Stop Playing Politics on Immigration

By attempting to repeal President Obama's executive action through both the courts and the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, Republicans are taking the wrong approach to immigration reform.
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By attempting to repeal President Obama's executive action through both the courts and the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, Republicans are taking the wrong approach to immigration reform. While these actions have spurred immense political debate, grassroots supporters and detractors and Sunday talk show fodder, it has also fueled harmful court cases and led Republicans to clog the pipeline of legislation in an already inactive Congress. The time has come for the political theatre to stop and for both sides to come to a bipartisan solution that leaves the President's executive actions in place.

In November, the Latino Victory Project applauded President Obama's decision to provide the opportunity for millions of Latinos and their families to come out of the shadows. The sensible fixes outlined in his executive action include laudable efforts to allow immigrants to stay in the country, contribute the economy and have access to a good education and a shot at the American dream.

Yet following the President's announcement, the national dialogue on immigration reform began to spin out of control. Without a clear vision forward, many Republican state and federal officials chose to support unhelpful actions that only move our country backward. Look no further than a suit out of Texas.

In what seems more like a political statement than a significant attempt at real reform, Governor Greg Abbott is leading a coalition of 26 states in a suit against President Obama and his plan to expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan (DACA). Latinos will remember the officials with large Latino populations in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas who are supporting action that could result in millions of immigrants being forced back into hiding and states losing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue.

While the judge in the case has granted a temporary injunction to the President's implementation of DACA, we are confident that this ruling will not stand. Twelve other states, the District of Columbia and more than 30 mayors across the country have already arrived on the other side of this issue, showing evidence that these executive actions will actually improve their local and state economies. In fact, immigration reform is estimated to grow the U.S. economy by $90 billion over the next 10 years and reduce the federal deficit by $25 billion through increased economic growth.

Another recent and dangerous case against executive action and our Latino community can be found in Arpaio v. Obama. The case's petitioner Sheriff Arpaio -- a man previously found guilty by an Arizona court of racial profiling against Latinos -- wasted taxpayer money in an unsuccessful suit to repeal President Obama's executive action. The judge rightly ruled that the President's decision to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants posed no harm to either Arpaio's county or himself as a citizen.

And now Congress is swept up in the drama, with lack of any idea for how to address comprehensive immigration reform. With the notable exception of newly-elected Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, who is working to move the debate on immigration to the sensible center, House Republicans are playing politics with our national security by tying the repeal of executive action to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, bipartisan former Department of Homeland Security Secretaries Tom Ridge (R), Michael Chertoff (R) and Janet Napolitano (D) have pointed out that in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, the growing threat of ISIL and cyber-security attacks here at home, funding of the agency is "critical to ensuring that our nation is safe from harm."

Yet -- we still have Republican members of the Senate, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, who find it necessary to bring this ludicrous bill to a vote three times in one week. What does it say about the Republican Party when this legislation not only puts our country at risk, harms the Latino community, but is also estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to widen the budget deficit over the next 10 years?

The fact of the matter is that elected officials looking to repeal executive action both at the statewide and federal level are at odds with the greater American public. A recent CBS News poll shows that 55 percent of Americans support keeping President Obama's executive actions in place and that 69 percent of Americans support legal status for those already living in the country.

Statewide and federal elected officials should remember the significance of immigration reform to the Latino community and the impact that these political fights will have in future elections. In recent years we have seen Latinos represent a greater share of the voting population. The issue they care about most? It's immigration reform, according to an election eve poll by the Latino Victory Project and Latino Decisions.

Elected officials willing to take on the battle cry of "repeal" would be wise to listen to the American public. The Latino community is waiting and watching - it is time to drop the charades, keep President Obama's executive actions intact and further work to find commonsense solutions to immigration reform.

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