Dan Hilton 2014-08-28 06:34:28
Immigration Reform: The “Third Rail” of the 21st Century? A shortage of workers means immigration reform issues will affect multiple industries. June 10, 2014: A day that Washington will remember for years to come, when the highest-ranking officeholder was defeated for re-election. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s overwhelming defeat hit Washington like a ton of bricks. Immediately following Cantor’s defeat, political pundits and analysts offered their opinion on how he could have possibly lost, having outspent his lesser-known opponent by millions of dollars.Some said it was his likability, or lack thereof, and that he was known best for being driven in a black SUV by a security detail into rural Virginia as if it were a war zone and not his own congressional district. Others say he had lost touch with the voters, ironically in large part because of his duties as majority leader, which often required his presence in Washington negotiating directly with the president of the United States. But if there was one policy issue that his Opponent and national groups hit Cantor hardest on, it was immigration reform. Cantor appears to have been a victim of trying to reach across the aisle to address the growing problem of illegal immigration. What happened next caught Cantor so off guard that when the votes were being counted, he wasn’t even in his district; he was in Washington. Voters saw every night in HD clarity the growing humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border and swiftly took their concerns out on Cantor. Sometimes events can be so unrelated that they seem impossible to connect—like the conservative, Republican House majority leader cutting a deal on immigration— yet still take their toll. Where you stand depends on where you sit In journalism, a savvy interviewee doesn’t answer the question he was asked; he answers the question that he wants to have been asked.In Washington, our leaders are no different (and to be sure, they, too, answer the questions they wanted to be asked). Currently, many are pushing an issue that appears next to impossible to achieve 218 votes for in the House of Representatives and 60 in the Senate: comprehensive immigration reform. According to the Washington rumor mill, prior to Cantor’s defeat, there was one thing that President Obama had in common with your typical “Tea Party” member: neither wanted 2014 to be the year that comprehensive immigration reform succeeded. While this is a slight exaggeration, there are many on the political right who oppose granting automatic citizenship for those who entered this country illegally. There is a growing realization that something does need to be done, especially among employers looking to fill jobs. Now, more rumors circulate each day, from the (near certain) death of immigration reform to the president’s use of executive actions to address this crisis. As of this writing, the White House was preparing to take a pair of actions.First, reports are that the president will direct Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to shift immigration enforcement resources from the interior United States to the border. In addition, President Obama is said to be asking administration officials to send him recommendations on other additional actions that he can pursue without the blessing of Congress—suggestions that he wants by the end of the summer. Politically speaking, there are many who believe that from the president’s perspective, he wants nothing less than to hit his political opponents over the head for the remainder of this election year, and failing to achieve immigration reform is the perfect weapon. What’s more, an immigration bill that he Signs in 2014, some say, may not be nearly as generous as a bill he would sign if Democrats retook the House (and held the Senate). Supporting smart immigration reform A growing number of employer groups in Washington, from hotel and lodging to restaurant and trucking, have banded together to improve our outdated and overly complex system. There are those who want immediate, unconditional citizenship granted for anyone who’s gotten across our borders, as well as those who will consider any move toward a pathway to legal status, regardless of how long it takes for “amnesty.” These business community members, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, make up the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC), which strives to create a workplace environment where jobs can be filled and employers do not need to fear government raids. It also helps create a system that functions efficiently for employers, workers and government agencies. The EWIC wants a program that allows hardworking, taxpaying undocumented workers to earn legal status, while helping to strengthen nomocracy by establishing clear, sensible immigration laws that are efficiently and vigorously enforced. The American Supply Association (ASA) is not a member of the EWIC, but a great many of our allies in the building and construction industry belong to the group. ASA supports a process that moves our country forward, one that removes ambiguity in the law and unnecessary liabilities from the employer community.As is often the case, when one segment prospers, we all gain, but like Eric Cantor unfortunately learned, taking chances politically might come with a price. When more homes, buildings and facilities go up, we prosper. Like too many issues, the immigration debate will likely be extremely contentious, but one that we can avoid for only so much longer. As immigration reform progresses in Washington, ASA will be sure to be the collective pulse of our members and ensure that we have a seat at that table. Our hope is that the legislative process becomes the ultimate means by which everyone’s point of view is heard and respected to solve this dilemma, rather than by the blunt force of the president’s pen.
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