It's an Election Year: Is That Good for Immigration Reform?

Posted by Matthew Green | Feb 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Immigration reform and politics. It's a small phrase, but it sure says a lot. While the concept of immigration reform has been around for a long time, we have seen an increase in conversations, articles, and political debates over the past couple years.

Will this immigration reform bill ever get passed? Or will it just continue to be put on the back burner? As we enter into 2014, many think that most politicians will shy away from the topic of immigration reform because it is an election year. However, the majority of immigration-related legislation was actually passed during election years.

Simply put, there is a good chance that immigration reform will get passed in 2014 - at least, according to statistics. Consider this: there have been 81 immigration laws enacted over the past 50 years. Of those, 70% were passed in a congressional election year. This data remains consistent whether it is a presidential or a midterm election year.

It's easy to write-off immigration as a political hot potato, but why? Immigration laws typically are made up of issues that include the economy, law enforcement, child welfare, and humanitarian values. These four are just a sampling of what is typically included with immigration laws. When you think about it and really break these “immigration” laws down, they involve matters that impact all citizens, all the time. Thus, these are issues that politicians cannot avoid just because it is an election year.

Lynden Melmed, a former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, provides us with a good example to really drive this point home. He points to the Immigration Act of 1990. In this case, the bill sought to increase penalties for those engaged in immigration fraud and also made it simpler to deport criminals. Meanwhile the bill created a brand new visa category that was tied to job creation in the U.S. and it also expanded humanitarian relief to those immigrants who could not return home after a natural disaster. When signing the bill into law, President George H.W. Bush commented that “[t]his bill is good for families, good for business, good for crime fighting, and good for America.”

So, are there certain things that need to happen to help move this thing along? Well, at this point it seems that House Republicans want to hammer out some type of immigration reform. From a political standpoint, it is important to remember that Republicans want to get immigration reform passed before the 2016 presidential election in order to regain a little bit of Hispanic support.

For any immigration reform bill to be truly successful, it is necessary to understand what is actually important to immigrants. For instance, a Pew Research study has recently reported that the majority of Hispanics place more importance on living and working in the U.S. without the threat of deportation, rather than having a pathway to citizenship.

What are your thoughts on the probability of immigration reform getting passed in 2014? Would you bet on it?

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Attorney. The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...

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