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Commentary: US immigration reform: The 'New Colossus' in 2014!
Published on January 29, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Rebecca Theodore

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It now seems that more than anything else, the freedom of migration is again a meaningful facet as resolutions are turning a new tide towards immigration reform in Washington.

Rebecca Theodore is an op-ed columnist based in Washington, DC. She writes on national security and political issues. Follow her on twitter @rebethd or email at
Although the Senate has already passed a broad overhaul of the immigration laws, including a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants; the legislation still continues to be mired with obstacles in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

But whether or not House Republicans’ piecemeal approach to immigration reform will favour the Democrats’ comprehensive hard line process, US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue confirms that “we are determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted… immigration reform is an important part of expanding jobs and careers in the 21st century.”

Compounded to this is the economist notion that “immigration reform will grow the economy by $1.4 trillion and reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars.”

Nonetheless, Republicans’ insistence on not signing off on any measure that calls on granting a pathway for legalization or rewarding lawbreakers still prevails.

And while proponents further emphasize that “comprehensive immigration reform will help to fortify America’s global competiveness, stimulate respect for the rule of law, safeguard national security and strengthen the economy;” House Republicans are now determined to reform actions by laying out a set of ‘principles’ on how to overhaul immigration legislation and helping the bill pass through the House of Representatives.

But it seems that chimerical hopes are fastly fading.

Despite the fact that the ‘principles’ seek the need for tougher border control, and interior security so that companies cannot easily hire undocumented workers, the more challenging question of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants still remain unanswered.

And it is within this light that vice president for immigration policy at the Progressive Center for American Progress Angela Kelly stresses that “if the ‘principles’ are just a political tactic by Republicans ahead of the mid-terms elections in November, then Latino voters will see right through it.”

Still others fear that the ‘principles’ are just a Republican means of avoiding criticism for doing nothing at all on immigration reform in an election year where there are mounting pressures from outside groups and many contend that immigration reform should be used as a vehicle for change.

As a result, the Hispanic vote still clouds the dust for answers and must be addressed not only by House Republicans but also by Congressional Republicans who are also grappling on how to handle the specter of immigration. The Hispanic vote is important not only for the sake of the electorate but also for economic and moral reasons as well.

Therefore, Republicans must co-operate. They don’t have a choice.

On the other hand, when viewed through the prism of humanitarianism and morality, immigration reform transgresses the grain of America’s cherished ideals and principles and demoralizes its obligation to democratic and compassionate values.

In a country that boasts of human rights, respect and freedom for all, immigration reform tears through the sacred veil of families and renders it to pieces. Sexual exploitation of illegal workers and the threat of deportation that are now brutalizing immigrant communities cannot continue to go by unnoticed.

According to research, the United States imprisons more than 430,000 illegal immigrants each year. Hundreds more are held in inexplicably solitary confinement, thus portraying US immigration as an inhumane and insensitive system where ‘the huddled masses’ are yearning for salvation.

Forthwith, it must now be understood that ‘the huddled masses’ are a tangible reality that cannot forever remain masked in abstraction and swept away in the dust-bins of history. Their traumatized lives, broken dreams, fears, pain and even death have now been molded into one. They yearn to breathe the breath of freedom.

It is now time to change the narrative -- Lo! “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
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