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Don Roach:  Immigration reform appears imminent

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

 

I think Republicans may have just joined us in the 21st century. On Monday, a group of eight Senators from both sides of the aisle developed a framework of immigration reform. The main points are as follows:

• A path to citizenship – This is a critical issue for immigration reform. You have millions of people here illegally. What do you do with them? Deporting them seems like a near impossibility and true amnesty would seem to encourage more people to come here and say, “well, doesn’t matter if I come here legally or not, I’ll have a way to become a citizen.” Neither appears tenable to me and the framework specifically states: Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law. That’s a good thing, but working out the details is going to be tricky.

• Enforce the laws – Republicans have said time and again that we need to enforce our immigration laws. I completely agree and think that laws aren’t there to be broken but to protect us all. There can’t be one area of our legal system (other than jay walking) that is completely ignored just because we have millions of people here that we can’t deport. It’s critical that we create a system wherein we can enforce our laws. Immigration reform without this, isn’t reform.

• Secure the borders – This is another key point but I really don’t have a lot of confidence in our government to actually secure our borders. The framework calls for the creation of a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border. Easier said then done.

• No illegal workers – Companies should not benefit and instead should be punished for utilizing illegal workers. Make it more difficult to get a job in the US as an illegal immigrant and doing so becomes a less attractive prospect.

• No milking the system – Another important aspect would be the inability of certain immigrants in a “probationary” status from gaining access to publicly funded programs. I also think this is a positive step as it is a deterrent for illegal immigration as well as a motivator for illegal immigrants who are here to get documented.

The spirit behind the framework is threefold – give a pathway to citizenship, make it less attractive to be an illegal immigrant in the US, and secure our borders. I think the Republicans who have signed onto this should be able to encourage their fellow party members of this framework because it appears to be a significant compromise.

The President has his own ideas on immigration reform after failing on his 2008 promise to make such reform a priority in his first term. Let me pause there for a minute – Obama said that immigration reform would be a priority for him during his first term. It wasn’t and still Latinos voted overwhelmingly for him in 2012? Republicans must be perceived as the boogeymen on immigration if Latinos gave the president a pass. Romney should have been all over this during the campaign…but that ship has sailed.

Back on point, the President seems less concerned about border security, illegal workers, and just about everything in the framework that requires accountability from illegal immigrants and companies. That’s really disappointing. Sure he has talked about an E-verify like program, making sure immigrants pay all of their fees and taxes before becoming citizens, and things of that nature but by and large I don’t feel he has a grasp on why following the rule of law is important.

Over the next few months, Congress and the President will haggle over the finer details of immigration reform. But for the first time in a long time, it appears that bipartisan change may happen. My optimism is only tempered by the fact that the leaders of Congress and the President have a horrible track record of working with one another. Still, I hope in the next few months to be writing about how we were able to achieve immigration reform rather than detailing the death of yet another immigration initiative.

 

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