Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has established himself as a champion of immigration reform–and he reaffirmed his commitment to real reform this week while talking to reporters in his home state of Nevada:
“There will be nothing done in my Senate (on immigration reform) without a pathway to citizenship,” he said.
The Majority Leader also expressed the sentiment shared by many advocates that the immigration reform cannot begin and end with talk about enforcement. That’s been the obsessive focus of our nation’s immigration policy for 25 years. The border has gotten tighter and tighter, but we still don’t have the type of immigration system this country needs. It’s time to tackle the missing piece—the status of immigrants who are Americans-in waiting, but lack the documents to prove it:
Reid, sitting in his Western-themed home, which sits in the middle of wide-open desert not unlike the terrain around the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border, said it was time to turn the focus away from border security and toward other reform measures.
“We have spent a huge amount of money on border security, and both our northern and southern borders are more secure,” Reid said. “Frankly, Mexico is doing much better economically, and that has helped the issue a lot. We can’t build a fence of 3,000 miles because no matter how high we build it, they can build a ladder taller than that fence. So I think we have about expended our energy on border security.”
The recent report from the Migration Policy Institute validates what Reid is saying. As that report found, “The U.S. government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, with the nearly $18 billion spent in fiscal 2012 approximately 24 percent higher than collective spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives” (emphasis added).
Reid, who “said immigration reform was one of his top two issues for this session,” also acknowledged the key role Latino voters played in his very hard-fought 2010 reelection. And, he expounded a bit on what reform looks like:
“People will have to move to the back of line. They would have to pay some penalties and fines, and they have to work, stay out of trouble and work on speaking English,” said Reid, offering general principles for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal residency. “That would bring people out of the shadows and really help everybody. It would be good for family reunification.”
Immigration reform must focus on citizenship and family reunification (and not enforcement.) That’s Harry Reid’s view of real immigration reform in 2013. Sounds like a plan.