There are more than 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. In Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, one out of 10 residents are undocumented. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently traveled to Washington to push lawmakers to change our immigration system, one that the mayor calls “broken.”
Villaraigosa said his meetings with President Obama and Senators John McCain and Harry Reid left him optimistic that immigration reform would happen this year.
“I think there’s a consensus that we’re probably at the best time we’ve been to at least since 1986 to get comprehensive immigration reform,” Villaraigosa tells The Daily Ticker at the Milken Global Institute Conference 2013. “Things look really good.”
Villaraigosa says the House could approve the broad reform bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators (the “Gang of Eight”) if the Senate overwhelming votes for it. An overhaul of the current immigration system not only makes fiscal sense, he argues, but would also encourage undocumented workers to assimilate in the country.
“When you bring people from out of the dark and into the light you encourage them to get an education, learn English, to do the things that will make them more marketable,” he says. “They’ll contribute more [to Social Security, Medicare] and we need workers. There are a lot of economic benefits that people don’t take into account.”
The proposed Senate immigration bill has a broad coalition of supporters (including Grover Norquist and AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka) but its passage is far from certain. Conservative critics have denounced the bill as “immediate amnesty” and many want tighter border controls to be implemented before a pathway to citizenship becomes law.
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