The year for immigration?

As the new year begins, the immigration community is clamoring for 2014 to be the year when comprehensive immigration reform is approved.

2013 seemed like the ideal year to make some much-needed fixes to immigration laws in order to help the economy, humanely bring undocumented workers out of the shadows and protect national security. Unfortunately, the reform was hijacked in the House of Representatives, reflecting the influence that the tough anti-immigrant stance has over the Republican caucus. And it is still up to the GOP to take action in order to prevent wasting what has been achieved so far by the Senate and numerous interest groups supporting the reform.

The bill the Senate approved is far from being ideal. The bipartisan measure negotiated between Democrats and Republicans establishes a tortuous path to citizenship that will have many people losing their opportunities along the way. However, at least it will bring immediate peace of mind to millions of working families who today live under the constant threat of deportation.

The chances of passing immigration reform during an election year are low. Immigration is a subject that lends itself to demagoguery and that opponents use as an opportunity to scare voters with half-truths.

Nevertheless, if reform does not advance this year, it will be necessary to start from zero in 2015 with an unpredictably different Congress. Like the saying goes, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

For immigration reform to move forward, the speaker of the House of Representatives must consider it a priority for which he is willing to confront the most stubborn wing of his party; that way, he will allow both Republican and Democratic bills to be put to a plenary vote. And of course, afterwards, negotiate with the Senate in good faith—without poisoning the pillars of the reform, like legalization—a final bill that President Obama can sign.

Undoubtedly, the White House can be blamed for the deportations. But the future of immigration laws—which will no doubt change the dynamics of repatriations—remains in Republican hands. In 2014, GOP Congresspeople must decide between behaving like demagogue politicians or statespersons who are acting for the well-being of the country. Hope is the last thing we lose.