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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT