TIME Religion

Immigration Laws Should Serve People, Not Politics

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents take undocumented immigrants into custody on July 22, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents take undocumented immigrants into custody on July 22, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas. John Moore—Getty Images

Was the law made for people or people for the law?

Throughout both legal history and Judeo-Christian scripture, there has always been tension between the “letter” and the “spirit” of the law. In the gospels, Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees for focusing too much on legalism instead of grace. He famously said, “The Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath.”

In light of what’s been happening in our political systems, it’s clear that we need to ask: “are our laws made for people?” Or do we believe that people were made for our laws?

I have worked alongside many Republicans who have helped lead the battle for immigration reform. These Republicans care about the 11 million undocumented people in this country who have gotten stuck, stranded, marginalized, and jeopardized in a broken immigration system. These are Republicans who don’t want to deport millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants and who don’t want to break up their families. These are Republicans who believe that legalizing those immigrants would be good for the country and the economy and support an earned path to citizenship for those who want to wait at the back of the line to become American citizens, pay a fine for breaking the law, submit to complete background and criminal checks, learn English, and pay American taxes for the good work they do. These are Republicans who believe that helping vulnerable children supersedes ideology. And these are Republicans who want their party to be open and inclusive and ready to welcome the Hispanic American community into their party.

But then there are Republicans who have blocked immigration reform even though a majority of Republican party members across the country now favor it, who want to physically deport or make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they will “self-deport,” and who either themselves accept or are willing to accommodate to what even other Republicans call “racial factors” in their white constituencies. And there are, cynically, Republicans who simply refuse work with the President or Democrats on any issue. And there are some Republicans who are helping to fuel the alarmists that are rising up across the country to attack immigration and immigrants, and now even children from Central America who have recently come as desperate refugees.

The same voices that have blocked immigration reform are now trying to distort a very serious refugee crisis of children fleeing for their lives from the escalating violence in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador into an immigration problem, and are using those desperate and vulnerable children as political pawns in the debate around immigration reform. That is morally reprehensible. In Congress, with their consistent commitment to block anything President Obama proposes, the GOP is refusing to spend the money necessary to care for and carefully process the children who are seeking safety and asylum in America. Children are sitting alone away from their families in processing centers without the adequate resources to care for them.

And most shockingly—and absurdly—instead of doing what’s right and working to address the crisis we’re facing at the border, the leader of the Republican party would rather sue the President over failing to execute the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After a year of political maneuverings and a shutdown of the government in protest over the ACA, Speaker Boehner preferred to sue the president for not enforcing the letter of a law he opposes, than to vote on immigration reform which might have humanely addressed the crisis at the border. I fear the actions on health care and the inaction on immigration reform proves that in Congress scoring a political victory is far more important than alleviating the suffering of people. This is a matter of moral leadership and doing what’s right that should transcend ideology.

Because Congress has defaulted on its moral leadership in favor of political maneuvering, President Obama is considering what options his administration can take to fix particular aspects of our broken immigration system or at least reduce the suffering. But any steps he takes will far fall short of the ideal – because the only sustainable solution is legislative. We should the support the President’s attempts to offer compassion until Congress has the courage to act. He should start with ending the deportations of law-abiding people that would break up their families.

While any action the President takes will certainly be within his constitutional and legal authority, the fact that it will be the executive branch providing relief instead of the legislative branch enacting reform again raises the age old question of what purpose the law is supposed to serve? Too many of our supposed leaders seem to have forgotten that they were elected to serve people not politics and parties. This is a moral test of leadership that John Boehner needs to retake.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The UnCommon Good is available in stores.

TIME Immigration

Obama Eyes Major Immigration Move

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about immigration reform on June 30, 2014, in the White House Rose Garden in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

The President may be preparing to provide temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants

When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants. If the activists are right, the sweeping move would upend a contentious policy fight and carry broad political consequences.

The activists met privately with the President and his aides June 30 at the White House, and say in that meeting Obama suggested he will act before the November midterm elections. They hope his decision will offer relief to a significant percentage of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “He seems resolute that he’s going to go big and go soon,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform group America’s Voice.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy. After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced in a fiery speech that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress. But its failure to act has changed his thinking. The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The White House won’t comment on how many undocumented immigrants could be affected. “I don’t want to put a number on it,” says a senior White House official, who says Obama’s timeline to act before the mid-term elections remains in place.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But even more modest steps could provide relief to a population numbering in the seven figures. “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

One plausible option would be to expand DACA to include some family members of those already eligible. Says a Congressional aide: “While there are several options to provide temporary deportation relief, we expect an expansion of the DACA program to other groups of individuals to be the most clear opportunity.”

It’s hard to pin down how many people this would cover; it would depend on how the administration crafts the order. But the numbers are substantial. According to the CBO, there are an estimated 4.7 million undocumented parents with a minor child living in the U.S., and 3.8 million whose children are citizens. Around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, but have been unable to gain legal status themselves.

Obama could also decide to grant protections for specific employment categories, such as the 1 million or so undocumented immigrants working in the agricultural sector, or to ease the visa restrictions hindering the recruitment of high-skilled foreign workers to Silicon Valley. Either move would please centrist and conservative business lobbies, who have joined with the left to press for comprehensive reform, and might help temper the blowback.

The second bucket of changes Obama is considering are more modest enforcement reforms. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, is deep into a review of the administration’s enforcement practices, and it is likely Obama will order some changes to immigration enforcement priorities. But if these tweaks are the extent of the changes, it would be a blow to activists expecting more. “That’s crumbs off the table compared to the meal we’d be expecting,” says Sharry.

Until now, Obama has frustrated immigration-reform activists by insisting he has little latitude to fix a broken system on his own. To a large extent, he’s right. Any relief the President provides would be fleeting; it’s up to Congress to find a permanent solution by rewriting the law. Deferring deportations does not confer a green card. It only offers a temporary fix.

But legal experts say Obama does have the authority to take the kinds of executive action he is thought to be considering. “As a purely legal matter, the President does have wide discretion when it comes to immigration,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell University Law School. “Just as DACA was within the purview of the president’s executive authority on immigration, so too would expanding DACA fall within the president’s inherent immigration authority.” According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, categorical grants of affirmative relief to non-citizens have been made 21 times since 1976, by six different presidents.

Even if Obama is on firm footing from a legal standpoint, he would be wading into political quicksand. Republicans would assail him for extending mass “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants at a moment when the southern border faces an unresolved child-migration crisis. Immigration would become a signal topic in the fall elections, and given that Obama’s handling of the issue has slipped to just 31%, that wouldn’t necessarily favor the President’s party. It would likely damage vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states, including several whose re-election could determine control of the Senate. And Congress’s incipient failure to reach an agreement on an emergency supplemental bill to address the border crisis muddies the waters even further.

At the same time, Obama will be pilloried by Republicans no matter what he does. Despite the short-term political consequences, in the long run a bold stroke could help cement the Democratic Party’s ties with the vital and fast-growing Hispanic voting bloc. And it would be a legacy for Obama, a cautious chief executive whose presidency has largely been shaped by events outside his control. In the case of immigration, he has the capacity to ease the pain felt by millions with the stroke of a pen.

“There are two ways this could go,” says Fitz of the Center for American Progress. Obama will be remembered as either “the deporter-in-chief, or the great emancipator. Those are the two potential legacies.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller/Washington

TIME Congress

Hispanic Caucus To Push Deportation Relief in White House Meeting

The meeting will focus on a list of executive action recommendations the caucus sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in April

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House counsel Neil Eggleston at the White House on Friday morning, Jasmine Mora, a spokesperson for Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), told TIME. Hinojosa is the Chairman of the CHC.

The meeting will focus on a memo the caucus sent to Johnson in April on administrative deportation relief and humane enforcement practices, Mora told TIME. “The intent of the meeting tomorrow is to talk about what administrative actions the President can take under the law,” she wrote in an email.

One of the CHC recommendations—to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to parents and siblings—is the “most clear opportunity” to provide temporary deportation relief, another congressional aide told TIME. If DACA were extended to children’s family members, illegal immigrant families would be able to stay together in the U.S. for at least two years without fear of deportation. In the memo, CHC writes that nearly 205,000 parents of U.S. born children were deported in between July 2010 and September 2012.

In June, President Obama announced that he had asked Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to seek out additional executive actions on immigration that he could announce before the end of the summer. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

TIME Immigration

The Border Crisis Is Shifting Americans’ Views on Immigration

Immigrants Processed At The McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas
Immigrants who have been caught crossing the border illegally are housed inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas where they are processed on July 15, 2014 in McAllen, Texas. Pool—Getty Images

Particularly among Republicans, according to a new Pew Survey

America’s attitudes towards immigrants had begun shifting positively early this year, but have taken a turn amidst a wave of unaccompanied minors crossing the United States’ southern border. Over 50,000 unaccompanied youth have crossed the border into the U.S. illegally over the past nine months, often fleeing violence and poverty in Central American countries. And the majority of American adults are in favor of accelerating the children’s deportations, even if that means removing children that may be eligible for asylum, according to a new study.

Around 53 percent of American adults want the government to speed up the process of removing children who illegally enter the country, regardless of whether they qualify for asylum, according to a new Pew Research Center report. Only 38 percent support the current policy, which allows children to stay in the U.S. with designated guardians while they await legal hearings.

In response to the border crossings, President Obama has declared the influx a humanitarian crisis and has proposed legislation that would accelerate the removal process for immigrant kids. Yet only 28 percent of the public agrees with Obama’s handling of the issue, while about 56 percent disapprove, per Pew.

The situation has taken a toll on how Americans view immigration as a whole. Back in February, 73 percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, supported a pathway to citizenship. Now, 68 percent of Americans, and about 54 percent of Republicans, support providing legal status to those who entered the country illegally. There’s been a slight drop among Democrats, too — about 81 percent of Democrats favored a path to citizenship in February, while now that’s down to 77 percent.

Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s civil rights director, says there’s also been a rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric during the the border crisis.

“We’re definitely seeing a large uptick in anti-immigrant rhetoric since children have been coming in from Central America,” Lauter says. “This humanitarian crisis is really providing fodder for it.”

Pew’s study was conducted between July 8 and 14 and surveyed 1,805 American adults.

 

TIME politics

Evangelicals Must Take the Reins on Immigration Reform

Immigrants And Activists Protest Obama Response To Child Immigration Crisis
Young children join immigration reform protesters while marching in front of the White House July 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

The church cannot be silent as angry groups of people stoking the flames of fear yell at buses filled with helpless immigrant children and women.

Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez is dead. Immigration reform is dead. These headlines are a tragic consequence of two parts of the world still incapable of finding a way to address comprehensively the issues of gang violence, extreme poverty, corruption and other root causes of immigration. This narrative repeats itself thousands of times all over the world. We can and must do better. All of us must be part of the solution.

Gilberto was an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy who died near the Southwest border of the United States, most likely in a desperate search for water. I am a father of two young boys. I wept. Jesus weeps. The church, nation and world mourn. As an evangelical pastor, I must speak of all the grief and loss associated with death just as surely as I hold to the hope of resurrection. We must find a way forward that saves as many Gilbertos as we can.

In meetings with President Obama, members of Congress, and immigrant voices last week, one thing was abundantly clear: this is a crisis. Everyone agrees that something must be done. The question remains: How do we move from political ping-pong with children’s lives to real regional and global solutions?

I told my congregation last Sunday, “Fear cannot be our basis for action. Fear is never the humane way forward.” If we are to move forward, we must work together in hope. Hope requires sacrifice and courage. This hour in American history will tell how strongly the evangelical church in America holds to these virtues. Will evangelicals step forward and asked for increased resources for security, education and sustainable development in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua? Will we refuse to allow people to blame children for the broken immigration systems? The church cannot be silent as angry groups of people stoking the flames of fear yell at buses filled with helpless immigrant children and women. Intelligent and well-meaning people can disagree on the best way forward to this humanitarian and immigration crisis. All will agree that screaming at children caught in an inescapable web of international relations, corruption, human traffickers and stagnation on immigration reform isn’t the way forward.

There are no easy answers. Everyone has to put his or her best foot forward. Governments in Latin America must be held accountable for the security and safety of its most vulnerable citizens, particularly children. “Coyotes” and human traffickers who exploit the vulnerabilities of millions must be brought to justice. Any corruption that risks the lives of these children must be decried and eliminated. Governments, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and congregations must increase our efforts to serve our brothers and sisters around the globe.

We in the United States must also remember that our commitments and foreign policy in Latin American aid, security, environment and development have a direct impact on whether Gilberto and those like him remain safely at home or dies in the desert. In addition, we must, for the sake of our shared humanity, act on immigration reform. Legislative inaction has too high a cost. And when they come to our shores seeking refuge from the tempest-tossed realities of violence and poverty, we cannot allow screaming crowds to be the voice of who we are as a people. For when we as a nation query Jesus, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or needing clothes, or sick, or in prison and did not help you?” Jesus will reply, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” What we do for Gilberto, we do for Jesus.

Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero is the President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and Pastor of The Lamb’s Church in New York.

TIME Religion

Immigration Reform Has Some Dry Bones

A message for immigration reform is found in a Biblical prophecy

Immigration reform appears to be dead in this Congress. According to recent reports, Speaker Boehner told President Obama that the House would not take action on immigration legislation this year. This is a moral failure of leadership.

The resounding message from the Republican House leadership is that politics is more important than the suffering of families. In the end, the thousands of stories that evangelical Christians have brought to Republicans don’t matter to them. There is no other conclusion to be drawn.

President Obama responded with an announcement that his Administration will take executive action to attempt to fix some of the inhumane consequences of this horrible system and “try to help relieve the suffering” as faith leaders asked him to do in a meeting at the White House this week. Republicans will likely decry his efforts as “overreach” and claim he is failing to enforce the existing law. But obstructionism on the part of the Republican-controlled House, instead of addressing the moral failures of a broken system, is shameful. The fact that this President has deported a record number of people renders these protests both cynical and dishonest. If those who refused the moral opportunity to fix this broken system now oppose the President’s efforts to protect suffering families and people, many of us in the faith community will say back to them, “How dare you, and shame on you.” And many of us will be at the President’s side and have his back.

This development is deeply discouraging for the vast majority of Americans who support common sense immigration and for the leaders within the evangelical community, like myself, who have invested years urging Washington to act. While there are lessons we should learn and new strategies to formulate, it is important to recognize that we have not been defeated.

In a well-known passage in the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel describes a valley of dry bones. The imagery is clear: death and destruction have won. Then Ezekiel, following God’s commands, begins to prophesy. The bones start connecting, tendons forms, and skin begins to cover them again. Life is breathed back into them. Resurrection has occurred. Hope has triumphed over despair.

This is the reality for immigration reform. Reform will happen. Too many Americans support it, in all our political parties, for politicians to ignore them for much longer. There is enough agreement on the necessary changes—including reforming the visa process, addressing questions about the future flow of immigrant labor, and providing a legal way to become members of our society for the millions of hard working and law-abiding people who have made the U.S. their home—that the policy debate is largely over. It would provide a desperately needed boost to our economy and help secure our borders, goals both parties claim to share.

The question is not whether immigration reform will pass but how many more people will suffer before it does. The answer from John Boehner and the House – at least for now – seems to be that many millions will continue to suffer. That means countless more families will be broken up, parents and children will be living in the shadows of society, and the lives of so many will continue to be jeopardized every day. The thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America highlight the humanitarian crisis being perpetuated by the status quo. An orderly, smart, and humane immigration system could have helped here.

That the outcome of this legislative irresponsibility will be a set of limited actions taken by a constitutionally constrained President, and a continuation of failed policies is worthy of our deepest lament.

Some of the most powerful people in the country will spend the next days, weeks, and months laying blame in order to avoid the public holding them responsible. I hope and believe we are smart enough to see through this ridiculous veneer. The bottom line is that immigration reform failed because an extreme wing of the Republican Party held their leadership hostage out of political and racial fear—and their party leader didn’t have the moral courage to stand up to them. Few others will say that so frankly and succinctly. As a Christian I believe that truth has a liberating power. Those who have blocked immigration reform should be held accountable—and many Hispanic and Christian voters are vowing to do that.

We see the human costs of this moral failure on a daily basis. This is why the faith community will be working tirelessly to breathe life into the dry bones of immigration reform. We are not going away, and we will surround the politicians with our prayerful presence until this destructive immigration system is fixed and healed.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The UnCommon Good is available in stores.

TIME Immigration

With Cantor Gone, Immigration Reform Is All On John Boehner Now

John Boehner, Eric Cantor
On the day of President Barack Obama'’s State of the Union address, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at right, talks with reporters after a GOP strategy session at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, Jan. 28, 2014. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

With Cantor out, Speaker Boehner, the faith community is counting on you to act on immigration reform

The stunning primary defeat of Eric Cantor could be a blessing for passing immigration reform. Cantor, as Majority Leader in the House and the number two Republican, was no ally of immigration reform and was likely an obstacle to crucial bi-partisan action. Always lurking in the shadows and clearly hoping to be the next Speaker of the House, Cantor was a threat to John Boehner. Apparently, continually working the inside game to become the Speaker, instead of being a member of Congress who represented his district was one of the biggest reasons Cantor lost his election.

But now that Cantor is gone and with him, his threat, we hope that John Boehner will be free to act, to do what his head and heart tells him is the right thing to do on immigration reform. “Bibles, Badges, and Business” have all been pressing Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform as both a moral and economic issue, one in the true spirit of America’s embrace of immigrants, and one in which the gospel is at stake in how we “welcome the stranger.”

What is also now clear is that lawmakers across the political system, who have publically supported immigration reform, won their primaries. Republicans, who have led on immigration reform, won handily. On the same night Eric Cantor lost, Senator Lindsay Graham – a strong champion for immigration reform who co-sponsored the Senate’s Immigration bill -won with roughly 60% of the vote in his South Carolina primary. Lindsay had the support of many evangelical Christians who have united in their support for immigration reform.

Cantor, who would not schedule a vote on the Senate bill that passed last year, lost his primary, while those Republicans who took a clear positive pro-reform stance won theirs. Graham, Representative Renee Ellmers, and others who were most vocal in their support for fixing our broken immigration system sailed through their primaries.

This could clear the path for a bi-partisan political and moral agreement on fixing a broken immigration system that daily breaks up families and is causing the massive human suffering that our pastors and priests are dealing with every day.

For many of us in the faith community, immigration reform is now the moral test of the U.S. Congress. New polls that also came out this week show a majority of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mainline Protestants all want reform. And because the Republicans will decide this in the House, it is now all up to Speaker John Boehner. For us, it will be a moral choice and not just a political one. And one man will make that choice. For many in the faith community, immigration reform will be a moral test of the Republican Party, of the leadership and legacy of its leader John Boehner, and even their own electoral future.

Interestingly, Cantor’s opponent, Dave Brat, a self-described Tea Party leader, also identifies as a man of faith. Brat, who attends a Catholic church, is a graduate of Hope College, a higher education institution well knownwithin the evangelical community for thoughtful leadership and high-quality academics all grounded in Christian faith. While I have not polled Hope’s faculty, staff, and students, I suspect many of them would strongly disagree with Brat’s views. More importantly, we know that evangelicals across the country have been converted on this issue and now believe that how we treat 11 million undocumented people, is how we treat Christ himself. And that evangelical conversion is changing the discussion on immigration reform, across party lines. Most evangelicals—and Catholics– disagree with Dave Brat on what we should do with the “strangers” among us. And this change in evangelical politics will ultimately help change national politics on immigration reform.

So John Boehner, the faith community is now looking to you to lead and to do what you have said lawmakers are elected to do—to solve problems. This is a moral issue and a faith issue for us and as a Catholic, it should be one for you too. Mr. Speaker, you will feel our presence all around you in these next critical weeks in which we must get reform done and show the country that our political leaders can still do something positive and bi-partisan, that our leaders can still make the moral choice, not just the political one. We are praying for you and all of your colleagues in the Congress. May God give you courage and wisdom in these next few weeks.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

TIME Immigration

Poll: 62% of Americans Favor a Path to Citizenship

Around 62% of Americans favor a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently living illegally in the U.S., according to a poll released Tuesday. The Public Religion Research Institute poll, conducted in conjunction with the Brookings Institute, found American sentiment toward immigration reform hasn’t changed much since 2013.

With the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching, candidates should be wary of another key finding from the poll: Americans say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that opposes reform. According to the poll, around 53% of voters say they likely would not vote for a candidate if he or she opposed a pathway to citizenship. About 16% say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, while 30% say it would have no impact.

Opposition to reform has an adverse impact even among Republican voters, whose party’s House leadership has not taken up an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year. About 46% of self-identified Republicans say opposition to reform would hurt a candidate’s chances of gaining their vote. About 21% of Republicans surveyed say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate.

The expansive survey also showed that most Americans support legislation that provides resident status for the children of illegal immigrants after those children either join the military or go to college—something the DREAM Act does not do. (The DREAM Act allows young undocumented immigrants to pursue an education and career, but it does not provide a pathway to citizenship.) About 68% of those surveyed say they favor such a policy, while about 30% do not.

The survey of about 601 Americans was conducted via telephone in April; the margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.

TIME politics

American Competitiveness Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform

LA May Day Marches Celebrate Workers, Push For Immigration Reform
Marchers pass by the Metropolitan Detention Center during one a several May Day immigration-themed events on May 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew—Getty Images

Skilled international workers, tired of waiting, often leave the U.S. and put their knowledge and skills to use elsewhere.

Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of business leaders this month that “something’s wrong with us” when America must look overseas to fill critical jobs requiring science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

As proud Latino Americans from opposite ends of the political spectrum, we believe policymakers must set aside partisan acrimony to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.

Independent studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform will boost economic growth, reduce the deficit and stoke the creative fires that burn in our entrepreneurial American spirit. It’s also the right thing to do.

We have served presidents of opposing parties and have a first-hand understanding of the deep political rift in our country over this critical issue. But there is a path forward that we believe both parties are ready to travel during the 113th Congress. Voices of reason in Washington—including in the House of Representatives—are arguing it’s high time for a “grand bargain” on immigration.

First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: it’s time to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Both parties understand this political and moral imperative, even as they quibble over the details. Additionally, we must continue to invest in the security of our borders, even if we disagree over how best to achieve that goal.

One immediate benefit of comprehensive reform will be the much-needed transformation of our broken visa system, which places arbitrary caps on the number of foreign workers invited to help grow our economy and keep the U.S. globally competitive.

Both parties agree there aren’t enough U.S.-born workers with the requisite science and technology skills to meet the needs of today’s information economy. While policymakers pursue education reform to close this enduring knowledge gap, our immigration system is preventing the best and brightest international talent from filling demand, making the U.S. less competitive today.

We need to look no further than last month’s filing season for temporary skilled worker visas to understand why this issue is crucial: the government received 172,500 H-1B visa applications in just five days, more than double the 85,000 annual cap under current law.

Last June, the Senate passed a broad immigration reform bill that contains many of the right policies, including an increase in the H-1B visa cap. But their effort to reform the H-1B visa process was marred by the inclusion of anti-competitive language.

What is wrong with the Senate bill? The Senate language discriminates against employers with higher proportions of H-1B workers, unfairly targeting many companies in the information technology (IT) services market, which relies on a global talent pool. It forces major U.S. companies who rely on IT service providers, including most of the Fortune 500, to take one of three actions: bring their IT work in-house, if they actually find enough qualified talent; move the work offshore, which some American businesses have said they are already preparing for; or choose from a shrunken pool of IT providers that escape the arbitrary restrictions. All three options will reduce competition, raise prices and disrupt essential technical support in sectors ranging from financial services to life sciences.

The House Judiciary Committee has offered a smarter path forward, maximizing the competitive value of H-1B reform to the U.S. economy. The House bill would boost the annual cap on temporary H-1B visas for skilled workers from 85,000 to 195,000, including setting aside up to 40,000 visas for individuals with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The House language keeps the H-1B process open and competitive for all companies, raising all boats.

As policymakers move toward an eventual compromise in conference, they must reject harmful Senate-passed restrictions on who can actually use these visas, which would hinder U.S. competitiveness.

At the same time, policymakers should adopt measures the Senate bill got right, including an expansion of the 140,000 annual green card cap for skilled workers, which includes an exemption for advanced science and technology degree-holders from U.S. universities, as well as cap exemptions for the families of workers admitted to the U.S. on permanent visas. The Senate bill rightly recaptures unused visas from prior years, which would eliminate the backlog of those waiting to receive green cards.

According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, international skilled workers “often tire of waiting, and leave the U.S. entirely to put their knowledge and skills to use in other countries eager to compete with and surpass the U.S.” Global rivals such as Canada have made no secret of their willingness to welcome those turned away by the broken U.S. visa system. Brain drain aggravates our skills gap.

The House and Senate need to work out their differences in the normal give and take of the legislative process – the way Americans expect Washington to operate. For the sake of U.S. businesses, talented international workers and the 11 million undocumented living in the shadows, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. American competitiveness can no longer afford to wait.

Bill Richardson is the former U.S. Energy Secretary, Governor of New Mexico and UN Ambassador. Rosario Marin served as the 41st Treasurer of the United States. They serve as co-chairs of the American Competitiveness Alliance.

TIME republicans

House Mulls Healthcare and Immigration Push Ahead of Midterms

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers Interview
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers talks with TIME about what Republicans will do on some hot-button issues ahead of midterm elections in which polls show them enjoying a decisive advantage

Republicans are under pressure ahead of the midterm elections to detail how they’d replace Obamacare and what they would do on immigration reform—and now a top House GOP lawmaker is providing details as to what the party’s legislative blueprint will be as election season heats up.

Republicans might not have to do much. They have their strongest political hand at this point in a midterm cycle in two decades, according to a Pew Research/USA Today poll released Monday. Republicans lead in generic congressional match-ups against Democrats, 47% to 43%. Independent voters are leaning toward Republicans, 49% to 33%. And both President Barack Obama and his signature health care reform law are as unpopular as they’ve ever been.

But the election is still six months away and these numbers won’t stay frozen in place. Even if they do, the party needs to figure out its approach to these issues in the long run. So TIME sat down with House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers to ask her what’s coming.

On immigration reform, McMorris Rodgers said the House is considering a package of five-to-seven bills. Five have already been passed out of committee: border security, interior enforcement, visa reform, an expansion of the agricultural workers program, and e-Verify for employers. Two remain before the Judiciary Committee: a version of the DREAM Act, which would give immigrants brought here illegally as children a path to citizenship, and a bill that would find a solution for the rest of the undocumented workers in the U.S.—one most likely not involving a path to citizenship, which many Republicans deride as amnesty.

“It is important that we get immigration right,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It is important that we not find ourselves in the same situation 20-to-30 years from now.

Even if the House passes all seven of those bills this year, none of them would go to a conference committee with the comprehensive reform bill the Senate passed last year. House Speaker John Boehner has said he prefers a piecemeal approach to the issue, meaning the House-passed bills would go nowhere.

Ultimately, the House could easily pass the first five; it’s the final two that pose the biggest hurdles. Realistically, the last two would probably only make it out of committee if Republicans were doing so badly with Hispanic voters that they need a political shot in the arm, which isn’t looking likely at the moment. Whether it’s a package of five or seven, McMorris Rodgers said she belies the House will have a bill on the floor before the August recess.

On Obamacare, Republicans have begun to realize that just being against the law isn’t going to be enough. To that end, some GOP lawmakers have introduced replacement bills. House Republicans are also working on their on legislation. “Now that Obamacare’s been on the books for four years, it’s important that we are realistic about where we find ourselves today and how we are going to move forward,” McMorris Rodgers said

McMorris Rodgers co-chairs the Health, Oversight and Accountability Project, which has almost weekly produced legislation to repeal Obamacare, and/or mitigate some of its effects on various groups. “That’s been our focus but it is shifting now and there’s a desire by my colleagues and myself to communicate what is the way forward and to put together a package, whether it’s one bill or a package of bills, that we could point to to show the American people this is what we believe is a better way forward on health care,” McMorris Rodgers said.

But can a law that was enacted four years ago, has eight million enrollees and millions more anticipated by the time Obama leaves office realistically be repealed? McMorris Rodgers made news last week when she told the Spokesman-Review that the law won’t likely be repealed and that Republicans should focus on other issues. She walked back that sentiment in her interview with TIME, saying she still supports the full repeal of what she calls “a fundamentally flawed bill.”

And can it really be replaced? “We’ll see. It’s really up to the American people. We’ll see how the elections go this fall in 2014. It’s a big election, both in the House and the Senate,” McMorris Rodgers said. “ Certainly the numbers on Obamacare continue to come down, continue to slide.” McMorris Rodgers said a bill could be ready for a vote before the elections.

As they look at potentially taking back the Senate in November, Republicans are increasingly looking to legislate, rather than just block Democratic measures. But regardless of what happens in 2014, they’ll have to contend the President’s veto pen through 2016.

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