LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing for comprehensive federal immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
The mayor addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Monday, and argued that immigration reform should be a priority for lawmakers, who are currently battling over gun control and whether to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.
“Washington should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Congress is fully capable of enacting responsible gun control and comprehensive immigration reform,” Villaraigosa said. “The time for half-measures and one-sided approaches is over.”
His plan was based on six tenets, whose central premise was a pathway to citizenship, along with keeping families together and incentives to retain high-skilled and agricultural immigrants.
Villaraigosa also pushed for “smart enforcement” of the nation’s borders, but didn’t elaborate on that tenet.
The mayor emphasized the economic incentives for legalizing undocumented immigrants, which would generate a $1.5 trillion boost over 10 years and provide $4.5 billion in new tax revenue within three years, according to figures he cited from the Center for American Progress.
“The bottom line in this debate is full citizenship,” Villaraigosa said. “Immigrants don’t deserve half a handshake. They deserve a full embrace.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich opposed the mayor’s pathway-to-citizenship plan.
“Amnesty is not reform. It is a surrender to a problem created by the federal government’s failure to enforce the borders and its ongoing efforts to incentivize illegal immigration,” Antonovich said.
Undocumented immigrants and their families cost county taxpayers about $1.6 billion per year for social services, health care and public safety, Antonovich said.
“We can no longer be the HMO to the world,” he said. “What’s needed is a temporary bonded guest worker program that allows an immigrant to work in the United States temporarily while ensuring that their medical care is paid by either the employee or employer.”
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