Last year, Republicans assisted in making great strides toward achieving immigration reform, especially considering that the 113th Congress began with little appetite for meaningful progress. The fact that we now find ourselves poised to pass substantive legislation to strengthen our economy and protect human rights along with our borders is no small achievement. This can be the year that we accomplish immigration reform, however in order for this to occur, Republicans must move beyond political point scoring and petty sound bites.
Recent comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were viewed by some on the right as potent material to manufacture empty controversy; when in reality, his words were grounded in empathy. While immigrants now play a major role in American communities and businesses across all 50 states, our outdated immigration system outsources intellectual talent and breaks apart loving families. Recent developments have caused me to remain optimistic that attaining growth for our economy and respect for our people is in reach.
Speaker John A. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have each professed their desire to reform our nation’s broken immigration system. And they are not alone — today more House Republicans than ever before are lending their voices to the chorus. The longer we delay this critical issue, the larger price we’ll pay with American jobs, private sector innovation, and our nation’s security.
In recent decades, Washington’s lack of action in support of common sense reform has bred a broken system that is practically unrecognizable to who we are as Americans: it is anti-growth, anti-worker and anti-immigrant. Our economy is not growing fast enough. Now is the time for Republicans and Democrats in the House to work together to fix our immigration system.
The immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013 went a long way toward welcoming innovators and skilled workers. Each author, Democrat and Republican alike, deserves to be commended for championing common sense, conservative work reforms that honor our nation’s heritage and strengthen our standing on the world stage.
For years, our elected members of Congress have feared the political ramifications associated with comprehensive immigration reform. Recent polling indicates that Republican voter opinions have shifted in support of creating a legal system that honors our laws, controls our border and reflects our nation’s diversity.
What our country desperately needs is a modern legal immigration system that seizes upon new technology to simplify and modernize the process of entering and staying here legally. The support these initiatives are receiving from Republican voters and trusted conservative leaders is encouraging, and also indicates an emerging national consensus that the costs associated with further delay are far too great and carry with them the potential to perpetuate a jobless recovery.
Immigration reform is directly linked to the economy, so if Republicans are to be the party of economic growth, solutions and prosperity we must move beyond political sound bites and show, through action and initiative, that we are the party of immigration reform.
Carlos Gutierrez serves as national chairman of Republicans for Immigration Reform and is vice chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group. He served as Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush.