Opinion: Shifting Demographics Aren't All That Will Propel Immigration Reform

"Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."
— President Obama, speaking to Des Moines Register editors, Oct. 23

No matter who wins on Election Day, the president-elect will wake up on Nov. 7 to an immigration-policy challenge intensified by our nation's demographics shift.

But that shift also offers former Gov. Mitt Romney or Obama a unique opportunity to keep a campaign promise they both made: to pass immigration reform in 2013. It is a promise they can keep because Americans across the political spectrum, whether they were born here or abroad, want an immigration process that honors our values of equality, fairness and hard work.

Conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike are ready to create the political will necessary to make it happen.

People who carry bibles, wear badges, and own businesses have been building consensus — and momentum — around the need for federal immigration reform for more than a year.

As communities diversify, faith leaders see a moral obligation to keep families together and care for our neighbors; law enforcement officials want to keep us safe, not divert their public-safety missions to federal immigration functions; and business leaders recognize that reform can help them innovate and improve their profit margins.

Traditionally moderate to conservative, these constituencies have come together at regional immigration summits, launched state compacts, and created a national Evangelical Immigration Table. Already they are encouraging lawmakers to choose better immigration policies over divisive rhetoric.

In fact, conservative politicians can look to Grover Norquist.

"Immigration is the most important thing to focus on if you're concerned about America as an economic power," Norquist said earlier this month at the Midwest Summit on immigration. "It's not only good policy to have more immigrants to the United States "¦ [and] a path forward for those people who are here; it's also good politics."

The "good politics" that is bringing bipartisan attention to immigration reform is the growing political power of new Americans.

Everyone sees the coming tide.

"I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year," Romney said of immigration reform during the Oct. 16 debate.

"We need to get immigration reform done, and I'm fully committed to doing that.... I'm confident we'll get [it] done next year," Obama told The Des Moines Register's editorial board.

But immigration reform isn't just about Latinos, Asians, and other new Americans. A common-sense immigration process is a common-sense solution all Americans want, and whoever hangs drapes in the White House come 2013 must act.

Designing a solution won't be easy. A pragmatic immigration process will require liberals and conservatives alike to be, well, pragmatic.

Yes, there will be negotiations. But negotiations can and should lead to compromise.

When they enter the process of building legislation, Republicans and Democrats alike will feel the pressure of America's fastest-growing electorate. But they will also be watched by faith, law-enforcement, and business leaders across the political spectrum.

The message from everyone is clear: Our policies should reward hard work, keep families together, and form a more perfect union, indivisible and strong.

And that's true whether your family was new to our country two years ago or two hundred.

Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.