Immigration Reform 2013: Why the Bill Won't Be Enough

It appears likely that by the end of this week the Senate will have passed "comprehensive" immigration reform. The immigration bill, as it is likely to pass, would include a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented Americans. The bill would require that immigrants pay back taxes, speak English, and pass backgrounds checks. President Obama has been adamant that citizenship had to be the ultimate goal of any immigration reform, and it appears that Senate Republicans agree. The bill however goes further and would likely include a "Border Surge" with an increase in the number of boarder patrols, deployment of drones to target the region, and a 700-mile fence. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated, "we've practically militarized the border." He is, of course, proud of this achievement.

The argument goes on the Republican side that the United States has a right to secure its border as any sovereign country can and must. The overwhelming use of force will bring more Republican senators to vote in favor thus helping Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) achieve 70 votes. All that is necessary are 60 votes, but backers of the bill believe that 70 votes will help pressure the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has given mixed signs regarding the likelihood of immigration reform passing the House. Republican rank and file is adamantly against immigration reform, though the party leadership understands the importance of passing reform for the survival of the party.

How is it that one of the most ineffectual Congresses is on the brink of passing a bipartisan bill? The answer lies in the demographic shift of the country where Latinos are becoming a powerful voting bloc. Democrats have favored from the upswell of votes, some argue Obama won the election in key battleground states due to the increased Latino electorate. Republicans are eyeing the prize, votes matter, and their stance of immigration needs to change if they are to remain a competitive party.

Neither party however is addressing the needs of the Latino community. Immigration reform, though necessary and critical, is only a small token to this community. They must demand more from Republicans and Democrats alike. Passing conservative immigration reform, though better than nothing, does not do enough for the millions of people in this country. They will remain exploited, mostly uneducated, and without health care. The 13-year path to citizenship will not make them equal citizens, at best second-class ones who for the most part will join the ranks of the urban and rural poor. To them, we owe more than citizenship; we owe the American Dream.    

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Mateus Baptista

Mateus is a student at Brown University where he studies International Relations. He is particularly interested in issues of social justice and economic inequality.

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