Immigration reform headed toward fruition

The issue of immigration and how to address the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the U.S. has always been politically contentious, but recent shifts in demographics make us confident that reform is closer than ever to becoming reality.

Our country is changing and groups that have long been marginalized are finally becoming large enough to exert some power over the politicians who dictate the policies that affect so many of us.

In the recent election, Latinos voted for the incumbent by an overwhelming ratio of 3 to 1, according to exit polls. The power of the expanding Latino voting bloc can finally exert the pressure to reform the system that has left undocumented immigrants on the back burner for so long.

Exactly how to change our immigration system is a problem that is better solved by politicians than us, but the fact that change is necessary is an indisputable fact. Our system is headed in the right direction with more and more legislation becoming a topic in the political dialogue of our country.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2011 would have put certain residents on a special path toward citizenship if they had been in the United States before age 16. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a directive to defer for two years the deportation of certain law-abiding undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Republicans recently introduced the Achieve Act to provide legal status for undocumented immigrants as children before a certain age.

But this is about more than just allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States without citizenship, or giving them special roads toward citizenship. Making immigration part of the discussion is just the first step of many toward true immigration reform in the United States.

This country was founded and built by immigrants, and we have ignored their contributions for far too long. At Ellis Island, the symbolic gateway to the United States, there is a plaque that reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s time to live up to that mantra.