Your neighbors have lived in their home for years. Their kids grew up with your kids, you’ve shared barbecues and block parties and you see them in church every Sunday. And now Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicles surround the house, sirens blaring, as your children watch out the windows, confused, frightened and concerned about what their friend’s dad did wrong.
Unfortunately this scenario plays out all too often across our nation as innocent, hardworking de facto Americans fall victim to our nation’s outdated and unjust immigration laws. Change is overdue, but now it is within reach. It is time for the House Republican leadership to follow through on the promising immigration standards the caucus released on Jan. 30 and bring an immigration reform bill to the floor that, among other things, addresses the issue of 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.
Undocumented immigrants living in the darkness of the underground economy simply want to work, raise a family, contribute to our economy and pay taxes.
Reforming our immigration system is a true job creator. A report by the former director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who is now Speaker John A. Boehner’s top immigration adviser, found immigration reform would shave more than $1.2 trillion off the federal deficit over 20 years and grow our economy an additional 4.8 percent over a 20-year period. This could be used to fund tax cuts, a sustainable growth rate fix or other bipartisan priorities.
Immigration reform also means legalized immigrants will pay more than $100 billion in additional taxes over the next decade, including to state and local governments. In fact, it is estimated that the formerly undocumented would add a net $606.4 billion to the Social Security system over the next 36 years. This will fund a lifetime of retirement benefits for 2.4 million Americans, or 6.5 percent of current beneficiaries.
Nearly a year ago, the New Democrat Coalition Immigration Task Force, which I co-chair, released detailed principles on comprehensive immigration reform. In October, I was proud to stand with Democrats and Republicans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill, HR 15. This bill creates American jobs, ensures we are more competitive in a global economy, lowers the deficit and reflects our values as Americans.
Passing comprehensive immigration reform should never have been delayed this long. The issue has broad bipartisan support, passing the Senate with 68 votes and garnering approval from more than 70 percent of Americans. In fact, in a recent poll of 20 Republican-represented swing congressional districts, about three-fourths of respondents supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. While I am not in the business of offering advice to my friends across the aisle, you don’t have to be Nate Silver to see that it would behoove the Republican leadership to move forward on this important issue.
We recently marked the 2 millionth deportation of the Obama administration. These deportations tear families apart — 1,110 a day. When we are deporting noncriminal immigrants, we do nothing to make our nation more secure or strengthen our economy. If the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives will not act on comprehensive immigration reform, the president can and must bring an end to deportations of noncriminal detainees.
If somebody has violated our criminal laws, there is no doubt they should suffer the consequences of their crimes. If an immigrant’s only crime is trying to build a better life for himself and his family in our great country, just as our own forefathers did, just as my great-grandparents did, we must embrace him and offer him a path to legally contribute to our nation’s success.
There is no more time for Republican excuses. The House should finally act and pass immigration reform immediately.
Rep. Jared Polis is a Democrat from Colorado.