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Now Is The Time For Immigration Reform

by Thomas W. Roach

2009 is the year for comprehensive immigration reform. The stage is set, the stars are aligned and the time is now.

So, why is now the time and not 2006 or 2007 when the measure twice failed to become law? Whats different in 2009?


First, the new Democratic President is in favor of immigration reform and both houses of Congress are not only democratic but strongly democratic. The Democrats hold 58 of the 100 Senate seats and 257 of the 435 House seats, a margin of 79. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said recently that the immigration issue has already been thoroughly debated. Senator John McCain, the presumptive leader of the Republican party, has pledged to help pass immigration reform and Reid says he doesnt expect much of a fight at all.

Second, the Republicans got walloped in the November elections and conventional wisdom is that their rabid anti-immigration rhetoric energized the fast-emerging Hispanic voting block to help move several states that had been voting Republican to the Democratic side of the ledger.

Karl Rove, the premier Republican political strategist over the past years, wrote in Newsweek magazine recently that, the GOP wont be a majority party if it cedes Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support comprehensive immigration reform An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.

Third, many politicians have stated for years that it would be impossible to deport 12 million illegal aliens but they wouldnt support a legalization program until the U.S. gains control of its southern border.

Well, the border is under control. The Border Patrol has doubled in size from 9,000 in 2001 to 18,000 in 2008. The government has constructed more than 520 miles of the 670 miles of southern fence that it promised. Interior enforcement has skyrocketed with high profile raids of meat packing plants, food processing facilities and many other businesses.

In addition, the downturn in the U.S. economy has caused the number of undocumented in the U.S. to actually go down for the first time in more than a decade. The total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is now about 11.9 million which is about 500,000 fewer than a year earlier.

Finally, to those who say, But since the unemployment rate is 7.2% and rising this is not the time to legalize millions of members of the workforce, my response is as follows: The unemployment rate in this country could hit 10% and you would still find very few out-of-work Americans who would accept work picking apples, milking cows, bussing dishes and making hotel beds when they can qualify for unemployment compensation while waiting for the economy to improve.

So, now is the time to pass this historic legislation that would legalize those here in undocumented status if they meet the following criteria: prove a strong work history in the U.S., prove payment of all back taxes, have no serious criminal history, have no serious immigration violations, learn some English, pay a significant fine and be required to go to the back of the immigration waiting line before attaining legal status.

This is not a radical idea. In fact, numerous polls over the past several years indicate that more than 70% of likely American voters are in favor of a solution to our present situation that contains the elements outlined above.

There will still be the Minutemen and the other 15-20% of the restrictionist population that will scream bloody murder no matter what the politicians do, but those anti-immigration diehards have been the tail wagging the dog for too long on this issue.

2009 is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

About The Author

Thomas W. Roach practices immigration law in Pasco, Washington. His practice primarily involves family-based immigration, although he does a considerable amount of R-1, K-1 and medical doctor immigration as well. He graduated from Seattle University in 1971, the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1975 and received a Masters in International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International Affairs in 1982. He first became interested in immigration law when he spent the year after completing college traveling by himself through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Tom has practiced immigration law for 23 years and has visited 38 countries.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.