading politicians backing immigration reform today on CBS’ This Week. Bush said ”I think it’s very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect, and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people.”
Bush is no stranger to the difficulties in passing immigration reform. His own effort to do so in 2007 failed and was the last serious effort to tackle the divisive issue of immigration. Bush’s support may help fuel the bill’s momentum after passing the Senate June 24, 2013 with a strong majority vote of 67-27, including support from 15 Republicans.
The current immigration reform bill was drafted by the Gang of Eight: South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, Arizona Republican John McCain, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.
The most divisive aspect of the bill is its plan to grant citizenship to immigrants who are already in America illegally. That is the heart of the immigration debate – what do we do with the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in this country. Some say granting them a path to citizenship is tantamount to amnesty – that it rewards criminal behavior and will incentivize similar behavior. Others think either we should deport all 11 million and have them get on the back of the line to apply for citizenship legally.
Supporters of the bill point out that it is impractical to deport 11 million people and having an underclass of illegal citizens is not a good thing for our society. Get them on a path to citizenship, get them on the books and paying taxes they say.
There is no easy answer, but this much is clear. Illegal immigration is an incredibly complex problem and no simple solutions will do. I for one think it is absurd to consider deporting 11 million immigrants. Many of them have been here for years and have families and children with strong ties to their communities. Many are hard working people just trying to support their loved ones. I think a pathway to citizenship with penalties sufficient to deter similar behavior strikes the right balance.
What do you think? Should we deport 11 million immigrants or offer some pathway to citizenship?
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