Enough! Immigration Reform is NOT Health Care Reform

The Philadelphia Inquirer published a fascinating editorial yesterday drawing clear distinctions between immigration reform and health care reform - and arguing as to why immigration reform should have gone first. The inquirer notes: 

The president can't ignore the polls. His success is inextricably tied to his popularity. But even in only his first eight months of office, he should have learned that Americans like a fighter. Immigration reform is something worth fighting for. It's been supported by Republicans and Democrats. It has links to other important issues, including education, employment, and, yes, health care.

Along those linesin 2007, before the Democrats held such a significant majority in both Chambers of Congress, Simon Rosenberg asked,"Can Democrats Seize the Opportunity the Immigration Debate Offers Them?":

...It is simply astonishing that Democrats have not fully grasped the enormity of the opportunity immigration reform presents. Embracing comprehensive immigration reform will allow to draw a bright line distinction with the GOP on an issue where the Democratic position has majority support of the American people; has the support of a deep and broad national coalition that includes prominent religious leaders, labor, business and immigrant rights groups, elected leaders...and [immigration reform] passed a GOP-controlled Senate with 62 votes; shows they can take on the tough ones, and work to solve vexing national problems; drives a deep wedge in the GOP coalition; and makes a major overture to Hispanics, who are the key to a permanent 21st century progressive governing coalition....

Immigration should properly be seen by Democrats as one their greatest political and governing opportunities of this political era, and a true test of whether they have what it takes to lead the emerging America of the 21st century. The Republicans are failing their test. For the good of the country I hope the Democrats pass theirs.

In early January, 2009, Simon Rosenberg wrote "On Congress, SHCIP, and Immigration Reform":

"That the debate over SCHIP has immediately become a debate about immigration should be a clear warning to the Administration and Congress that progress on many important domestic priorities this year may get caught up in the debate on how to best fix our broken immigration system. It is our belief that rather than having a series of tough and contentious proxy fights on immigration, our leaders should recognize that passing comprehensive immigration reform this year will not only help fix our badly broken immigration system - a priority of many Americans - but may also be the key to unlocking bipartisan progress on a whole range of other domestic and security related issues." 

In April, 2009, as one argument  "Making the Case for Immigration Reform," Simon wrote: 

6. The Administration and Congress will grow weary of what we call  "immigration proxy wars," and will want the issue taken off the table.  

With rising violence in Mexico, and the everyday drumbeat of clashes and conflicts over immigration in communities across America, t
he broken immigration system is not going to fade from public consciousness any time soon. The very vocal minority on the right -- those who put this issue on the table in the first place -- will continue to try to attach amendments to other bills ensuring that various government benefits are not conferred upon undocumenteds. We have already seen battles pop up this year on virtually every major bill Congress has taken up, including SCHIP and the stimulus. By the fall, I think leaders of both parties will grow weary of these proxy battles popping up on every issue and will want to resolve the issue once and for all. Passing immigration reform will become essential to making progress on other much needed societal goals like moving toward universal health insurance. 

In sum, I would just like to point out how immigration reform is NOT health care reform. Primarily because: 

1) The coalition for immigration reform is much broader - Immigration reform does draw strong feelings from both sides of the issue, but the fight for CIR draws a broader and larger number of grassroots activists (faith community, small business and Fortune 500, Asian-Pacific community, Hispanic, Ag, Labor, etc.) who are sufficiently passionate about this issue to come out to town halls, write letters, emails, attend organizational meetings, etc. to defend a stance for reform.

2) No one can claim CIR will cost us money, as CIR provides net revenue - The only persons affected by CIR will be the immigrants and families of immigrants who want it, they are the ones who will bear the cost of adjustment of status, becoming full-fledged taxpaying citizens, etc.   We have written before as to how the cost of the legalization component of CIR will be a net benefit, not cost, to taxpayers.  

3) History of bipartisanship - As Simon points out, no bipartisan health care bill has passed Congress, while we do have a history of bipartisan immigration bills passing Congress: from the 1986 bill amnesty bill, to the 1996 criminalization legislation, to the McCain-Kennedy reform legislation.  

4) Impact on the Redistricting/Apportionment Process - Without comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), minority and immigrant communities of all backgrounds will continue to feel marginalized and persecuted - even if they are here legally; DHS raids and deportations understandably cause a deep mistrust towards anything related to the government.  Translation: without CIR, an important percentage of people will fear the Census, might refuse to talk with Census workers and be counted, and will thus skew apportionment data. This would lead to use of faulty data in the redistricting and reapportionment processes.  FYI, the Constitution calls for all persons to be counted, not only U.S. citizens. In sum, CIR can have broader and more long-lasting political implications.