In a rare show of bipartisanship it appears that lawmakers are coming together on immigration reform.
President Obama spoke Tuesday on the issue in Las Vegas.
“The good news is that for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together,” the president said in remarks broadcast nationally.
Will members of both parties be able to reach an agreement?
Already a group of eight Democratic and Republican senators are working together on a plan.
The group of senators are Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona. Democrats are New York’s Charles Schumer, Illinois’ Richard Durbin, Colorado’s Michael Bennett and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez.
Republicans know that they have to compromise or they could lose many Hispanic voters indefinitely.
President Obama won almost three-quarters of Latino voters in 2012, according to Pew Hispanic. For Republicans to win the presidency next time they have to get at least 30 to 40 percent of Latinos voters to support them.
But much of the debate will focus on whether and how to grant legal status to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Some Republicans are saying we need more border security first.
President Obama’s administration has already deported more undocumented immigrants than any other modern president and there also are more U.S. Border Patrol agents on the ground than in the past.
The president said:
We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000.
But border security could become a wedge issue that blocks actual reform.
President Obama is hoping that lawmakers will pass legislation that he can sign.
He knows that Latino voters are beyond impatient as he promised to deliver immigration reform in the first year of his first term.
The president acknowledged that the undocumented broke the law. But he asked Americans to show compassion for people who are now part of this country.
The president said:
But these 11 million men and women are now here. Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re contributing members of the community. They’re looking out for their families. They’re looking out for their neighbors. They’re woven into the fabric of our lives.
It won’t be easy. Those who are undocumented will have to pass a background check, pay back taxes, pay a penalty, learn English, and then go to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally, the president said.
….it won’t be a quick process, but it will be a fair process and it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to green card and, eventually, to citizenship.
The only question now is if lawmakers will work for bipartisan reform or fall into gridlock as is typical in Washington, D.C.
There is too much at stake, including the future of the Republican Party, for them to do nothing. As the president said, “Now is the time.”