The State of Immigration Reform

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala board a bus in San Antonio on July 7, 2015.

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It is no secret that the racial and ethnic makeup of the American electorate is changing rapidly. By the 2016 election, communities of color will make up 32 percent of all eligible voters in the United States. This increasingly rapid demographic change means politicians at every level of government must address with public policy the challenges and opportunities facing all Americans.

One of these challenges is the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The majority of Americans—69 percent—think unauthorized immigrants who are living in the United States should be allowed to stay in the country, according to a recent CBS News and New York Times poll. Yet congressional lawmakers have failed to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. The failure of lawmakers to prioritize a long-term solution to the challenges facing the U.S. immigration system means that more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants are forced to stay on the economic sidelines while families continue to be separated.

Instead of providing a sensible solution that would give unauthorized immigrants legal status and a pathway to citizenship—the progressive approach to immigration reform, which would boost the economy—the conservative response frequently demonizes and attempts to criminalize immigrants, all while predominantly opposing any positive action altogether.

This report details the current state of immigration reform by laying out the problems facing the unauthorized immigrant community, outlining the conservative response to the immigration system, reviewing progressive solutions for reform, and providing a state-by-state breakdown of the economic impact of comprehensive immigration reform.

Kristen Ellingboe is a Researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund War Room. Anna Perina is the Special Assistant for the Center for American Progress Action Fund War Room.