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The significance of this development cannot be overstated. Just seven years ago, House Republicans passed a bill that would have criminalized 11 million undocumented immigrants and resulted in their immediate deportation. Today, House Republicans recognize that our national and economic security depend on undocumented immigrants coming out of the shadows and living under a legal framework.
The details of the Republican proposal, and the timeline to move forwards, have yet to be worked out. But they may find support to do so from a key group: immigrants themselves. A recent Pew Research study found that the majority of Hispanics think that being able to live and work in the United States legally without the threat of deportation is more important for unauthorized immigrants than a pathway to citizenship. Since Hispanics make up roughly three-quarters of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants, their perspectives give both parties room to pursue practical solutions.
These obstacles are formidable and will require resolution in the months ahead. Can Speaker John A. Boehner really, as he says, keep 218 frogs in the wheelbarrow long enough to get an immigration bill passed? If history is any indication, an election year is the perfect time for him to try. But he will need the president’s continued restraint if he is to have any chance of success.
Lynden Melmed served as chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2007 through 2009. He is a partner at Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP, a global law firm dedicated to immigration.