This week the Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Sue Roche and visiting professor at the University of Maine School of Law, Anna Welch co-authored an excellent op-ed in the Portland Press Herald about Maine’s need for a comprehensive federal immigration reform bill.

Support for reform of our broken immigration system is not hard to find: from labor organizations to faith based communities, from law enforcement to advocacy groups and from both sides of the political aisle. Despite the almost universal recognition for the need for reform, a comprehensive immigration reform bill has yet to go before the house for a vote.

While the failure of our legislators to pass an immigration reform bill has had huge implications for the millions of individuals currently being forced to live in shadows throughout the country and the many family members who are separated from their loved ones dues to arbitrary immigration laws, it also has real implications for Maine’s economy. A report by the Maine Development Foundation and Maine State Chamber of Commerce published on November 19th, discusses the important role of immigrants in Maine’s current and future workforce. The report warns that increasingly Maine will be facing a workforce crisis where our ratio of persons of a working age compared to a retirement age will decline by almost half in the next 12 years. And unfortunately, under current immigration laws, many talented and hardworking Mainers are being unnecessarily excluded from our workforce.

A comprehensive immigration bill should be a top priority when our legislators return in 2014. The well-being of our economy and millions of individuals and their families depend on it.