Immigration Reform: If Not Now, When?

Last Saturday in Nevada, Senate majority leader and candidate for reelection Harry Reid told an ebullient crowd that the Senate Democrats and the President had not forgotten immigration reform. From the New York Times:

“We’re going to come back, we’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform now,” he said in a speech to more than 6,000 people, mostly immigrants, gathered downtown. “We need to do this this year,” Mr. Reid said, drawing cheers from the crowd, which included many Latinos. “We cannot wait.”


Reid, who is facing a tough reelection bid, said that with the Democrats’ plan, illegal immigrants would face “a penalty and a fine, people will have to work, stay out of trouble, pay taxes, learn English” en route to citizenship.

While Reid said himself that immigration reform is an urgent priority, it seems unlikely that Congress or the President will act anytime soon. There are still raw wounds from the recently signed health care reform law; the economy is recovering more slowly than anticipated; and now, conservatives are baring their teeth for a bloody battle over the next Supreme Court nominee (several weeks before they have any idea who the President will name to the court).

The timing may not seem ripe for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, but when will it ever be? It is the right thing to do, and Senator Reid, the President and the Democratic Party should keep their promises to make this issue a priority in this congress. There are many legitimate points to be made in this debate on both sides, and the least that Congressional leadership can do is to begin that debate. Let’s begin the conversation, and move toward a more just and more humane system of immigration in this country.

Michael O'Loughlin

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
James Lindsay
7 years 9 months ago
Politically, even having the debate will be good for the Democrats, since the Tea Partiers will make it look ugly. Also, in the long term, immigration will change demographics in this country (even without reform) so that there will be no Republican Party in a decade, even in the South.

Even without the politics, this issue must be considered in the interests of justice - although I would go farther toward reform than the Democrats would. Immigration retrictions (and right to work laws) are what make undocumented immigrants so attractive to employers - since the threat of deportation leaves them cheap and docile. Take away that threat and let them join a closed shop and you will stop their recruitment much more effectively than any enforcement scheme ever would. This debate is so much a war between bad conservative policies that it would be amusing if not for the human cost born by those brought here illegally and some of the ugly racism apparent in the debate.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Jesus “is here in Lima, or wherever you are living, in the routine of your daily life and work.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 21, 2018
People and cheered Pope Francis everywhere he went on this last day of his visit.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 21, 2018
A boy presents a hat to Pope Francis upon his arrival at the international airport in Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Just as the apostles faced the storm on the sea, you had to face the brunt of ‘El Niño costero.’”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at the Maquehue Airport near Temuco, Chile, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Pope Francis’ statements...were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a statement released Jan. 20.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 20, 2018