There are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. According to Pew Research, two thirds of them have been in this country for more than 10 years.
Back in 2013, when Congress last considered passing comprehensive immigration reform, the CBO estimated that providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion in the first 10 years and an additional $700 billion in the second decade. Additionally, the Center for American Progress calculated that such reforms would increase the earnings of all American workers by $470 billion over 10 years, increase tax revenue by $109 billion over a decade, and create on average an additional 121,000 jobs per year. Finally, over the next three and a half decades, legalized immigrants would add a net of more than $606 billion to the Social Security system.
When President Biden prioritizes immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the arguments in favor of doing so aren't simply about allowing over 11 million people to come out of the shadows. The economic benefits of doing so would redound to all of us.
Coming out of the 2012 election, there were still some Republicans who knew that immigration reform was something their party had to embrace. That is why the bipartisan "gang of eight" produced a bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32. As had become typical of these kinds of negotiations, Republicans pressed for massive spending on border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. But the lunatic caucus in the House threatened to oust Rep. John Boehner as speaker if he brought the bill up for a vote. That is how Republicans killed immigration reform in 2013. Three years later, they elected a president who had based much of his campaign on demonizing immigrants.
Long before his first day in office, Biden knew that, having gone full-nativist over the last eight years, Republicans wouldn't support comprehensive immigration reform—even given the economic benefits of doing so. That is why he took a different approach than the one utilized by President Obama.
Biden didn't pre-negotiate with Republicans. He produced his own plan that didn't include massive spending on border security. As Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America's Voice, told Ron Brownstein, Biden's approach differed in that it recognized that "Republicans demand way too much in the sausage-making and, in the end, still kill off immigration reform." Sharry went on to say that "Biden is presenting a bill that unifies and inspires the entire Democratic coalition. In effect, he's saying, 'Work with me in good faith, Republicans, to get to 60 votes, and if you don't...we'll find a way to get something done with our 51 votes.'"
That is a perfect example of how Biden is walking the talk when it comes to what he means by unity.
The president knows that, according polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, 64 percent of Americans favor providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That indicates that there is unity on the issue—even if it is not bipartisan.
Biden says he "would prefer" his stimulus plan "to be bipartisan" but it isn't required:— The Recount (@therecount) January 25, 2021
"If you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines ... it doesn't mean there wasn't unity, it just means it wasn't bipartisan." pic.twitter.com/1j14ktX9lM