Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Immigration Reform Could Change the Lives of Up to 95,000 in Minnesota

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Immigration Reform Could Change the Lives of Up to 95,000 in Minnesota

Article excerpt

President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators want to overhaul the nation's immigration laws with a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people, a proposal that could change the lives of up to 95,000 immigrants in Minnesota.

Speaking before a roof-raising-cheering crowd in Las Vegas Tuesday, Obama called for "commonsense, comprehensive, immigration reform," saying, by my count, five times: "Now is the time."

Is it?

"Absolutely,'' says John Keller, an attorney and executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, a state where the numbers of the undocumented vary from an estimated 55,000 to 95,000.

"The planets are aligning," adds Keller, referring to both the high cost of federal immigration enforcement and the growing bipartisan push for immigration reform since the 2012 election.

A group of eight senators - Republicans and Democrats - on Monday unveiled a framework for what they call a "tough but fair path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants - the latest in a number of plans that have been floated over the years. In 2007 a Senate reform bill died despite backing from President George W. Bush for want of enough bipartisan support. In 2010, discussions began but crashed and burned. Why is this year different?

Keller points to a new study by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, which shows the U.S. government lays out "more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined," nearly $187 billion since 1986.

Political will

The political will for change is also broadening, he says. Conservatives and the Republican Party have come to realize "reform has to happen,'' Keller says, noting how rapidly after the 2012 presidential election that opinion leaders like Charles Krauthammer and Sean Hannity changed their tunes about immigration reform.

Those on the right had been calling for mass deportations of unauthorized immigrants. Their presidential candidate and standard- bearer last year suggested making life so miserable for the undocumented Americans that they'd self deport.

After the election - when 70 percent of Latinos voted for Obama - - they suddenly toned down their rhetoric, calling to fix the broken immigration system, Keller says. …

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