NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You may be wondering why Republicans and Democrats are coming together on immigration policy at a time when the U.S. economy is in flux and the labor situation shows little sign of meaningful improvement. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and President Barack Obama emerged earlier this week with plans to expedite the path to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants who have been living in the country. "Remember that this is not just a debate about policy. It's about people. It's about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story," Obama said Tuesday. Maybe so, but various economists, sociologists and political analysts can agree that it's a policy issue that may have lasting effects on the economy. The approaching debate about immigration reform is a massive container for broad-ranging issues, such as education of a rapidly growing group of America's youth, economic mobility, fairer labor competition, investments abroad and political opinions in Massachusetts and South Carolina.
the GOP ," said Sig Rogich, a former adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "You can't go into 2016 having no new taxes and abortion and gay rights as their issues. There's too many things that people view in terms of priorities as being too important. " The GOP found itself wounded after the 2012 election in November as the president grabbed a huge percentage of minority voters. Democratic pickups in the Senate and the Republican-controlled House didn't bode well either. To worsen matters, Republicans conceded an increase in income taxes to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff -- a move that put many conservatives in a precarious position for primaries in the 2014 mid-term election. House Republicans, following the initial lead of Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), decided to extend the debt limit for a few months in order to avoid more criticism from American voters on an issue that would have been a difficult battle to win. Immigration reform is appealing legislation for Democrats, but they have to avoid tripping up on some of the nuances. For example, Obama remained quiet in his proposal about immigrant same-sex couples' ability to sponsor a foreign-born spouse to become a resident. "If you're a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts ... you can say, 'I want a path that approves every single potential person who qualifies based on whatever the criteria is, and we don't care if they're white, black, Hispanic, Asian, we don't care if they're gay or straight," said Michael Goldman, a Democratic operative in Massachusetts. "But if you come from South Carolina, you can't. If you come from Arizona, you can't." Therein sits the politics. A representative in a more conservative district may not vote yes to certain immigration reform if it includes language about same-sex couples or other topics that their constituents prefer not to approve. Still, Republicans realize they're losing ground among minorities. "The one brilliant moment that George W. Bush had in his presidency was understanding what most Americans don't: They assume that as a 'minority' they are likely to be Democratic voters and have more in common with blacks than they do with white, empowered males," said Goldman. "The truth is that's not true. Bush understood that if there was one group of people who were religiously more in tune with the Republicans' social policies it was the Hispanic community." Momentum is on the side of immigration reform, and regardless of the politics, an easier path to citizenship may be the beginning of a larger domino effect that could greatly benefit the education and economic mobility of immigrant families for generations to come. "That the children who grow up in America with undocumented parents, those who make it are real heroes," said Portes. -- Written by Joe Deaux in New York. >Contact by Email. Follow @JoeDeaux