Repairing Immigration

Written by on April 30, 2010 in Legislation with 5 Comments

Yesterday’s release of the framework for an immigration bill—Real Enforcement and Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) has been praised as a positive step forward in the immigration debate by the President and dismissed as a cynical play for votes by Senators Graham and Kyl. They are aghast that immigration is moving because promoting it might garner Democrats votes in November. Is there really any piece of legislation that isn’t motivated, in whole or in part, by the political calculation? So, let’s just put to rest the idea that the Senators who stood up for immigration reform yesterday—Reid, Durbin, Schumer, Menendez, Feinstein, and Leahy— have a political motive. Of course they do. And just to be fair, Senators Kyl and Graham and McCain, in promoting a border first strategy, are equally motivated by pleasing real or imagined voters.

But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the argument by Sens. Kyl, McCain, and Graham that we must secure the border before doing anything else about immigration (which by the way, was not Senator Kyl’s thinking in 2007 when he was the lead Republican in the Senate on immigration reform, nor McCain’s when he led a similar effort in 2006), the REPAIR proposal acknowledges the need for border and interior enforcement but doesn’t stop there. It adheres to a comprehensive framework—addressing the key issues of border, interior enforcement, employment verification, legalization, detention reform, repairing legal immigration for family and employment, and future flow—because that is the right policy choice. As the Immigration Policy Center has consistently demonstrated, an enforcement only, secure the borders at any cost strategy may score short-term political points, but it doesn’t get the job done.

The REPAIR proposal is an effort to get the job done. It is not yet a bill. Some provisions are highly detailed, such as the proposal for a biometric work authorization card and a new employment verification system. Some provisions, like the paragraph on family legalization, are packed with great ideas that have been championed in individual bills by these Senators, particularly Senator Menendez. It includes DREAM and AgJobs, long championed by Senators Durbin and Feinstein, respectively. It offers a generous but strict plan for legalizing as many of the 10.8 million people here illegally as is possible. It offers some creative ideas on threading the needle between business and labor interests, taking up the idea of a Commission embraced by labor, but creating concessions designed to bring business to the table.

And REPAIR is also designed to bring Republicans to the table. This is nowhere more evident than in its sections on border and interior enforcement, which mirror many of the same proposals contained in 2006 and 2007 legislation for enhancing border security and toughening interior enforcement. It should be no surprise that these sections have already raised concerns among many immigration advocates—especially the proposals to toughen already strict laws relating to crime, passport fraud, and immigration violations. While the proposal reflects years of advocacy by border groups asking for more input and community involvement in border decisions, it also heaps a ton of money and resources on the border—precisely what Sens. Kyl and McCain asked for.

Ironically, the most controversial element of the proposal—the biometric section—takes the debate out of the immigration context and into a much broader civil liberties frame. As REPAIR moves forward, the immigration portions of the bill may be seen as the given, and the biometric ID proposal may become the flashpoint issue.

In any event, the effort to turn this proposal into a bill will be hard work. Every sentence of the 26 page proposal involved hours of negotiations already. Taking concepts and turning them into legislative language that can please Republicans and Democrats will take even longer.

The conventional wisdom has always been that Congress can’t get things done in an election year. But the conventional wisdom has repeatedly been wrong on immigration this year. The REPAIR proposal is simply the latest evidence that immigration reform is breaking out of its marginalized role and squarely into the forefront of American, dare we say it, politics.

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  • Can i reproduce your articles as opinions in my Washington state newspaper?

  • Una Fee

    I was at a rally in 2006 hosted by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. He basically guaranteed that we would all be legal by now….what a flip flopper

  • Repair Proposal it’s a start. What these senator’s are proposing is Tighten American Border and that is fine, however they should focus on The Family Reunification Act of 2009 and the Dream Act if they passed these 2 important legislation, they dont need to give Amnesty and these 2 components are good for the US Economy. Please bring these Families that were being Denied and the younger people that had been in the US for a long time, please the US government should give them a second chance in life having a fresh idea’s on how can they contribute to the prosperity and the greatness of this country. As Bill Clinton’s comment we need to bring more immigrants because it’s good for the country.

  • From last weeks Washington Post-
    President Obama said late Wednesday that “there may not be an appetite” to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws this year…”
    Political statements coming from high level politicians resemble hieroglyphics which require deciphering in order to be understood.If I may,I’d like to give my translation.
    IMHO..what Obama is really saying about immigration is..”FORGET about immigration reform this year..I’m washing my hands of the whole thing and throwing this hot potato over to congress..let them get burnt..”
    I think that this is a good example of a politician “passing the buck”..
    Effectually,the president and congress may have killed any immigration reform in the foreseeable future by avoiding it like the plague..
    It is more than probable
    the democrats will get their butts kicked really bad at the polls this November thereby changing the dynamics and equation of power in congress in favor of anti-immigration republicans.There also exists a distinct possibility that obama will be a one-term president and that a republican will be elected president in 2012.These things added up will likely result in immigration reform being buried even deeper in the hole it finds itself already in.
    Immigration reform will undoubtedly happen some time in the future.. the questions are-how far in the future? and will it be a weakened reform pushing greater enforcement and some type of insignificant guest worker program for agriculture as a sop thrown to Latinos?
    Latinos are on the move now and it is a very good thing.
    If history is any guide then I would say that immigration reform and the Latino civil rights movement will follow a similar path taken by the great civil rights movements of the 60’s in terms of protest,civil disobedience and militancy.
    The question is whether there will be peaceful,rational, civilized, political, social resolutions to the problems?
    The civil rights movement occurred at a time when the USA was still an incredibly powerful economic engine.Despite all the problems of that time most people still had an underlying optimism and hope for the future of the country.The USA was a far different place and was in an almost totally different world at that time.
    Now,times are ominous,the world and american society have almost completely changed.. the devastation and importation of our industrial infrastructure,job outsourcing.China,India and Europe have risen as powerful challengers..we live now in an incredibly complex and interdependent global economy now compared to the 60’s..
    The American worker has to a great extent been abandoned and sold down the river by corporate America.Americans are becoming increasingly more desperate,cynical and angry with the way things are going..
    In times of crisis people look for scapegoats,become ever more withdrawn and tribalistic…more racist and less civilized towards minorities.
    I am of the opinion that Latinos will by necessity have to build unity and constantly wage mass movements for civil and human rights in this hostile environment.
    WE Latinos have no other choice.. we must do what we have to matter the consequences or the outcome of our efforts.
    Latinos,as I said before are “on the move”..organizing and unifying.Latinos are doing the right thing.

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