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Immigration: Moving Along

Finally (maybe) there’s some good news on immigration reform. There seems to be real movement in Washington on the issue. It seems that now that the people are leading, our leaders are following.

First, a group of eight United States senators revealed a bipartisan immigration plan to reform our broken immigration system. Some of the principles outlined are far from perfect, but the fact is that several conservative Republicans have committed in writing and in public to allowing immigrants an earned path to citizenship, a central tenet that’s necessary to real reform. 

Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama countered with a plan of his own.

He noted that it is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. His proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to pay taxes, play by the same rules, and come under the jurisdiction of the law. In the Obama plan, after national security and criminal background checks, paying a penalty, and learning English, immigrants will be able to earn a path to citizenship. Also, his proposal will put an end to punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own and let them earn citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

We’ve heard President Obama say the right things before. We’ve even heard his usual opposition in Congress say many of the right things before, too, though admittedly not lately.

What’s important and different this time is the palpable sense that something seems to be happening—that public mood and public moment seem to be in sync.

And that’s good for Long Island. We already benefit from the fact that immigrants come here from around the world to work and contribute. We’ll benefit even more when the system starts working right.

The specifics of this plan are going to be important. We know that there are many politicians who’d prefer a plan that’s designed to punish immigrants and—in the words of Mitt Romney—”encourage them to ‘self-deport’.” We know that many politicians are fine with simply doing nothing at all about this vital issue. And we know that both types of politicians will be weighing in.

So it’s up to us—all of us—to speak out and make sure that we do not miss this opportunity to deliver real change to a broken system.

Dig out. It’s time to get to work.

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the executive director of Long Island Wins, a communications organization promoting policy solutions to local immigration issues. The website is www.longislandwins.com.