So… the U.S. Senate passed a marked-up and amended version of the Gang of Eight’s “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” and now we’re on to the House of Representatives. What happens there is anybody’s guess. What we do know for sure is that Speaker of the House John Boehner has no intention of taking action on the Senate’s bill. “I’ve made it clear, and I’ll make it clear again: the House is not going to take up the Senate bill. The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” Speaker Boehner said at a press conference last Monday afternoon.
So what does that mean for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”)? I have no idea. How sad that I just wrote that. House Republicans seem so out of touch with what the American people want, and what’s good for America.
There have been countless reports in recent weeks referencing a number of studies which tout how great CIR would be for the U.S. economy. Take for example the combined report of the President’s National Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council, Office of Management and Budget, and the Council of Economic Advisers, entitled “The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System”. This report details the range of benefits to the U.S. economy that would be realized from passage of CIR. More importantly, it also discusses the high cost of inaction.
There was also a study published by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (“ITEP”) that concluded that undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States pay billions of dollars in taxes every year to state and local governments. If they earned a legal status, they would apparently pay even more. According to ITEP, “undocumented immigrants paid an estimated total of $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010.” Moreover, “allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2 billion a year.” If CIR were to occur, the increase state and local taxes in New York is estimated to be $224,126,000!
I remember working in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980’s. Fresh out of college and going to grad school, I started interning on Capitol Hill for Sen. Alfonse D’Amato. He then hired me and I worked for him for ten years. In those days, it seemed like most of the legislation I saw get passed was largely bipartisan and things got done. Today, it’s the complete opposite. It seems like nothing gets done in Washington, and no one’s getting along across party lines. With that as the backdrop, it was incredible that the Senate passed their bill. As for the House, the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees combined have passed five piecemeal bills dealing with immigration reform. None offer a road to legalization or citizenship for the undocumented population, and none increase the number of visas for legal immigration or clear the backlogs that currently exist.
It remains to be seen what the House will do in developing their owner “immigration bill”, as Speaker Boehner suggests it will. I suppose it should be somewhat encouraging that Speaker Boehner told House Republicans last week to pass immigration reform legislation, stating that House Republicans will be “in a much weaker position” if they failed to act. He’s right.