Originally Published: The Hill, September 2, 2013
Originally Published: The Hill, September 2, 2013
Originally Published: September 2, 2013, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — As Congress wrestles with immigration legislation, a central question is whether the 11 million immigrants already in the United States illegally should get a path to citizenship.
The answer from a small but growing number of House Republicans is “yes,” just as long as it’s not the “special” path advocated by Democrats and passed by the Senate.
“There should be a pathway to citizenship — not a special pathway and not no pathway,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told ABC 4 Utah after speaking at a recent town hall meeting in his district. “But there has to be a legal, lawful way to go through this process that works, and right now it doesn’t.”
Many House Republicans said people who illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas should not be rewarded with a special, tailor-made solution that awards them a prize of American citizenship, especially when millions are waiting in line to attempt the process through current legal channels.
It’s far from clear, however, what a path to citizenship that’s not a special path to citizenship might look like, or how many people it might help.
The phrase means different things to different people, and a large number of House Republicans oppose any approach that results in citizenship for people now in the country illegally. Some lawmakers said such immigrants should be permitted to attain legal-worker status, but stop there and never progress to citizenship. That’s a solution Democrats reject.
Nonetheless, advocates searching for a way ahead on one of President Barack Obama’s second-term priorities see in the “no special path to citizenship” formulation the potential for compromise.
“I think there’s a lot of space there,” said Clarissa Martinez, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza. “And that’s why I’m optimistic that once they start grappling more with details, that’s when things start getting more real.”
Once Congress returns from its summer break the week of Sept. 9, the focus will be on the GOP-led House. The Democratic-controlled Senate in June passed a far-reaching bill that includes a big, new investment in border security and remakes the system for legal immigration system, in addition to creating a 13-year path to citizenship for those already here illegally.
House Republicans have rejected the Senate approach, promising to proceed instead with narrowly focused bills, starting with border security. No action is expected on the House floor until late fall, at earliest, because of pressing fiscal deadlines that must be dealt with first.
The timing crunch, along with the significant policy and process disagreements, has left some supporters pessimistic about the future of immigration legislation. They find hope, however, in some recent comments from House Republicans around the country suggesting they could support a solution that ends in citizenship at least for some who now lack legal status.
Democrats, some Republicans and most outside immigration advocates are pushing for a relatively straightforward path to citizenship like the one in the Senate.
It imposes certain restrictions, seeks payment of fees, fines and taxes, and requires that prospective immigrants attempting the process legally are dealt with first. Once those criteria are met, most people here illegally could get permanent resident green cards in 10 years, and citizenship in three more. Agriculture workers and immigrants brought to this country as children would have a quicker path.
That approach is rejected by most House Republicans as a “special” path to citizenship.
“It’s not a bill I can support,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said at a Verona, Va., town hall meeting recently. “We think a legal status in the United States, but not a special pathway to citizenship, might be appropriate.”
Goodlatte has said that after attaining legal status, immigrants could potentially use the existing avenues toward naturalization, such as family or employment ties.
He and others also argue that many immigrants would be satisfied with legalization alone, without getting citizenship. That’s something many advocates dispute, though studies show that a significant number of immigrants who are eligible for citizenship haven’t taken that step — about 40 percent in a Pew Hispanic Center study in February.
Goodlatte has not provided much detail on how he foresees immigrants moving through existing channels from legalization to citizenship. Depending on its design, such an approach could touch anywhere from hundreds of thousands to many millions of the 11 million people here illegally. So if House Republicans end up taking that approach, how they craft it would help determine whether Democrats and the advocacy groups could go along.
For now, advocates said that making immigrants here illegally go through the existing system would help relatively few of them.
Current law says that if you’ve been in the country illegally for more than a year, you have to return to your home country for 10 years before you can re-enter legally, which would likely dissuade many people.
Moreover, existing family sponsorship channels are badly backlogged, and many are capped. People applying for citizenship through their siblings face waits of more than 20 years in some cases, for example. On the employment side, existing visa programs are difficult to use and inadequate to meet demand, and also face long backlogs.
Waiving the requirement for people to exit the country and adding visas to reduce backlogs could take in a substantial number of the 11 million here illegally, arguably without being a “special” pathway, advocates said.
It’s a long shot, but the result could be an immigration deal between the House and the Senate, and a bill for Obama to sign.
“If the House wants to dis the Senate bill and come up with their own approach to the 11 million that has no special pathway to citizenship, we would be happy to work with them on a way that would meet with our bottom line, which is an inclusive, immediate path to legal status for the 11 million, and an achievable and clear path to eventual citizenship,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant group. “They can preserve the sound bite and we can have the policies that we want.”
Originally Published, The Hill, September 2, 2013
The shift in tactics comes as some leaders in the movement are voicing frustration that the more narrowly tailored activities used during the August recess have failed to maximize pressure on House Republican leaders to take up immigration legislation.
“I say that one of the problems we have is that Congress isn’t hearing enough from the American people, that we’re using too many sophisticated methods of communication,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) told reporters earlier this week. “We’re buying ads there, and radio ads there, and hiring this lobbyist there. We need people power, and we need to concentrate.”
A series of demonstrations and rallies are planned for major cities on Oct. 5, ahead of a march in Washington on Oct. 8, Gutiérrez said. He said organizers hoped to attract 15,000 people in the capital to pressure Congress.
With budget and debt-ceiling debates expected to dominate an abbreviated legislative calendar in September, immigration reform isn’t likely to come to the House floor until October, lawmakers and aides have said.
Even then, advocates may have difficulty sustaining momentum for the issue, particularly if the fiscal fights drag out through the fall.
Immigration reform advocates defended their strategy for August, saying their goal was to “outgun” the movement’s opponents and generate headlines in local rather than national press.
“It’s been not huge marches on Washington, but those have been happening on Main Street, in key districts around the country,” said Jeremy Robbins, director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, the group pushing for immigration reform backed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “And that’s something we’re very proud and optimistic with how that’s gone.”
“You do have to lobby,” said Tom Snyder, who is managing the AFL-CIO’s campaign for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
The August plan, Snyder said in an interview, was for a “massive number of events in Republican districts, not necessarily huge rallies.”
“We’re planning to escalate the pressure in September, October and November,” he said. “We’re executing a plan that we made some time ago.”
Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform said the relative lack of major activity in August was due to the slim chance that the House would actually consider legislation similar to the bill that passed the Senate in June. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the House won’t vote on that measure and that any immigration proposal must gain the support of a majority of the Republican conference.
“As long as that’s the case, there’s not this great sense of looming danger out there,” said Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, which opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Beck voiced doubt that any plans for large rallies by reform advocates would alter the political dynamic. “I thought that was what they were planning for August. It sounds like more of the same,” he said. “I don’t see how more political theater is going to make a difference.”
Originally Published: The Hill’s Congress Blog, August 30, 2013
Controversy over a path toward citizenship is the most important roadblock to immigration reform.
Many conservatives oppose a path to citizenship because it’s unfair to reward law breakers with citizenship. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Ida.) said, “People that came here illegally knowingly – I don’t think they should have a path to citizenship.” On the political left, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-ll.) said he, “is opposed to proposals that bar citizenship or create a permanent non-citizen underclass.”
To Labrador’s point, the heavy fines, fees and bureaucratic abuses that would prod every legalized immigrant on a path toward citizenship are hardly an award for legal behavior. And to Gutierrez, a legalization status less than citizenship is no more an underclass than the millions of green card or visa holders that currently happily live without becoming citizens.
There is a simple solution to this impasse that could satisfy both camps: Create two paths.
The first path should be toward a permanent work visa where the immigrant cannot apply for citizenship unless he or she serves in the armed forces or marries an American. This visa should be very cheap – hundreds of dollars – and granted quickly after national security, criminal, and health checks.
The second path should be toward a green card and eventual citizenship. This path should be more difficult and expensive, something similar to the Senate’s path to citizenship. Those legalized unauthorized immigrants who want to become citizens should be able to do so.
For unauthorized immigrants uninterested in citizenship, who just want to work and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation, a simple and low-cost path toward a permanent work permit would save them headaches, uncertainty, and cash.
This would definitely be consistent with conservatives like Labrador who say that unauthorized immigrants do not want citizenship. “They’re not clamoring for it,” he said earlier this year. “It’s only the activists here in Washington D.C. who keep clamoring for it.”
If Labrador is right, most unauthorized immigrants would choose a more affordable and easier path toward legalization rather than a more expensive and difficult path toward citizenship – if they were given a choice.
A look at the polls, however, indicates that unauthorized immigrants do want citizenship. In fact, a recent Latino Decisions poll found that 87 percent want to become citizens. But if history is any guide, many of those respondents would choose a cheaper and easier form of legalization if it was offered.
The 1986 Reagan amnesty bill created an affordable and straightforward path to a green card and citizenship. But almost a generation later, only 45 percent of former unauthorized immigrants have naturalized. The 2013 bill would likely produce an even lower rate of naturalization, as the path to citizenship is much more arduous than the Reagan-era bill.
As a general rule, one-size fits all reforms rarely work well. A path to citizenship is not likely to be an exception, although it’s better than the status quo. Allowing a second, simpler path toward a permanent work permit that won’t lead to citizenship will allow otherwise law-abiding unauthorized immigrants, those who will be affected most, to choose their own level of legal status.
Conservatives can say that millions of unauthorized immigrants will be legalized and most won’t choose citizenship, while leftists can say they created a path toward citizenship. Most importantly, the deportations can stop and immigration can be liberalized. All of these sides win.
Left-wing interest groups claim to know what’s best for unauthorized immigrants, which is why many of them are pushing for a path toward citizenship. Conservatives claim that unauthorized immigrants don’t want citizenship, so it shouldn’t even be offered. Instead, there should be at least two paths toward legal status, one with citizenship and one without, and the immigrants themselves should choose which one they want to individually follow.
Originally Published by James C Harrington, TCRP Director
For Americans, Labor Day is that end-of-summer holiday which wraps up vacation time and ushers in the school year. We don’t remind ourselves that unions originated Labor Day in 1882 to pay tribute to workers, mostly immigrants, who were in the throes of organizing against an economic structure that grotesquely exploited men, women and children in factories, mines and sweat shops and on docks, railroads and ranches.
It is shameful we rarely recall and honor the brave struggle of these workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to better their families’ lives — and our lives. We have a collective amnesia about the nearly half-century of their suffering, jailings, beatings and sometimes death that brought about better wages, increased workplace safety, curtailed child labor, provided retirement and sick leave, and promoted the common good. It eventually gave us the 40-hour work week and eight-hour work day, and it passed minimum wage and overtime pay laws.
The battle goes on
We now take these hard-won rights as a given and rarely recall the immense sacrifice that made our lives better and these rights real. But the struggle is far from over.
The U.S. Economic Policy Institute reports that one percent of this nation holds 35 percent of its wealth. The top 10 percent receive 45 percent of the income, while the other 90 percent split up the remaining 55 percent.
About 46.2 million people live in poverty, a steadily rising number and the largest in the 52 years for which estimates have been published.
Texas has one of the country’s highest poverty rates with nearly four million people at or below the poverty line, pushing 20 percent, well above the national average of about 15 percent. Child poverty is significantly higher in Texas than across the country.
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Non-college-educated women, working full time, earn 77 percent of what similar male workers make, for which they suffer a detrimental cumulative effect over their lifetime. For African-American workers overall, the comparison with white workers is in the low 70s; and for Hispanic workers, in the low 60 percentile.
This all is partly tied to the demise of full-time jobs with benefits. Ever more common are lower-paying part-time jobs, which require a family to hold two or three to survive. And there are fewer benefits, meaning more out-of-pocket medical costs. Nor is the minimum wage any longer a living wage.
Workers’ rights are based on the inherent dignity of a person. Workers are not simply a means of production like raw materials and capital. They bring unique talents to their jobs. In return, they are entitled to work in conditions that enhance their dignity rather than detract from it.
Solidarity is the key
Martin Luther King Jr. always tied civil rights and economic rights together. In fact, the march we mark for its 50th anniversary was named the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
We belong to one human family — a family that crosses boundaries of race, class and country in an economy that is more globalized and interdependent every day. Our ultimate focus must be the common good, not short-term self-interest. We all must look beyond our boundaries and comfort levels to speak for the voiceless, promote human rights and dignity, and seek the good of all — and future generations. Solidarity is the key.
This is how we can best honor those who brought us Labor Day and made our lives better.
Originally Published: Fox News, August 28, 2013
The Obama administration’s domestic policy director urged supporters of comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday to do as the civil rights leaders of the 1960s did – not let opponents defeat them.
Cecilia Muñoz, one of the most senior Latino officials in the White House, linked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with today’s fight for immigration reform in an interview with Fox News Latino.
“Today is about celebrating how far we’ve come and recommitting to the work that is ahead,” Muñoz said, adding that just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s addressed jobs, so does immigration reform.
“Immigration reform is just one piece of the agenda,” she said, “we can now quantify what it means for creating jobs, not just for immigrants, but for the rest of us.”
Muñoz, who has been a point person for Obama on immigration policy, said that significant movement on an immigration reform measure, or measures, was unlikely to happen before October. She said there are few legislative days in September, when members of Congress are to return from summer recess, and that their focus will be the debt ceiling and the budget.
That is later than the August deadline that President Obama had hoped for earlier this year, expressing concern that delays could hurt the chances of an immigration reform bill passing by December.
And in an interview with Fox News Latino a few weeks ago, Muñoz had said she hoped there would be a vote on a reform bill before October. But on Monday Treasury Secretary Jack Lew set a mid-October debt-ceiling deadline, and some Republicans in the House are saying that it makes major action on immigration bills unlikely in that month, according to Politico.com
Muñoz said there’s no valid reason for more delays on House action on immigration.
The Senate, which passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in June, showed that “it’s possible to get this job done well and it’s possible to get it done in a bipartisan bill,” she said.
House Republican leaders have said they will not vote on the Senate’s sweeping immigration bill, and that they prefer to address the issue in a piecemeal fashion, through several separate measures.
“It looks like the House will bring [for a vote] some portion of five bills that have been ready since July,” she said.
“They’ve already been through the committee.”
Muñoz said the president is not trying to rush reform legislation.
“We would like a debate” on the House floor, she said. “We think there’s bipartisan support for a reform bill.”
Some Republican leaders who are key to what happens to immigration bills in the House have been particularly vocal in recent weeks about their opposition to the general concept of allowing some undocumented immigrants to legalize their status.
As recently as Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, assailed Obama for issuing a directive that calls on immigration officials to use discretion when considering detaining immigrants who have minor children.
Goodlatte said the directive undermines the efforts in Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the flawed immigration system. Many conservative members of Congress have criticized efforts by the Obama administration to loosen penalties for certain undocumented immigrants, including a 2012 directive suspending deportation for those who were brought to the United States as minors.
Muñoz balked at the criticism.
She said such directives are part of “a series of building blocks” that were laid out a few years ago in a memo by John Morton, the then-director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calling for prosecutorial discretion in the case of undocumented immigrants who were not criminals or tied to terrorism.
“We’re maximizing the law enforcement impact of what we do,” she said, by prioritizing enforcement actions according to categories of undocumented immigrants.
As for Goodlatte, she said, “You could argue with the congressman, or anyone else, who is dissatisfied with our broken immigration system, that is a great argument for fixing it. It’s now abundantly clear. . .the depth and breadth of the constituents who support immigration reform is [now] greater than anyone has ever seen.”
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday conceded that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline. With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall — though even that goal may be overly optimistic.
The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president’s top second-term legislative priority.
“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he said during an interview with Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.
The White House sees the president’s outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.
Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party’s national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative — and largely white — districts see little incentive to back legislation.
The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation’s fractured laws.
“That was originally my hope and my goal,” Obama said. “But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform.”
Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight — the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill — met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.
The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed honing a message for Congress’ monthlong August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.
“When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody’s working hard and trying to make our case,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.
The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fines, learning English and taking other steps.
During his interview with Univision’s New York affiliate, Obama said the citizenship pathway “needs to be part of the bill.”
House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.
House Republicans are considering other options, including proposals to give priority for legalization to the so-called Dreamers — those who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Allowing only those individuals to obtain citizenship could shield Republicans from attacks by conservatives that they’re giving a free pass to those who voluntarily broke the law.
“I think that group of people — some call Dreamers — is a group that deserves perhaps the highest priority attention,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at an immigration-related conference in California Monday. “They know no other country.”
Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Virginia Republicans, are working on a bill to address the status of those immigrants, although the timing is uncertain. And Goodlatte cautioned that any such measure should hinge on completion of enforcement measures to prevent parents from smuggling their children into the U.S. in the future.
The House is not expected to act on any legislation before the August recess, though the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on the bill dealing with people brought to the U.S. when they were young.
Obama also spoke with the Telemundo station in Dallas and the Univision station in Los Angeles.
Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.
SOME of the first English words that Mario Rubio learned were “I am looking for work.” A penniless Cuban immigrant, he asked a friend to write them out phonetically on a piece of paper so he could memorise them. He worked hard and eventually became an American citizen. Perhaps his greatest reward was that his children had a better start in life. His son Marco is now a Republican senator.
His family’s story helps illustrate why the immigration reform Senator Rubio backs would increase the sum of human happiness, by freeing more people to pursue it. But like the sea between Cuba and Miami, the route to reform is rough.
On June 27th, by a convincing 68 votes to 32, the Senate passed an immigration bill co-sponsored by Mr Rubio. Now the action moves to the House of Representatives, where its passage is far from certain (see article). The Senate bill passed with support from both parties: all the Democrats voted for it, as did nearly a third of Republicans. House members would probably pass something similar, if allowed. But John Boehner, the Speaker, says he will not allow a vote on any bill unless a “majority of the majority” (ie, a majority of House Republicans) approve of it. That is a steep hurdle.
The Senate bill, were it to become law, would go a long way towards fixing America’s broken immigration system. It would increase the number of visas for skilled workers, grant visas for entrepreneurs and establish a guest-worker programme for manual labourers. It would give the estimated 11m illegal immigrants in America a chance to come in from the shadows: after paying a fine and back taxes, working hard and staying out of trouble, they would eventually be eligible to apply for citizenship. And in a last-minute deal the bill added another $46 billion (up from $8 billion in the original version) to fortify the Mexican border, which is already bristling with fences, armed guards and drones, and to beef up systems for checking that firms do not hire illegal workers. This “border surge” managed to lure in wavering Republican senators. But it is not enough for House Republicans.
Many of them insist on a bill that “secures the border first”. That is, they do not want any of the illegal immigrants now in America to be granted legal status until the border is so militarised that the flow of new ones slows almost to nothing. This would cost a fortune—America already spends more on border security than on all the main federal criminal law-enforcement agencies combined. And it would make only a marginal difference. So long as the supply of legal foreign workers falls far short of demand for their services, people will find a way in. It would be far better, for the immigrants themselves and for America, if they were allowed in legally.
More highly skilled immigrants would make America more innovative. More foreign entrepreneurs would create jobs for the native-born. More young, energetic newcomers would slow the rate at which America is ageing. More immigrants would mean more connections with fast-growing places such as China and India—connections that would accelerate trade and the exchange of ideas. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill would raise GDP, reduce the budget deficit and slightly increase the wages of the native-born. Countries built on immigration tend to be rich and dynamic: think of Australia, Canada and Singapore.
From “Tear down this wall” to “Build a fence”
Passing immigration reform would also be good for the Republican Party. Granted, to many in the House, it does not seem that way. Many represent districts gerrymandered to be whiter than a starlet’s teeth. For such congressmen, the biggest worry is a primary challenge from a more conservative fellow Republican. Many will doubtless hear, at barbecues over the July 4th weekend, that voters want landmines in the Yuma desert and crocodiles in the Rio Grande. Pandering to such demands will help some Republicans hang on to their seats in 2014.
But if the Grand Old Party wants to retake the Senate or the White House, it cannot afford to alienate ethnic minorities. They will reject a party that rejects them, and they will one day be a majority. Half of the babies born in America today are non-white. By 2060 non-Hispanic whites will be only 43% of the population, predicts the Census Bureau. Long before then, a party that attracts barely a quarter of the Hispanic and Asian vote, as Mitt Romney did, will be incapable of winning national elections. Mr Rubio, who would like to be president one day, understands this. If his party does not, it will be swept aside not by Democrats, but by demography.
It’s beginning to look as though we’re not going to get an immigration reform law this year. House Republicans are moving in a direction that will probably be unacceptable to the Senate majority and the White House. Conservative commentators like my friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry are arguing that the status quo is better than the comprehensive approach passed by the Senate. The whole effort is in peril.
This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.
After all, the Senate bill fulfills the four biggest conservative objectives. Conservatives say they want economic growth. The Senate immigration bill is the biggest pro-growth item on the agenda today. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years.
Conservatives say they want to bring down debt. According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years. The Senate bill reduces the 75-year Social Security fund shortfall by half-a-trillion dollars.
Conservatives say they want to reduce illegal immigration. The Senate bill spends huge amounts of money to secure the border. According to the C.B.O., the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent. True, it would not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but it would do a lot better than current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent.
Conservatives say they want to avoid a European-style demographic collapse. But without more immigrants, and the higher fertility rates they bring, that is exactly what the U.S. faces. Plus, this bill radically increases the number of high-skilled immigrants. It takes millions of long-term resident families out of the shadows so they can lead more mainstream lives.
These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.
The first conservative complaint is that, as Kristol and Lowry put it, “the enforcement provisions are riddled with exceptions, loopholes and waivers.” If Obama can waive the parts of Obamacare he finds inconvenient, why won’t he end up waiving a requirement for the use of E-Verify.
There’s some truth to this critique, and maybe the House should pass a version of the Senate bill that has fewer waivers and loopholes. But, at some point, this argument just becomes an excuse to oppose every piece of legislation, ever. All legislation allows the executive branch to have some discretion. It’s always possible to imagine ways in which a law may be distorted in violation of its intent. But if you are going to use that logic to oppose something, you are going to end up opposing tax reform, welfare reform, the Civil Rights Act and everything else.
The second conservative complaint is that the bill would flood the country with more low-skilled workers, driving down wages. This is an argument borrowed from the reactionary left, and it shows. In the first place, the recent research suggests that increased immigration drives down wages far less than expected. Low-skilled immigrants don’t directly compete with the native-born. They do entry-level work, create wealth and push natives into better jobs.
Furthermore, conservatives are not supposed to take a static, protectionist view of economics. They’re not supposed to believe that growth can be created or even preserved if government protects favored groups from competition. Conservatives are supposed to believe in the logic of capitalism; that if you encourage the movement of goods, ideas and people, then you increase dynamism, you increase creative destruction and you end up creating more wealth that improves lives over all.
The final conservative point of opposition is a political one. Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration reform; they should do it with a working-class agenda.
This argument would be slightly plausible if Republicans had even a hint of such an agenda, but they don’t. Even then it would fail. Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard.
Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.
That’s what’s at stake.
By Frank Thorp, Luke Russert and Carrie Dann, NBC News
Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:54 PM EDT
House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Wednesday in a long-awaited “special conference” to
discuss tactics, air grievances and plot the way forward – or out of – the national debate over
comprehensive immigration reform.
While the “lively” meeting didn’t yield any major breakthroughs among the deeply divided GOP
conference, Republican leaders made clear in a statement afterward that any legislation that gives
too much responsibility to the Obama administration is a non-starter in the House.
The American people “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the
president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than
pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem,” leaders wrote after
the meeting. “The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore
significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this
administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws
as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”
Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas put it more bluntly.
“Trusting Barack Obama with border security is like trusting my daughter with Bill Clinton,” he
said. “We just don’t trust him.”
The gathering served to offer members a spectrum of options for addressing an issue that has long
split the Republican Party and some say could permanently damage its standing with the rapidly
growing bloc of Latino voters.
At the beginning of the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated that the House will not take
up the “flawed” Senate-passed bill but urged some type of action. And Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the
high-profile former vice presidential nominee who supports the reform effort, presented an economic
argument for immigration legislation and noted the nation’s declining birthrate without the influx
of new residents, sources in the room said.
“I think we got consensus that the system is broken and needs to be fixed and I feel pretty good
about where we are,” Ryan told reporters after the meeting.
But many Republicans from ruby red districts have little incentive to support a reform effort
largely opposed by their conservative constituents. Some fear that any bill could result in
“amnesty” if it is conferenced or blended with the Senate-passed measure.
And even the leaders of the House GOP argue that the Senate bill’s reliance on federal agencies to
enforce border security members won’t sit well with Americans skeptical of the Obama
California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham was one of those in the meeting who advocated for a
comprehensive reform but said the Senate bill gave too much discretion for border security to the
Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s time for action,” he said, according to a participant in the meeting. “We need comprehensive
immigration reform, but we need a guarantee in this. We need to make sure that we are able to
secure the border by using our congressional oversight – not Janet Napolitano, but the power of
One type of immigration action could take the form of legislation to address those who were brought
to the country illegally as children – or DREAMers – who have been among the most organized and
sympathetic advocates for reform.
Rep. Darrell Issa told reporters outside the meeting that members discussed the possibility of
offering a pathway to citizenship for the DREAMer group.
That’s an idea which seems to have measurable “consensus” from the GOP, said Rep. Raul Labrador,
R-Idaho, an influential conservative voice on the immigration issue who left the House’s group of
bipartisan reform negotiators because of disagreements with their approach.
But it seems that any movement is unlikely to happen before the House adjourns for August recess.
Some members are working on individual pieces of border security and visa regulation legislation
that could theoretically be bundled into a package that could pass the GOP-dominated lower chamber but
would likely be dead on arrival in the Senate. Others, mindful of the potential political
consequences of being blamed for the slow death of a bill important to the growing Latino voting
bloc, hope that group of bipartisan negotiators can finalize a product that could find middle
ground between both parties.
And some, like immigration opponent Rep. Steve King of Iowa, have vocally opposed the passage of
any measure at all, saying the conference process in the Senate would insert a pathway to
citizenship for some undocumented immigrants into any House-passed bill.
“I’m not going to support any kind of legalization because legalization is amnesty, is eventual
citizenship, if not instantaneous citizenship,” King told reporters Tuesday, “We don’t have a moral
obligation to solve that problem, the people who came here illegally came here to live in the shadows.
Several things were clear before the GOP gathered for the meeting Wednesday afternoon.
First, House leaders won’t bring up the Senate bill – which one GOP member said almost all members
in the meeting agreed was “inherently flawed” – for an up-or-down vote.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp tweeted after the meeting that the House couldn’t take up
the Senate bill if it wanted to because legislation that raises revenues must originate in the
House, according to the Constitution.
And second, the Democratic insistence on its long-held prioritization of a path to citizenship for
most undocumented immigrants is problematic.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Christopher Guitterez, 6, who was born in Fairfax, Va., joins his Salvadoran mother, not in picture, during a rally for citizenship
on Capitol Hill in in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013, coinciding with the GOP House Caucus
meeting. Gang of Eight leader and New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that must include a
pathway to citizenship in any House legislation or Democrats will kill it.
That didn’t sit well with GOP rank-and-file.
“For him to him to say basically, ‘If you can’t do my way then we’re not going anything at all,’ I
think would be very sad in the process,” said Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma.
Labrador said earlier Wednesday on MSNBC that the ultimatum means the burden will lie on Democrats
if the legislation stalls. “If Chuck Schumer is not going to accept anything unless he gets 100 percent of what he wants, then
he’s the one who’s killing immigration reform.”