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Immigration Reform Is Alive and Kicking on Capitol Hill

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As it turns out, reports of the death of immigration reform were greatly exaggerated. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans and Democrats are reportedly working on various immigration plans, some of which, including a bill to be released next week by Issa, deal with the toughest issue of all -- what to do about the nation's 11.7 million undocumented immigrants. And Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says that immigration reform could get to the floor of the House before the end of the year.

Is common sense breaking out on Capitol Hill? That might be too much to ask for. But at least the GOP leadership seems to be taking a hard look at political reality.

Here are four big reasons why an immigration overhaul is likely to happen by the end of the year:

1. Immigration reform is a political win-win for Democrats and Republicans.

I can't say that either the Democrats or Republicans came out of last week's shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship looking good to the American people, but the whole debacle hurt the Republicans much more. A recent NBCNews/Wall Street Journal poll found that the public blames the GOP more than President Obama by 53 percent to 31 percent, a 21 point margin. And approval ratings for the Republican party are at an all-time low -- never before in the history of polling have the numbers shown such blatant disappointment.

Immigration reform gives the Republicans a unique opportunity to do something big, to reach across the aisle and work with House Democrats to pass real immigration reform either in a comprehensive package or as a series of bills that ultimately have a chance to fix what's wrong with our immigration system. It would be a colossal mistake for the House GOP not to seize the chance to lead on immigration reform. The American people want it, the country needs it, and it's a pathway to political redemption for the badly bruised Republican party.

2. The immigration reform coalition is unified and ready to make the final push.

A broad coalition of business, labor, faith-based and ethnic groups are full of energy and ready to finish the job the Senate started in the spring. In the midst of the combined "shutdown and debt ceiling" crisis, thousands of Americans descended on Washington to join the "March for Dignity and Respect." Eight members of Congress, including civil rights icon John Lewis (D-Ga.), joined together in an historic act of civil disobedience and were arrested near the steps of the Capitol in a show of solidarity with the immigration reform movement. As Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) wrote recently in his The Huffington Post column "Why I Went To Jail":

Some may call it a publicity stunt. Some may call it a political theater. For whatever reason some may think I stood out there with thousands of clergy and advocates calling for immigration reform, the fact is that it got attention. And immigration reform is a critical issue that desperately needs it. If eight Members of Congress getting thrown in jail is what it takes to get people talking about it, then I'll gladly sit in the slammer. We cannot let ourselves forget that our nation has been built by immigrants, and the story of America began with people from another nation traveling to our shores.

Congress needs to fix the twisted morass of rules and regulations that pass for America's immigration policy. No longer can we sit idle as our mess of a "system" ruthlessly breaks up American families, stifles economic growth, and compromises our nation's democratic principles. Now is the time.

3. The DREAMERs have become doers.

A funny thing happened since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001. The DREAMERs grew up. And they grew up as Americans, watching football, going to homecoming dances, eating hotdogs on the 4th of July and dreaming about giving back to the country they've struggled against all odds to enrich. They are no longer the helpless children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. Today they are, in effect, undocumented Americans.

Through masterful use of 21st century tools like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with old-fashioned organizing and courage, the DREAMERs have become a key voice in the struggle for immigration reform. They, more than any other group, deserve the lion's share of credit for pushing the administration to grant an administrative deportation reprieve to qualified undocumented youth last year.

For DREAMERs there is no giving up on their journey toward U.S. citizenship. They will no longer take no for an answer.

4. Now is the time.

The passion is there, the energy is there, and, most of all, the American people are there. It's time for both parties to sit down together and create an immigration process that will protect our borders, keep our families safe and together, give our businesses the tools they need to compete in the global economy, and provide a road map to lawful immigration status for the 11 million aspiring citizens currently living in the shadows.

Now, not later. Now.