If People Could Vote

July 21, 2013

Speaking on the issue of immigration reform, Vice President Joe Biden said, "If the people are able to vote, it would pass."

Indeed the majority of the American people support immigration reform, with 55 percent in favor of a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens according to a Washington Post-ABC poll.

 I am certain that far more than 55 percent of American citizens would support the CNMI nonresidents being granted outright citizenship if they were aware of the facts. More likely 80 percent or more would be in favor of a pathway to citizenship for the longterm, legal nonresidents.

Passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House may not happen anytime soon. Tea Party and Republican leaders see the issue through a purely political lens. They would rather disregard the will of the American people and go against their own so-called "family values" to engage in political games.

Still, there are House Republicans who are speaking out for immigration reform. One is Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) who wrote a guest column today in the Denver Post, which said, "The time for immigration reform is now."

But are there enough Republicans like Mike Coffman to convince Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to allow a House vote on immigration reform? Probably not. Today on CBS's Face the Nation Boehner reiterated the Republican stand to deal with immigration in "chunks" rather than one comprehensive bill.

We know that bills perceived as addressing "important" CNMI issues are introduced not only in comprehensive bills, but also in stand alone bills. As an example, a provision calling for the delay of increases in the CNMI minimum wage was introduced in the comprehensive Omnibus Territories Act, S. 1237 and was also introduced in a stand alone bill, S. 256 to give it a better chance of passing.

Isn't it time that P.L. 110-229 be amended to include a status provision? Shouldn't the CNMI status provision that passed the Senate comprehensive immigration bill be introduced as a stand alone bill? Isn't it time to focus on the 12,000 legal CNMI nonresidents and separate the issue of their status from the issue of status for the 11 million undocumented aliens? If immigration in the House is going to be dealt with in pieces, perhaps a good piece to start with would be addressing the status of the legal nonresidents of the CNMI.