In the weeks leading up to the election, In Theory will be asking policy experts to weigh in on the critical questions our presidential candidates should be addressing — but often aren’t. This week we’re discussing immigration reform.
Immigration has been a prevailing topic in this election cycle, thanks to Donald Trump. And after a major immigration speech in Phoenix following a visit to Mexico, we are now fairly sure that the Republican candidate will continue to oppose a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.
This stance is important, as the previous attempt to pass immigration reform — orchestrated by the so-called Gang of Eight and passed by the Senate with bipartisan support in 2013 — was derailed by Republicans in the House, primarily due to resistance to the idea of granting citizenship. Now that the Republican presidential nominee has made firm that he won’t be removing any obstacles to citizenship any time soon, the prospects of passing any future pathway are murky at best.
But of course, the pathway to citizenship is not the only urgent area of immigration reform that Congress can address. Border enforcement, E-Verify measures and visa reform, for example, are areas in which there seems to be room for bipartisan cooperation. Some politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have argued that the only way to get legislation to the White House would be through a piecemeal approach.
While Hillary Clinton is dedicated to comprehensive immigration reform including a path to “full and equal citizenship,” focusing instead on portions of reform could be a good way to at least get the ball rolling. Could this be the right strategy for reform? Would a reform package be worthwhile without addressing the citizenship question? What specific policy points should receive priority for the next administration?