The Immigration Reform Bill of 2013: Progress That Went Nowhere
Immigration reform is a consistent topic of discussion that plagues Congress and splits our country down the middle. Thousands of immigrants flock to the United States. The reasons range from escaping persecution to looking for a better life for one’s family or gaining access to higher education. In 2013, an immigration reform bill entitled The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigrant Modernization Act of 2013 was introduced. Authors of the bill intended to address illegal immigrants and border security but it never ended up going anywhere even though the bill will probably be remembered as one of the defining political topics of 2013. Read on to learn about the Immigration Reform Bill, what it entailed, and the arguments for and against it.
What was the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013?
The bill’s stated purpose was to address the issues of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living within the United States’ borders “by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here.”
Overall the bill was expansive and covered a number of issues, including paths to legality for illegal immigrants, border enforcement, and aiding those illegal immigrants who did not have autonomy in breaking the law–mostly children. The bill would have instituted what were called “triggers” that essentially make sure that in order to provide resources for undocumented immigrants, enforcement also needs to be stepped up. That was to ensure that the compromise that this bill created was held up on both sides of the aisle.
The bill was widely regarded as a compromise. It was created by the “Gang of Eight“–eight leading Senators spread out over both parties: Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). President Barack Obama also admitted it was very much a compromise; after it passed in the Senate he stated:
The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me. But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I – and many others – have repeatedly laid out.
While the bill passed the Senate in June 2013, it didn’t pass the House of Representatives. The Republicans in the House of Representatives announced that they had no intention of voting on it. The inaction on the House’s part may be part of the reason that President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration in November 2014.
What were the arguments in favor of the bill?
It’s no secret that there are many undocumented immigrants in the United States. But many of them make substantive contributions to our nation–they pay taxes and participate in the economy just as citizens do. However, because of their undocumented status, they live in a constant state of fear. This is especially true for the children of undocumented immigrants–morally it seems wrong to punish those who were brought to this nation as children.
The pathway to becoming a legal citizen would be made easier, and the bill aimed to streamline the process out of recognition of the huge blacklog that exists when it comes to processing applications and documentation. In addition the bill would have improved our security measures, helping to further prevent influxes undocumented immigrants in the future.
Another argument in favor of the bill was that it was pretty much as good as both sides were going to get. It was a real, legitimate move toward compromise, created by leading voices from both parties. Unless something changes drastically, there are going to continue to be two parties warring for control of our government. Even though no one got everything they wanted in this bill, it was truly a compromise.
What were the arguments against the bill?
The arguments against the bill included that it rewarded people for breaking the law and entering the country illegally. They argue that providing them help now, even it it only applies to immigrants currently in the country, will encourage others to try to illegally enter American borders. In addition, there’s worry that encouraging undocumented immigrants to stay will lead to overpopulation and take jobs away from American citizens. In addition, arguments against the bill included that it didn’t go far enough, and/or made certain steps harder for undocumented immigrants.
Many believe that undocumented workers take away jobs from American citizens and therefore should not be allowed to acquire citizenship themselves. Others believe that illegal immigrants are a source of increased drug trafficking in our nation. However, we have always been a nation of immigrants. If we begin refusing citizenship to those people who have lived and worked in our country for years we step away from the traditions that make this country what it is and always will be, a nation where people come to build a better life.