Immigration Reform 2013: Republicans Need to Stop Generating Gridlock

Some trends to consider: college graduates are seeing an increasingly smaller return on their education, millennials (defined as current 18-29 year-olds) see immigrants as a generally positive influence on society  except for when it comes to the job market, and the younger generation is rising in electoral influence. With the current debate on immigration reform, these trends demand attention. After Obama rode the younger vote, among others, back to the White House, the Republican Party has been looking for a way to shift that demographic’s support. Immigration reform may offer them that opportunity. The danger, however, lies in losing sight of progress by trying to figure out what exactly the millennials want. This thought is supported by one last trend: Congress’s approval rating remains embarrassingly low.

The Republican Party needs to do something about immigration to shift support within millennials to the right, but mostly because immigration reform holds the floor and public attention right now. Immigration has risen to the forefront in the wake of Obama’s amnesty proposal and the fact that, like many things seem to be these days, it is a broken system. In order to fix immigration, while in committee rooms, taking meetings, listening to each other, and talking, members of Congress should keep a military mantra in mind: "perfect is the enemy of good." The key at this point is less to find the silver bullet for reform or the perfect policy prescription, and more to get something done.

Parties agree that the current system is broken, there is large consensus that deportation is not the solution for those in the United States, and many recognize that immigrant labor supports the American economy. This all means there is compromise to be had, so why does a bill remain so elusive? There is likely a clever insider’s answer that includes discussion of constituent groups, Congressional procedures, and a whole laundry list of nuances that, as an average American citizen, I cannot possibly be fully aware of. Well, I no longer buy it.

We send Congress to Capitol Hill to get things done: to create laws, solve problems, and to guide our country away from the brink we keep hearing about. And yet every few months another looming problem gives the country heart palpitations as a sense of impending doom sets in around the economy, debt, sequestration, immigration, gun control, or elections. Why, dear leaders, do you so enjoy making federal legislation suspenseful? Pandering to your constituents is understandable, but any reasonable electorate prefers progress to gridlock.

Republicans must take action on immigration. But the key phrase is "take action," not "on immigration." Little progress comes from grand-standing, filibustering, stump speeches, or making a show of an issue. Progress in Congress, as elsewhere, comes from talking with those who you are making the decision with, being reasonable in your expectations, and looking for a solution, not your solution. Each member seems to be constantly looking for the perfect solution for the issue given their constituency, but they forget that a good compromise leaves everybody angry. To win the millennials, Republicans must begin to compromise and must be seen getting something done, and right now immigration reform presents the best opportunity for that.

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Michael Hogan

I am currently a senior at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, pursuing a degree in International Politics with a concentration in International Security and a certificate in International Business Diplomacy. I am from Connecticut, and have spent time abroad in both Germany and China.

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