Hastert Calls for Immigration Reform

Pens article in Politico urging Republicans to move forward on issue

Saying “immigration reform will make our economy stronger and our country more secure,” former U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert has called on fellow Republicans to get on board with fixing a broken immigration system.

Writing in Politico, Hastert, the Illinois congressman who served as Speaker from 1999 to 2007, said House Republicans should follow their Senate colleagues and act on a compressive immigration reform package soon, including offering those already here a path to citizenship.

Despite growing support in some quarters for the need to address immigration as a policy and a political issue, many Republican representatives are against even taking up the issue:

Most Republicans in the U.S. House oppose moving forward on immigration legislation even with wide support among lawmakers for a framework drafted by the party’s leaders, said a House Republican working on the issue.

“That’s still an uphill battle,” Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who has spent many of his 11 years in the House working on immigration policy, said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington.

Diaz-Balart, 52, said most opposition comes from Republicans wary of overshadowing the party’s election-year message to repeal or revise President Barack Obama’s health-care law. Others don’t trust Obama to implement border security, he said.

In his article, Hastert laid out an argument for immigration reform that centered, in part, on the economic benefits new arrivals bring to their new country:

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, immigration reform would increase U.S. GDP by 5.4 percent ($1.2 trillion) over the next 20 years, while jump-starting the housing recovery by dramatically increasing the demand for housing units. A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that immigration reform would also shave more than $1.2 trillion off the federal deficit over 20 years.

At the same time, he notes that 75 percent of the U.S. agricultural labor force is foreign-born, and delaying reform could mean reducing American agricultural output and exports in the coming years.

Despite recent efforts by Republican House leadership, including current Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, to lay out a blueprint for immigration reform, many Republicans and conservatives are simply terrified of the issue.

The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol warned that an immigration debate "could blow up GOP chances for a good 2014." The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, deriding Speaker John Boehner as the "fool in the shower," argued that "in terms of the raw politics of 2014, introducing [immigration] now is bananas." … The National Review's Andrew McCarthy said the leadership's immigration plan was, among other things, "deeply offensive to the GOP’s already disgruntled conservative base, ensuring that droves of them will sit out the 2014 midterms."

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