Skip to main content

Stars align at last for immigration plan

By Bill Richardson, Special to CNN
January 29, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Applicants in Los Angeles line up in August to file for the Obama administration's reprieve from deportation.
Applicants in Los Angeles line up in August to file for the Obama administration's reprieve from deportation.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Until now, fear-mongering drove immigration policy and overhaul was ignored
  • Richardson: With illegal immigration down, GOP realizes it needs to address Hispanics
  • He says we need path to citizenship, border security, guest worker plan, DREAM Act
  • Richardson: The onus is on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration plan

Editor's note: Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico for two terms and represented the state's 3rd Congressional District for 15 years. He is chairman of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials' executive advisory service Global Political Strategies and special envoy for the Organization of American States. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations also is senior fellow for Latin America at Rice University.
Read this article in Spanish

(CNN) -- The stars may finally be aligning for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Whatever the reasons -- and there are many -- it's about time.

During my two terms as governor of a border state, there were times when I was hopeful for a breakthrough. But political fear-mongering often ruled the day as immigrants and drugs illegally crossed into the United States and weapons flowed to the south. With every border flare-up, the American public -- and their elected leaders -- put immigration on the back burner.

I am encouraged by the news that a bipartisan group of senators has crafted a plan and is working on building consensus toward a political way forward. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is also taking an active role and showing leadership on this issue. My hope is that we end up with a truly comprehensive solution that does not tear families apart.

Opinion: Worker visas are the key to immigration reform

Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson

A comprehensive plan should create a path to earned citizenship, enforceable border security, a realistic guest worker plan, accountability for employers that hire illegal immigrants and passage of the DREAM Act.

We have a window of opportunity now that didn't exist before because immigration is at a low point, and addressing the issue makes more sense politically.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Our struggle to recover from the financial crisis doesn't just mean fewer jobs for Americans; the lack of work has also deterred many would-be immigrants, especially those who come to America to find construction and manufacturing jobs.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that we have nearly 1 million fewer illegal immigrants living in America than we did in 2007. Census officials say the economy is the primary reason for the decline. The aging population and the growing middle class in Mexico may also be factors that explain the new trend.

While nobody is celebrating the poor economy and the lack of jobs, the reality that illegal immigration isn't seen as a "crisis" at the moment, gives us the opportunity to have a reasoned debate, without the unnecessary rhetoric, and finally enact a comprehensive immigration plan.

Read: Senate immigration plan

With a stable and reasonable immigration system in place, I believe we'll have more opportunities for bilateral economic growth and trade between the United States and Mexico. That will mean more jobs on both sides of the border.

Sweeping immigration changes proposed
Will lawmakers tackle immigration?

Politically, the results of the recent election strongly suggest this is the moment for reform.

First, President Barack Obama is following through on his promise to make an immigration overhaul a priority, using the good will he earned with the Hispanic constituencies, and will announce his proposals Tuesday.

Second, many Republicans in Congress realize that they need a new political strategy if they have any hope of bouncing back from the devastating losses they are experiencing with Hispanic voters.

iReport: Under deportation, above fear

Hispanics of all ethnic backgrounds are embracing Democratic candidates and their message of inclusiveness and opportunity for all. Opposition to immigration overhaul, including the demonization of foreign-born families that look to America for opportunity, is hurting Republicans at the polls.

Third, the Supreme Court ruled emphatically that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. While I am certainly sympathetic as a former governor with the issues that states must deal with as a result of illegal immigration, the onus is on Congress to pass an immigration plan.

Unless we come to grips with all aspects of the immigration issue, we are going to end up with the same impractical, expensive and ineffective solutions we have had for years.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bill Richardson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT