The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act": A Constructive Step Forward for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
On October 2nd, 2013, in the midst of the chaos that has loomed over the country's capital these past two weeks with the government shutdown and impending debt ceiling, the House of Representative Democrats managed to introduce a new immigration bill. The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" comprises a solid set of legislation that addresses both security as well as legalization issues. The House Democrats' decision to introduce the proposal during this time of crisis may have been overshadowed by media hysteria over the shutdown but if anything, will hopefully goad House Republicans into confronting this polarizing issue of immigration reform again. Although the new proposal seems to mirror the same provisions previously laid out in Senate Bill S744 from June, there a few notable differences. The new version does not include an interest in building more border fencing, but accentuates the need to amp up security through the use of more border patrol agents. Due to the stalled debate on immigration, the need to incorporate Republican characteristics into the new proposal was undeniably necessary and that meant a continuing emphasis on enforcement. The new plan calls for measures ambitiously geared to alleviate 90% of illegal border-crosses in high-traffic areas as well as across the southern border within two to five years. Such measures include the use of biometric technologies at U.S. ports of entry, as well as camera and sensor equipped aircraft.
In addition, mirroring the Senate's earlier bill, the new bill seeks to put about 8 million undocumented immigrants on a 13-year path to citizenship, increase the number of green cards in an attempt to attract more talented international students and scholars, and provide incentives to talented and highly skilled foreign nationals.
Although the bill may not be perfect, especially in a Republican-led House, it does continue to emphasize and reflect the coalition of interests behind reform. The Republicans in the House have previously rejected the Senate plan, but with each Republican rebuff comes increased pressure from pro-immigration advocates to confront the issue. Keeping immigration reform on the agenda as a top priority is extremely important and critical because if there is any opportune time to push through legislation, it is this year. If immigration reform continues to percolate in the background, percipient members of Congress may finally come to their senses and realize that passing comprehensive immigration reform might actually help to alleviate the nation's financial woes, and move constructively to handle a problem that will not go away until it is managed with common sense and level heads.