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In our opinion: Progress from conservatives, state officials, Obama administration bodes well for immigration reform

Published: Thursday, May 15 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

President Obama said that immigration “would lower our deficits; it would grow our economy; it would bring in some of the most skilled people around the world. We want them to continue to come here." We agree. Congress needs to enact reform now.

Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

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There is a growing recognition nationally of the vital need for immigration reform. We are pleased by signs of progress on many different fronts, and we believe that the time is ripe for Congress to tackle this subject this year.

On Wednesday, Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo published a piece in Roll Call saying that “conservatives should be at the forefront of (immigration) reform” so that “the 11 million people who are here illegally obey the law, pay taxes and come out of the shadows.”

“We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty,” Russo wrote. “This should include penalties, background checks to root out criminals, and the requirement that they learn English, understand the Constitution and be committed to our basic freedoms.”

Russo joined a press call with conservative and business leaders to highlight polling data of 400 Republican primary voters who identify with the tea party label. Among the findings:

71 percent want Congress to act on immigration reform this year

76 percent support both improved enforcement and a way for undocumented immigrants already in the country to stay

69 percent would elect a candidate who supports broad reform over one who supports border security and enforcement only.

Additionally, on Tuesday, state government and business officials from six Western states — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah — held simultaneous press conferences to ask their members of Congress to work for immigration reform this congressional session.

In a letter to elected officials, the Western leaders said, “We need a workable immigration system that respects the dignity of every person, regardless of status, and ensures the safety of our communities. It is imperative that we address the millions of aspiring citizens in the United States by creating a road to lawful status and citizenship, while respecting those who have been awaiting naturalization.”

President Obama has also been showing an olive branch. In a separate event on Tuesday with law enforcement officials at the White House, Obama said that 80 percent of undocumented individuals have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years: they are well-woven into the fabric of society.

“Portions of the business community that people may not anticipate know that this is the key to our economic future,” the president said. He offered a succinct rationale for why more immigration benefits America: “It would lower our deficits; it would grow our economy; it would bring in some of the most skilled people around the world. We want them to continue to come here. That's part of our competitive advantage relative to the rest of the world. Our population is not aging the way some other populations are because it's constantly replenished with folks who are go-getters.”

All of these converging forces offer Congress a unique opportunity. We call on our members of Congress to take the lead in ensuring that immigration reform can happen.

“There is a real desire to get it done in the next few months,” said Steve Case, the founder of America Online, speaking at the Wednesday event. “It is now time to take that first step.”

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