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Editorial: Demand a response on immigration reform

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Amid all of the political hustle and bustle during the election season, plans for immigration reform have fallen by the wayside. In one of the few areas that has received a general bipartisan consensus (if not total agreement), it seems immigration has lacked the flashpoint news story bringing it to the forefront of civic discussion.

But Thursday, it may have found just that.

According to USA Today, new records show the Obama administration misled Congress on the criminal records of 2,200 undocumented immigrants that were freed from jails last year in order to save money. The records indicate some of those released faced such charges as kidnapping, sexual assault, drug trafficking, and homicide, in contradiction to the administration’s claim that the criminals only had minor crimes on their record.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records included a breakdown of those released and showed that although two-thirds of the immigrants had no criminal records, others had been convicted of serious crimes.

Though the story threatens to become a scandal in and of itself, it has also sparked a discussion in Congress on what action the nation should take on immigration reform.

According to a CBS/New York Times poll conducted from Sept 12-15, the percentage of Americans who believe illegal immigrants should stay in the U.S. and apply for citizenship has dropped 4 percentage points since the last polling period, from 54 percent to 50.  Likewise, those who think immigrants should be required to leave rose from 30 to 32 percent.

Not only are Americans somewhat hesitant on providing immigration amnesty, they also wouldn’t vote for someone who offers it, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. On whether they would vote for a congressional candidate who supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 36 percent said it would make them less likely to vote, while only 27 percent said it would make them more likely to.

It’s obvious that the issue of illegal immigration has become a political minefield for candidates. Though the news of the criminal release may provide some ammunition for Republican contenders in the tight races during the coming weeks, meaningful action on immigration reform may not even come after the election, depending on the makeup of Congress. If a Republican majority takes over, President Obama could still wield a veto. And if Congress is split, partisan divides may prove too wide for the lawmaking process.

One alternative to the legislative process, executive orders, has received more support among Americans — 52 percent thought Obama should take action on immigration if Congress failed to do so, while 44 percent thought he should not.

Now that the news of the released criminals has come to light however, Obama may not find the same support for that option.

Regardless of how the elections shake out, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes people need to demand action from their representatives in order to see substantive progress on immigration reform. Only if it is seen as a major issue will lawmakers feel the pressure to respond.


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