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Immigration Reform Gains Momentum

Last week the Senate introduced an 844-page immigration reform bill that could prompt the most sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policy since 1965.

The bill includes major changes to almost all sectors of immigration policy. It establishes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, increases border enforcement efforts, mandates job-based enforcement within the United States, and revamps our legal immigration system in ways that begin to shift the emphasis from family-based immigration to a system that takes U.S. labor force needs into account.

The bipartisan bill was met with widespread accolades by the full spectrum of immigration advocates, albeit with caveats on a variety of issues. While the Senate bill has garnered broad consensus across the political spectrum, the House bill – expected to be introduced within weeks – is likely to be more restrictive. Reconciling both of these bills in a way that will be acceptable to the varied interests promoting immigration reform will be a major challenge in coming months.

One component missing from the bill is an acknowledgement of the international “root causes” of immigration, which include poverty, inequality, and lack of economic opportunity in Mexico and Central America.

While the reasons behind immigration are often seen as a secondary issue – less important than the bill’s major provisions on legalization, border enforcement, legal immigration reform, and guest worker components – any comprehensive immigration policy reform should include an analysis of the “push factors” of unauthorized immigration. As the bill enters the amendment process, this will be one of the key issues for Bread for the World; we will continue to monitor and advocate on “root causes.” Andrew Wainer  

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