Lawmakers Must Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

President Joe Biden sent the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that is fair, practical and should be signed into law.

It’s been close to three decades since the last sweeping immigration bill. And it’s arguable that today’s political environment couldn’t be less challenging than in the past for Republicans to come on board on immigration reform with nativism and anti-immigrant sentiments at a high just after Trump’s immigrant-scapegoating presidency.

But Democrats won the election, seized control of the Congress and the presidency, and according to polls a vast majority (around 75%) favor immigration reform.

This rare opportunity cannot be wasted. Biden, a long-time DC fixture knows how precious a moment this is with immigration reform failing to come to fruition under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (16 years of missed opportunity) and a zero-chance of passing under Trump.

End the Filibuster
The destiny of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 lies squarely in the US Senate where there is an archaic, odd Senate rule (not written in the Constitution) that requires a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation.

To date, newly minted Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer has been hesitant to pull the plug on the filibuster (until the latest COVID assistance package) even as his predecessor Mitch McConnell had used a simple-majority (only requiring 51 votes) to pass the 2017 Corporate Tax Cuts and more recently Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court.

Should Schumer decide not to go over the filibuster rule on immigration reform this year, rest assured Republicans will block the bill, and the will of the American people will be denied, yet again.

Sen. Schumer needs to be smarter than what he’s been showing so far.

It should also be noted that the Senate 50-50 current composition (VP Kamala Harris would break any tie) does not equally represent the nation’s population as what appears. Fifty of the Republican-led states actually represent 41.5 million fewer Americans than the 50 Senate Democrats. How so? Many smaller states are represented by Republicans. But small or large, each state only gets two US senators.

This fact alone should make it easier for Schumer to break the filibuster and push through immigration reform by simple majority or reconciliation (legislation with budgetary consequence passed by a simple majority).

What’s Good About Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021
The longstanding criticism is the legal immigration process takes too long for immigrants and that not enough immigration judges and staff are available to address the huge backlog of cases already pending.

The Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes to clear backlogs, eliminate lengthy wait times and increase per-country visa caps. It also proposes to expand family case management programs and hire more immigration judges to reduce court backlogs.

There are other noteworthy features: the bill makes it easier for STEM graduates to stay in the US and improve access to green cards (great for business and maintains the US’s edge in Science and Technology globally); and enables immigrant farmworkers to be eligible for green cards immediately (great for business and secures the nation’s food production).

The Filipino community should also be pleased with the bill because it gives Filipino veterans (who fought alongside the US during WWII), their widows, and children immigration protections.

For Dreamers, the bill includes a pathway to citizenship, a very popular proposal.

Fixing the legal immigration process ultimately contributes to lowering illegal immigration. With a faster, fairer and improved legal immigration process, it deters illegals from taking that risky entry that will never allow them to be completely free in the US; and rather influence them to enter the country the right way.

New Direction, New Tone
The fact the Biden administration is making comprehensive immigration reform a high priority is in itself a welcomed change from the past four years. It signals a renewed commitment to immigrants; that Americans should be reminded of the valuable role immigrants play in our country; and that immigration has always been and will continue to be a cherished tradition in our country. Hopefully, the Trump years will be looked upon as a misguided path that Americans will not want to revisit.

Given the major contributions immigrants have in the US economy and that the bill continues the goal of securing our borders and facilitating orderly legal entry – there really is no reason why Republicans should find it impossible to approve.

Passing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 by a supermajority (60 votes, that will require Republicans) would send a strong message that our country is accepting of immigrants and diversity. But if the votes are not there initially, Schumer and Democrats must play hard ball, circumvent the filibuster, and plow ahead with a simple majority. Something as monumental as comprehensive immigration reform cannot be passed off yet again for a lousy Senate rule that puts at advantage minority rule over the will of the majority.

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