The Potential of the Immigration Discussion

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Colorado's Secretary Of State said he has finalized an agreement on non-citizen illegal voting rights. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Colorado’s Secretary Of State said he has finalized an agreement on non-citizen illegal voting rights. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Several media outlets reported late Sunday night that a small bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have reached an agreement on significant immigration reform. The plan has endorsements from several high profile Democrat and Republican senators.

In essence, the reported plan would establish a path to citizenship for America’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, but not until stricter enforcement procedures were put in place. The agreement would also develop a separate path to citizenship for those who arrived in this country as children.

Immigration has been a hot topic for Americans since the country was established. There has always been an influx of immigrants that were both wanted and unwanted at the same time.

Legal immigration has taken several forms over the history of our country, so true comparisons of immigration eras are difficult at best. But what remains true is that every time the United States has been faced with solving this problem, the country has come out of the challenge a stronger nation.

As difficult as this round may seem, the positive potential remains.

While the discussion is guaranteed to be contentious, it appears that the U.S. Senate is willing to give it a try. The senators that have been meeting in private in order to arrive at an agreement should be commended for spurring the debate.

With a bipartisan group of influential senators setting the stage, the Senate actually has a shot at passing some semblance of immigration reform as a legislative body.

The big question will be what the U.S. House does with the opportunity.

It’s also another major test for the Republican House Leadership. Speaker John Boehner has a mixed record when it comes to moving his caucus down the road on controversial issues. But with little movement likely from his party on gun control issues, and lines being drawn in the sand on other issues, immigration stands as one of the major issues Speaker Boehner can lead his party to a productive compromise.

If House leadership can steer their caucus to a productive stance on this issue, the progress made can directly influence the party’s stance with Latinos and in 2014.

While President Obama found a great deal of support from Latino voters in 2012, with no Latinos on his cabinet to date, and few other issues resolved, the group has yet to see anything of real substance delivered from the President.

Republicans can seize this moment to be seen as part of the solution instead of the remaining barrier to a productive solution.

The GOP has somehow alienated a group of voters who are overwhelmingly Catholic, socially conservative and known for family values. It’s also the largest growing group of voters in the country. The GOP’s single greatest barrier to this group is immigration reform.

I’m not suggesting Republicans simply cave on demands on immigration reform to cater to Latino votes. What I am saying is that the GOP needs an issue to be a part of a productive compromise instead of continuing the idea of being the party of No. This particular compromise can help the GOP on many fronts. Refusing to seize this opportunity can exacerbate the problems the GOP currently has with the general electorate.

The debate won’t be easy, but the opportunity that comes with successfully negotiating this issue should simply be too promising for the GOP to pass up.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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