In a major policy address in Las Vegas this week, President Obama outlined a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would put 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States on a path to citizenship. The president’s speech came a day after a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight,” unveiled their own similar proposal. One of the senators behind the plan is Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado. He spoke with Marketplace Morning Report’s Jeremy Hobson about the new push for immigration reform, and the legislative hurdles it will face in Congress.
One major sticking point, particularly for Republicans, is the desire to tighten security along the nation’s southern border. Bennet agrees that border security is an important piece of the proposed legislation.
“The expression in the document is one that reflects a reasonable concern by the American people that we need to secure our border,” Bennet says. “The good news here is once that’s done, finally we’re going to be able to give some resolution to people that have been living in the shadows in this country.”
Though he rejects the notion of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Bennet thinks new technology can be used to secure the border.
Bennet also believes that circumstances have aligned in a way that makes this a unique moment for immigration reform in the U.S.
“This is the first time in a long time where there really is a net reduction in people coming over the border, rather than an increase,” he says. “I think that’s one of the things that’s given us the opportunity to put some politics aside and start addressing the problem.”
In Colorado, Bennet says every industry — from peach farms to ski resorts — have been negatively impacted by the country’s immigration laws. “The lack of certainty that the broken immigration system is causing for our businesses is hurting them.”
Bennet says fixing the immigration system won’t just help the business community, it will help cash-starved governments as well. “It’s going to be huge, both in terms of the revenue that’s going to be generated from the fines, and taxes that are paid by people who are now going to be paying those taxes.”