Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Renews Hopes for Immigration Reform

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In their hands: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In a little-noticed interview last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) renewed pro-immigrant advocates’ hopes for comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigrations laws under the next administration.

Talking to the Gannett News Service, Reid said immigration reform will be passed because President-elect Barack Obama and his former rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agree on the matter.

“On immigration, there’s been an agreement between Obama and McCain to move forward on that. …We’ll do that,” Reid said.

The reporter then asked whether there will be “as much of a fight on immigration as last time” in Congress. Reid answered,

We’ve got McCain and we’ve got a few others. I don’t expect much of a fight at all. Now health care is going to be difficult. That’s a very complicated issue. We debated at great length immigration. People understand the issues very well. We have not debated health care, so that’s going to take a lot more time to do.

In another story by the same Gannett reporter, Deborah Barfield Berry, Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers said the majority leader “plans to take up immigration reform but is still working with the new administration on timing.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) warned that the volatile issue has to be dealt with early on, before the next election season comes along.

America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said Reid’s statement marked “a monumental shift in immigration reform prospects.” On his HuffPost blog, he wrote,

Why is Reid so confident?

It may have something to do with the failure of anti-immigrant politics at the ballot-box, the growing power of the Latino and immigrant vote, or the realization that Americans are looking to those they elected to tackle and solve the toughest issues of our day.

What’s more, in this new landscape, Senator Reid’s comments join a distinctly bipartisan chorus. Chiming in are many Republican strategists and leaders speaking out against the GOP’s restrictionist, enforcement-only approach to immigration.

Things may not be so black-and-white. In a late October statement that irked many immigration activists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had warned that immigration reform may not include the “path to citizenship” promised by Obama.

That, of course, was before Obama and the Democrats won big in November — and before Latino voters helped them do so in a handful of states.

The 111th Congress will bring the opportunity to see if Latino voting power –both in this year’s election, and as a potential force in the future — will pressure legislators on both sides of the aisle to tackle the issue.


  1. Caring Human

    Its time that Everyone is treated like HUMANS which Almighty God created.
    No Human is above another in Almighty’s Gods vision.ALL ARE EQUAL.

    The time has come to pass Immigration Reform so MILLIONS of Humans can live with Dignity as Almighty Gods has created.


  2. Caring Human

    Illegal immigrants paying more taxes than you think

    Eight million illegals pay Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. Denying public services to people who pay their taxes is an affront to America’s bedrock belief in fairness. But many “pull-up-the-drawbridge” politicians want to do just that when it comes to illegal immigrants.

    The fact that illegal immigrants pay taxes at all will come as news to many Americans. A stunning twothirds of illegal immigrants pay Medicare, Social Security and personal income taxes.

    Yet, nativists like Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., have popularized the notion that illegal aliens are a colossal drain on the nation’s hospitals, schools and welfare programs — consuming services that they don’t pay for.

    In reality, the 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified illegal immigrants from nearly all meanstested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization.

    The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education. Nevertheless, Tancredo and his ilk pushed a bill through the House criminalizing all aid to illegal aliens — even private acts of charity by priests, nurses and social workers.

    Potentially, any soup kitchen that offers so much as a free lunch to an illegal could face up to five years in prison and seizure of assets. The Senate bill that recently collapsed would have tempered these draconian measures against private aid.

    But no one — Democrat or Republican — seems to oppose the idea of withholding public services. Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that requires everyone who gets Medicaid — the government-funded health care program for the poor — to offer proof of U.S. citizenship so we can avoid “theft of these benefits by illegal aliens,” as Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., puts it. But, immigrants aren’t flocking to the United States to mooch off the government.

    According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

    One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS’ scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers.

    No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows. What’s more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks.

    Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they’ll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security administration stashes in the “earnings suspense file” — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus.

    The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year. Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children.

    The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume. Yes, many illegal migrants impose a strain on border communities on whose doorstep they first arrive, broke and unemployed.

    To solve this problem equitably, these communities ought to receive the surplus taxes that federal government collects from immigrants. But the real reason border communities are strained is the lack of a guest worker program.

    Such a program would match willing workers with willing employers in advance so that they wouldn’t be stuck for long periods where they disembark while searching for jobs. The cost of undocumented aliens is an issue that immigrant bashers have created to whip up indignation against people they don’t want here in the first place.

    With the Senate having just returned from yet another vacation and promising to revisit the stalled immigration bill, politicians ought to set the record straight: Illegals are not milking the government. If anything, it is the other way around.

  3. Caring Human

    Daniel Griswold: Immigration law should reflect our dynamic labor market

    12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, April 27, 2008

    Daniel Griswold is director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. His writings on immigration can be found at; e-mail him at

    Among its many virtues, America is a nation where laws are generally reasonable, respected and impartially enforced. A glaring exception is immigration.

    Today an estimated 12 million people live in the U.S. without authorization, 1.6 million in Texas alone, and that number grows every year. Many Americans understandably want the rule of law restored to a system where law-breaking has become the norm.

    The fundamental choice before us is whether we redouble our efforts to enforce existing immigration law, whatever the cost, or whether we change the law to match the reality of a dynamic society and labor market.

    Low-skilled immigrants cross the Mexican border illegally or overstay their visas for a simple reason: There are jobs waiting here for them to fill, especially in Texas and other, faster growing states. Each year our economy creates hundreds of thousands of net new jobs – in such sectors as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction and tourism – that require only short-term, on-the-job training.

    At the same time, the supply of Americans who have traditionally filled many of those jobs – those without a high school diploma – continues to shrink. Their numbers have declined by 4.6 million in the past decade, as the typical American worker becomes older and better educated.

    Yet our system offers no legal channel for anywhere near a sufficient number of peaceful, hardworking immigrants to legally enter the United States even temporarily to fill this growing gap. The predictable result is illegal immigration

    In response, we can spend billions more to beef up border patrols. We can erect hundreds of miles of ugly fence slicing through private property along the Rio Grande. We can raid more discount stores and chicken-processing plants from coast to coast. We can require all Americans to carry a national ID card and seek approval from a government computer before starting a new job.

    Or we can change our immigration law to more closely conform to how millions of normal people actually live.

    Crossing an international border to support your family and pursue dreams of a better life is not an inherently criminal act like rape or robbery. If it were, then most of us descend from criminals. As the people of Texas know well, the large majority of illegal immigrants are not bad people. They are people who value family, faith and hard work trying to live within a bad system.

    When large numbers of otherwise decent people routinely violate a law, the law itself is probably the problem. To argue that illegal immigration is bad merely because it is illegal avoids the threshold question of whether we should prohibit this kind of immigration in the first place.

    We’ve faced this choice on immigration before. In the early 1950s, federal agents were making a million arrests a year along the Mexican border. In response, Congress ramped up enforcement, but it also dramatically increased the number of visas available through the Bracero guest worker program. As a result, apprehensions at the border dropped 95 percent. By changing the law, we transformed an illegal inflow of workers into a legal flow.

    For those workers already in the United States illegally, we can avoid “amnesty” and still offer a pathway out of the underground economy. Newly legalized workers can be assessed fines and back taxes and serve probation befitting the misdemeanor they’ve committed. They can be required to take their place at the back of the line should they eventually apply for permanent residency.

    The fatal flaw of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was not that it offered legal status to workers already here but that it made no provision for future workers to enter legally.

    Immigration is not the only area of American life where a misguided law has collided with reality. In the 1920s and ’30s, Prohibition turned millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans into lawbreakers and spawned an underworld of moon-shining, boot-legging and related criminal activity. (Sound familiar?) We eventually made the right choice to tax and regulate alcohol rather than prohibit it.

    In the 19th century, America’s frontier was settled largely by illegal squatters. In his influential book on property rights, The Mystery of Capital, economist Hernando de Soto describes how these so-called extralegals began to farm, mine and otherwise improve land to which they did not have strict legal title. After failed attempts by the authorities to destroy their cabins and evict them, federal and state officials finally recognized reality, changed the laws, declared amnesty and issued legal documents conferring title to the land the settlers had improved.

    As Mr. de Soto wisely concluded: “The law must be compatible with how people actually arrange their lives.” That must be a guiding principle when Congress returns to the important task of fixing our immigration laws.

    Daniel Griswold is director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. His writings on immigration can be found at; e-mail him at

  4. Well, I must say I am impressed reading the article AND the comments. It’s a rarity that we see cogent and thoughtful remarks on this topic. In a realm where political fear-mongering hsa crippled reason and good sense, maybe there is cause for hope that we can rise above it!

  5. Eddie Brown

    As an American carpenter, I have seen first hand the hardship Citizen and legal immigrant workers face as a result of relentless competition from illegal aliens seeking employment in the labor industries. The tired ploy of putting tens of illions of people “on a path to citizenship” which, would result in a “level playing field”
    that would ease the unfair competition is comical. Firstly, the saturation of the majority of the jobs in the labor sector by illegal workers has very little to do with the amount citizens or illegal workers are paid… It is simply about their numbers.
    The amount of illegal workers that have ignored the laws that were designed to control the amount of people in any given sector of labor ( in this case the strong majority are poor workers from Mexico and Central America seeking manual labor jobs.) has been so great that the U.S. labor industries (construction, restaurants, trucking, factories..ect.) have been flooded to the point that millions of Americans of all ethnic backgrounds have been overwhelmed and have little hope of even finding an open position. Regardless of the pay. Again, as An American carpenter who makes $500.00 per week, I assure you I am willing to do any job anytime at a higher or lower wage if it means paying or not paying my rent or putting food on the table for my family.
    You see, This is what we often hear from those that violate our immigration law. What many don’t realize is the wish to “work hard and have a better life for oneself and ones family” is the wish and desire of vurtually every human being on planet Earth…Hence the need for immigration law. It is not mean, nor racist, nor incompasionate…It is a nessesseity to esure particular sectors of laor do not become saturated. Think for a moment if we shared a border with india instead of Mexico, And those sneaking in by the hundreds of thousands every six months were not laborers seeking work in the labor industries, but instead, Doctors seeking work in American hospitals? Far out pacing the number allowed to immigrate here legally?? Then, once twenty million or so were already here our government said…Wait!! lets give those that are already here “a path to citizenship” and allow them to compete with Citizen and legal immigrant medical students and Doctors for a job, But we must stop more from coming in…so we must crack down on employers. Great, I’m a doctor that dosent have to worry about more sneaking in, but I now have to deal with the hassle of finding a job in medical field saturated with doctors who violated the law to provent such saturation…cute.

  6. Ivan

    I am a legal immigrant whose parents are illegal in the US. They have lived in the US for close to 15 years now. They work hard, they paid for my out-of-state tuition in both college and law school, have paid taxes since day 1, and only want to be recognized as human beings. As an attorney who graduated from a top law school and who practices at an elite law firm, being very familiar with the immigration laws, it pains me to say that my parents have no chance in this system.
    I hope President Obama and Congress will do the right thing and offer a chance for dignity to millions of people like my parents. Say NO to racism, fear-mongering, and hatred spewed by mistakes of nature such as Lou Dobbs, Senator Sessions from Alabama, etc.
    I believe that such a comprehensive immigration reform is a matter of when, not if, and i hope it happens in 2009.

  7. Juan de la Cruz

    People now a days have lost the sense of compassion and love for each other. Yes it is true that all people have their own individual interest but for Gods sake if you are a beleiver to go back to the basics. We all have the right for equality, while it is absolute that no one is above the law, I believe that illegal immigration is not a crime intended to destroy the wisdom of the rule of law, but because of the underlying conditions that these so called illegals are facing that led them to be compelled to cross the border or opted to get out of status. May i ask you this question, will you let your family starved or can’t even give a simple decent life to your family? if you think you have the opportunity to alleviate this a bit if you enter a foreign country. Is this a crime to be condemn? just for the purpose of wishing to give your love ones to taste the basics of life. Lets all be compassionate and learn to love one another for this is the beginning of the true progress of a nation.

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