House GOP Must Act on Immigration

US Capitol building
US Capitol building

Whether you believe President Obama should fix our broken immigration system through executive action or not, I have news: We could address this problem in two hours.

That's how long it would it take to hold a House vote if Republican Speaker John Boehner would just bring up the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that passed over a year ago on a 68-32 vote. If the measure passed the House, it could be on the president's desk and signed into law by this afternoon.

All the attention in recent weeks has focused on timing: Should Obama take action on immigration in the next few weeks or should he wait until after the elections -- until late November or December?

My question is a different one: Why should we even wait that long? And why are Republicans in the House sitting around and waiting for Obama to solve a problem that lawmakers from both parties have been pledging to fix for years?

The same House Republicans who love to criticize the president any time he uses his executive powers can't explain their own refusal to act on a compassionate and commonsense plan that would help millions of individuals and families come out of the shadows.

The Republicans' post-mortem report detailing why they lost the 2012 presidential election urged immediate action on immigration reform. Their most steadfast allies in the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pressured them to pass legislation. Even the party's top donors have called on Republicans in Congress to act.

Instead of taking any meaningful steps to address the recent border crisis or overhaul our immigration laws, House Republicans voted this summer for mean-spirited legislation to go after DREAMers -- children and young adults who grew up in this country, went to school here, work here and live here as our neighbors and friends.

If the Republican Party doesn't want to take action for humanitarian reasons, I hope they would at least recognize the economic imperative of reforming our immigration system.

A 2013 USC study estimated that passing immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship would inject $8 billion into California's economy each year. Nationwide, it would increase our GDP by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, increase wages for workers, and lead to between 750,000 and 900,000 new jobs, according to the Center for American Progress.

The reason is simple: When we allow these workers to come out of the shadows, their incomes rise, they open bank accounts, they buy homes, they start businesses and they spend money in their communities. Businesses will have access to talented workers in fields from agriculture to health care to high-tech, and taxpayers will see the deficit shrink.

It is long past time for House Republicans to do their job and act on comprehensive immigration reform. And if they won't, I am confident that President Obama will.

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