The Arizona Republic
Let’s resurrect Sinema’s immigration reform plan
A few months ago, the nation’s eyes were on Arizona as we eagerly awaited election results.
In that national spotlight, Arizonans passed Proposition 308, expanding instate tuition to Arizona “Dreamers.”
Research from the American Immigration Council shows that passing Proposition 308 and keeping our college-bound “Dreamers” in the state was an essential step in advancing our economy and bolstering our workforce in some of the fastest-growing and most in-demand fields.
That includes health care and education, where Arizona is facing critical workforce shortages.
The passage of Proposition 308 also was an historic step by Arizonans toward much-needed updates to our country’s outdated and ineffective immigration system.
While additional measures can be taken at state and local levels to modernize policies around immigration, the fact remains that most of our immigration laws are federal, leaving much of the work in the hands of Congress.
Most congressional members are acutely aware of the need to substantially modernize immigration laws. There have been no legislative updates to our system since the 1980s, despite numerous and substantial efforts on both sides of the aisle that have fallen short.
One such effort took place in the final weeks of the last Congress, when a relatively quiet, bipartisan deal was being worked out by our own Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
Items discussed in the deal are overdue for evaluation — including funding, enhanced border security measures and a path to citizenship for “Dreamers.”
Along with Arizonans, an overwhelming majority in the country want Congress to embrace practical, bipartisan solutions for our growing immigration issues.
A recent National Immigration Forum poll showed 73% of registered voters, including 70% of self-identified conservatives, support Republicans and Democrats working together on immigration reforms that restore order at the border, provide a solution for “Dreamers” and ensure a legal, reliable workforce for our American farmers and ranchers.
The United States should be utilizing cutting-edge technology to improve our immigration system and secure our border. The combination of a backlogged system and the use of outdated security measures perpetuates the issue of illegal immigration.
“Dreamers” were brought to the United States by their guardians as children. The average DACA recipient – a federal program that offers legal protection to a segment of “Dreamers” – came to this country at age 6 and has lived here for 23 years, according to FWD.us, yet has no way of becoming a citizen in the only country they have known as home.
Without a permanent legislative solution, their legal status is under constant threat. Not only is this an inhumane policy, but it’s also economically unsound.
In Arizona alone, removing “Dreamers” from the workforce would eliminate more than $50 million in state and local taxes from the Arizona economy while harming the available talent pool to industries, especially those with growing demand, such as health care and advanced manufacturing.
Unfortunately, the Sinema-Tillis effort failed as they were unable to lock down the 60-vote supermajority necessary to end the inevitable filibuster in the final days of the 117th Congress.
It’s frustrating and disheartening to endure yet another failed attempt toward critically needed updates to our immigration system.
The Sinema-Tillis deal laid out a thoughtful foundation to advancing numerous commonsense solutions critically needed for our country, economy and workforce.
The plan is worth resurrecting in this new Congress.
Let’s ensure the momentum we have started here in Arizona continues in Washington, resulting in actual action and not mere talk by this 118th Congress.