(By Deutsche Welle) Once an issue that polarized the US, immigration reform now enjoys growing bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans are negotiating a path to legalization, and perhaps citizenship, for 11 million illegal immigrants.
With Congress on recess for spring break, US President Barack Obama has pushed the House and Senate to finish the job of drafting comprehensive immigration reform by April, calling on both political parties to capitalize on recent bipartisan progress toward a deal.
“We are making progress. But we’ve go to finish the job, because this issue is not new,” the president said recently during a citizenship ceremony at the White House for 28 new Americans. “Everybody pretty much knows what’s broken; everybody knows how to fix it.”
After years of polarization over how to deal with America’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants, support for a bipartisan deal has gained momentum since President Obama’s victory in the November presidential election.
Republican Senator Rand Paul – a key figure in the conservative Tea Party movement – has spoken out in favor of legalization, revealing a potential game-changing shift within the Republican Party in favor of immigration reform.
“Prudence, compassion and thrift all point us toward the same goal: bringing these workers out of the shadows and into becoming and being taxpaying members of society,” Paul told the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
He was just the latest member of the Republican Party, which took a hard-line toward illegal immigrants during the presidential campaign, to signal an opening for a bipartisan deal.
Both Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have expressed support for the negotiations of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators hammering out immigration reform legislation. Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has said that the group is “very close to agreement.”
“Nobody would have ever anticipated the discussion to be starting at a new starting point, that key Republicans are on board for a comprehensive overhaul and for a legalization program,” Audrey Singer, an expert on immigration with the Brookings Institute, told DW.