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Photo: Gustavo Torres, president of Casa in Action and board member of Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), center, and community advocates during a rally of immigrant rights in front of the White House after the November 2012 election. (Credit: CASA in Action).

Immigration reform has been established as one of the most important issues on the post-inauguration agenda, with a rapidly growing number of Republican elected officials acknowledging the need for effective and humane reform.

Without a shred of doubt, the Republican Party’s monumental loss of Asian-American, Latino, and immigrant voters has driven the rapid progression of immigration reform on the Congressional and Presidential agendas. It proves that demonizing ethnic constituencies is a serious miscalculation for those seeking elected office.

Furthermore, the overwhelming African American embrace of pro-immigrant legislation, such as the Maryland DREAM Act that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland higher education institutions, demonstrates that it is time for Congress to act on immigration reform. After all, research by an array of groups, including Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, show how the current immigration crisis has led to civil and human rights abuses, making this matter an American problem that we all need to face as a nation.

The electorate understands that we need to acknowledge our immigration crisis and pass immigration reform legislation that is effective, keeps families together based on our nation’s values, and improves our economy.

It is clear that the current political momentum calls for a renewal of our immigration reform principles, focused on a path to citizenship to the 12 million undocumented individuals and family reunification.

Fortunately, some Republican Party leaders are showing signs that they recognize that repairing the GOP’s relationship with Latino and immigrant voters can only happen if they meet President Obama halfway by making immigration reform bipartisan.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said regarding immigration reform, “This issue has been around far too long…A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Additionally, a series of Republican governors recently joined Republican Congressional leaders advocating for the reform of the outdated immigration process. Among the statements from Republican governors include those from Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who said of the Party’s immigration stance in the 2012 cycle, “Republican candidates this year did a lot of damage to the brand.” Virginia’s Bob McDonnell stated “We have to realize: We’re not going to deport 12 million people…It’s just not going to happen.” And New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, who said of Latino voters, “We need to embrace them not just at election time…We have to make them part of the solution, and the way you do that is by listening to them.”

But the growth of support of immigration reform doesn’t just come from the general public and politicians.

Demographic trends make future workforce needs inescapable, requiring an efficient immigration system that responds to the diverse economic needs of our various workforce sectors as they arise. These circumstances are well understood by the business community, which has reacted by being increasingly vocal about the importance of supporting a workable immigration process that reflects the economic interests and needs of our nation.

New York City Mayor and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg, Marriott International’s Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott, and Caterpillar’s Chairman and CEO Douglas Oberhelman are some of the business leaders advocating for an effective immigration process.

And immigration reform is good for workers as well as employers. According to research by Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, it generates $1.5 trillion in additional GDP over 10 years and boosts wages for both native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers. The purchasing power of immigrant communities is also enormous and growing. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, the purchasing power of Latinos is projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2014.

November’s election proved that failure is not an option for those hoping for a political future and while early indications from some GOP leaders are promising, we will be on guard.

It is a fact that the U.S. electorate and critical sectors including business and labor all agree that we need to work on immigration reform to legalize the status of the undocumented community and reunite families. As the 113th U.S. Congress approaches, we prepare for an honest and fruitful discussion on how to reach bipartisan support to reform our immigration system in a way that is workable, reunites families, protects civil and human rights, and contributes to our economy.


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