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ICYMI: Houston Chronicle Editorial Board Praises Biden Immigration Plan, Urges Republicans to Drop Partisanship and Support the Bill

February 24, 2021

Today, the Houston Chronicle editorial board published an editorial praising President Biden's immigration plan, urging Republicans to drop partisanship and support the widely popular bill – noting that the vast majority of Americans are eager to see comprehensive immigration reform.

In the editorial, the Chronicle editorial board writes: "These immigration hardliners must not, however, be allowed to spoil the chance for true reform, as they have so often in the past, including under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Instead, the voices of moderate Republicans, and those from states such as Texas where the benefits of immigration are so vibrantly on display, must join with Democrats to reach a filibuster-proof majority."

The editorial also highlights the importance of immigration to Texas's economy, noting, "In Texas alone, undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $2.6 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2018, according to the American Immigration Council. Texas DACA recipients and DACA-eligible immigrants paid an additional $244.7 million in state and local taxes.

"At least one-fifth of business owners in Texas' big cities are immigrants; in the Houston area, it's more than half."

Houston Chronicle: Editorial: Biden's immigration reform is smart - and worthy of Republican support
[Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, 2/24/21]

The American people have spoken. Polls show the vast majority, around three-fourths, want immigration reform. They've been saying so for more than a decade and the calls have only gotten louder. Congress needs to finally listen.

Some Republicans in Congress will not be able to. They've become deaf to anything but the nativism that has seized much of the party.

These immigration hardliners must not, however, be allowed to spoil the chance for true reform, as they have so often in the past, including under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Instead, the voices of moderate Republicans, and those from states such as Texas where the benefits of immigration are so vibrantly on display, must join with Democrats to reach a filibuster-proof majority. Surely, 10 Republicans are willing to compromise. Surely, 10 Republicans are willing to do something that's both popular and which makes moral and economic sense.

President Joe Biden has taken the first step in making reform a priority. Legislation he supports, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, has been presented in the House and the Senate.

The bill's centerpiece would offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and other groups, including those with Temporary Protected Status, which allows immigrants from countries that have experienced natural disasters or civil strife to stay legally.

That protected group, along with "dreamers" brought as children, and farmworkers, would immediately be allowed to apply for permanent residency and could become citizens after three years. Millions more would be eligible to apply for citizenship in eight years. Applicants would have to pass background checks, pay taxes, and have been in the United States as of Jan. 1 — a requirement meant to avoid encouraging further illegal immigration.

This would immediately bring out of the shadows millions who already work, pay taxes and contribute to our economy and provide a pathway toward full integration.

The proposal also attempts to address the underlying causes of the recent wave of migration from Central America by increasing aid to those countries, expanding transnational anti-gang task forces and allowing Central Americans to seek protection in the U.S. from their home country. It would also make desperately needed improvements to U.S. immigration courts, adding judges, staff and investments in technology — steps conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz have urged previously as a way to clear backlogs that delay cases.

True to Biden's word, the bill — despite being a Democratic proposal — includes priorities long espoused by Republicans, such as the border security measures ranging from modernizing ports of entry to detect drug smuggling to new tools for prosecuting trafficking networks.

"We have an historic opportunity to finally enact bold immigration reform that leaves no one behind, addresses root causes of migration, and safeguards our country's national security," said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who introduced the Senate version of the bill. "We have a moral and economic imperative to get this done once and for all."

The bill isn't perfect. It could be tougher on employers who illegally hire workers who are undocumented — one of the main drivers of illegal immigration — and the bill fails to address guest worker programs that would help meet the need for agricultural, construction and high tech workers.

But this is a smart, good-faith effort that deserves consideration and support by a broad coalition of lawmakers.

Polls show 77 percent of Americans believe immigration is good for the country and more than 70 percent back a plan for legal status for undocumented immigrants.

In Texas alone, undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $2.6 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2018, according to the American Immigration Council. Texas DACA recipients and DACA-eligible immigrants paid an additional $244.7 million in state and local taxes.

At least one-fifth of business owners in Texas' big cities are immigrants; in the Houston area, it's more than half.

Addressing the moral case for reform — how we allow millions of families to live in fear while we benefit from their labor — is also smart politically, says Ali Noorani, head of the centrist National Immigration Forum.

"Part of the reason why the suburbs, particularly white women, shifted away from Republicans was the treatment of immigrants and refugees by the Trump administration," he says.

Republicans must act soon, or be left behind. Many Democrats are ready to push piecemeal reforms forward without Republican support.

But the bigger opportunity is for Democrats to win over 10 or more Republican senators and pass a comprehensive bill.

The proposal Biden backs has baked-in compromises with Republicans, and liberals will have to accept less than they'd hoped for. There is room for still further compromise. But the framework for finally addressing the millions of American residents who yearn to be citizens, and already do so much for the nation, is before us.

Through the years, Congress has let too many opportunities for reform pass by without action. This time must be different.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: Houston Chronicle Editorial Board Praises Biden Immigration Plan, Urges Republicans to Drop Partisanship and Support the Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/348150

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