Last year, the Senate passed a monumental overhaul of the immigration system, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats in approving the bill. Even though the Republican Party-controlled House blocked passage of the bill, the Senate vote revealed a strong bipartisan majority in Congress that believes immigration reform is needed.

Prior to President Barack Obama’s recent executive order, a majority of Americans backed immigration reform, including expanded pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, despite supporting the policy itself, Obama’s executive action has not shared the same support from the public — 46 percent of Americans opposed it and 42 percent favored it.

Some may claim this shift in public opinion indicates that pathways to legal status, and even immigration reform in general, do not have the support of the public. However, this low approval rating is more likely the result of the way in which Obama enacted the executive action. In the weeks leading up to the executive order, Republicans characterized any possible action by Obama as executive overreach and abuse of authority. This sentiment was echoed throughout media outlets and became apparent in recent public opinion polls. Fifty-six percent of Americans oppose Obama’s use of executive action, while only 41 percent favor it. Along these lines, 48 percent of constituents don’t believe Obama has the constitutional authority to use his power in such a way — 49 percent do.

The data suggest that it is not the policy that is opposed, but the potential for executive overreach that is worrisome. In fact, the same poll revealed that 50 percent of people think the policy in the executive order is about right, while 26 percent said it goes too far and 22 percent said it doesn’t go far enough. Thus, the actual policy behind the executive action is sound centrist policy that still has the support of the American public. Moreover, many legal scholars support the constitutionality of the law. Americans’ chief concern about the legality of the executive action is unwarranted.

Beyond the widespread support of the American public and members of Congress, certain parts of the traditional Republican base back immigration reform, including pathways to legal status. For example, Business Roundtable, a coalition of leading American CEOs, has expressed support for pathways to legal status. Similarly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made the case for immigration reform.

The public, Congress and the business community back immigration reform. Even the widely criticized policy in Obama’s executive action has public approval. Immigration reform clearly falls in the center of the political spectrum, and if the newly GOP-controlled Congress wants to keep its promise to break gridlock, this would be a great place to start.

Daniel Karr is an LSA sophomore.

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