The debate over immigration reform will be a fierce topic of discussion in the U.S. House of Representatives when Congress returns next week.
A July report from the White House indicates the United States’ gross domestic product would be boosted by as much as $1.4 trillion over the next decade, while Americans would receive an increase of $791 billion in total income. An additional $184 billion in federal and state tax revenue and more than two million jobs would be generated over the same period.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the original eight authors of the Senate’s immigration reform bill, spoke recently to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, where he said reform is a necessity regardless of what form it takes and urged the House, controlled by his fellow Republicans, to act swiftly.
“If we don’t get it done this fall, the chances of getting it done next year are much diminished,” McCain said. “We want to deal with the House of Representatives. If they pass piecemeal legislation, fine. However they want to do it.”
On June 27, the Senate adopted a bill that would pave a way to citizenship for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S., while also including provisions to increase border security and permits for low to high skilled workers in a work visa program.
As the Senate’s proposal stands, unauthorized residents without a felony or three misdemeanors could earn citizenship following at least 13 years after paying a small $500 fine.
Since the Senate passed its reform measures, the House has refused to pass the amnesty-granting bill. Instead, the House has decided to tackle reform in a piecemeal fashion, focused most with increasing border security.
In terms of security, the House bill would double the number of Border Patrol agents to at least 38,405, finish the completion of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S./Mexico border, while also forcing employers to implement an E-Verify employment system to verify the legality of employees.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have both indicated that immigration reform will not receive a vote on the House floor for quite some time. Boehner said two-thirds of his fellow representatives have “never dealt with the issue” of immigration before and must first educate themselves.
Regardless, the speaker and majority leader have advocated one measure known as the KIDS Act. The bill would assist the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as minors.
“This is about basic fairness,” Boehner said. “These children were brought here of no accord of their own and frankly, they are in a very difficult position, and I think many of our members think this issue needs to be addressed.”
Another reason for slow progress in the House is that immigration reform has long been a tough sell for conservative members of Congress and right-leaning voters, including Jerome sophomore Ty Hicks, the president of the University Libertarians at CMU.
“Although I understand the desire to determine which employers are harboring illegal immigrants, another crippling mandate by the government is not a policy that we should be embracing,” Hicks said.