The House immigration bill should include a pathway to citizenship for those who are already here, former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert says.
"The whole formula for immigration reform can fall into place if two basic issues are solved," Hastert, of Illinois, wrote in an opinion piece for Politico
. "First, securing our borders so we know who is entering our country and for what purpose. Second, a legalization of those folks who are already here, many of whom have been here for a decade or more."
Legalization means there must be "a path to citizenship much like any other immigrant would have," Hastert explains.
But the country cannot just do nothing, he said. "The cost of inaction is high," he writes.
Hastert says the United States has too much to gain economically, citing reports from the Congressional Budget Office and the Bipartisan Policy Center. The CBO predicted that Gross Domestic Product would increase by 5.4 percent if immigrants in the United States were given citizenship over 20 years, and the BPC has said that immigration reform would reduce the federal deficit by more than $1.2 trillion in the same amount of time.
Hastert says immigration reform is also necessary to fill jobs in a variety of sectors such as science and technology, agriculture, and manufacturing.
"Immigration is necessary for our economic recovery," he writes. "We need a reasonable way to bring [immigrants] out of the shadows so that they can legally contribute to our economy."
"Removing them is neither practical nor economically smart," he says.
There are national security issues at stake as well, he says. If the Department of Homeland Security knows who is here, it will make it easier for "law enforcement to refocus their resources on removing individuals with criminal backgrounds."
He also explains that embracing Latinos, which are expected to make up 30 percent of the population by 2050, is necessary for the political survival of the Republican Party.
"My own party must acknowledge this reality and embrace these ever-growing constituencies if it is to remain relevant in national elections," Hastert writes.
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