The Supreme Court’s recent ruling reversing the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle temporary legal protections for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, reignited the calls for comprehensive immigration reform, addressing immigration issues, including border security, more broadly.
The last meaningful attempt to enact such a law was in 2013. Its passage would have prevented many of the repeated attacks on undocumented immigrants and changed the way Americans talk about immigration today, according to proponents.
Had it passed, said John Weaver, founder of the Lincoln Project, a political action committee founded by Republicans working to prevent Trump’s reelection this November, the nation would have looked vastly different.
“[The immigration issue] would be in our rear-view mirror,” Weaver told the Colorado Times Recorder in an interview. “We would be dealing with other issues.”
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet was a Democratic member of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of Senators who drafted the 2013 bill.
It cleared the Senate by a 68-32 margin with 14 Republicans joining all Democratic senators to move the bill to the House.
Some of the Senate’s most conservative members, like Utah’s Orrin Hatch and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, voted in favor of it.
The bill, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, would have addressed many of the shortcomings in U.S. immigration policy by providing a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, including Dreamers. The legislation would have also enacted border security measures and updated a slew of immigration policies.
When it reached the House, Bennet urged lawmakers to pass it, calling it the “best chance in a generation to fix this broken system.”
It failed in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives when then-House Speaker John Boehner, fearing a revolt from conservative House members, refused to hold a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill.
Then U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, openly opposed the bill and called for even stronger border security measures. His office did not return a call seeking to know if he regrets his stance.
Had a legitimate deal been reached, the latest battle over immigration may have been avoided.
And if that 2013 bill were law, divisive decisions about stronger border enforcement, citizenship for Dreamers, and legal protections millions of undocumented immigrants would have already been made.
Multiple studies suggest that the 2013 bill would have boosted the economy by allowing millions of people to find jobs that best fit their skills. The Congressional Budget Office conducted a cost-benefit analysis and found that it would result in an increase in wages and raise productivity levels in the United States.
But it is not just the economic benefits that immigrant advocacy groups cite as benefits if the bill had passed.
There would have been a significant decrease in the number of deportations since 2013, resulting in fewer cases of family separation, according to the Center for American Progress.
The legislation would have been a win for everyone involved, Weaver of the Lincoln Project said, as opposed to the immigration debate being used as a political weapon to this day. The failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform is a lesson that when the opportunity is there, strong leadership should take it and move it, he said.
“Punting hasn’t helped here at all,” Weaver said. “We’ve kicked the can down the road really since mid-2006, and we’ve only made the situation worse.”