The optimism and hope that have been generated by all of the hype around immigration reform has been intense. Every day, a new prominent political figure comes out in favor of immigration reform. Look, Sean Hannity! Condoleeza Rice! Was that closet really big enough for Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes? Eric Cantor and John Boehner now support the DREAM Act after voting against it in 2010!
The week before last, we surveyed President Obama’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, we will look at a similar plan put forward by a bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight.” (Its members are Democrats Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, and Michael Bennet, and Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Flake.) Like President Obama, the Senators want to modernize the legal immigration system, create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, and require mandatory employment verification for new workers.
Those following Tuesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee could be forgiven for thinking the sole cause of our country’s immigration problems was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the landmark bill that created a pathway to citizenship for roughly three million undocumented immigrants. Time and again, Republican committee members faulted the legislation for not only being too soft on enforcement, but creating a supposed magnet for future unauthorized immigration.
It has been a tough week for the ICE bureaucrats who have sought to undermine the political leadership of this country to pursue their own restrictivist and nativist agenda. Regular readers of this blog (my wife and my mother), will know that we have sought to document the efforts of bureaucrats within ICE to stymie intelligent immigration enforcement through insubordination, lawsuits, leaks, and more generic tactics like refusal to complete trainings and sick-outs.
There is a single line in the President’s immigration proposal that has escaped a lot of attention. As the idiotic “back of the line” concept and the path to citizenship dominate the headlines, the language of the proposal indicates that the administration would like to eliminate one of the most onerous obstacles to asylum for thousands of applicants- the notorious one year rule. If this became law, the President will preside over a vast improvement in U.S.
What a week it has been. There has been more positive discussion of immigration reform in the last week than in the past decade and while none of it is perfect, it is a huge improvement over Mitt Romney endorsing self-deportation and SB 1070. Hard to believe that that was just six months ago. In the past week, there has been two major comprehensive overhaul plans, word of a third, and the introduction of independent bills that would make discrete but needed improvements to the system.
This morning, we had a chance to review the five page blueprint for immigration reform produced by a bipartisan group of eight Senators. There is a lot to discuss on the blueprint, but one thing specifically jumped out at me: “Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency.
On the same day that the immigration world was abuzz with news that the President would unveil his immigration reform plan next week, the administration filed a brief to preserve the unnecessary family separation caused by its cramped understanding of the Child Status Protection Act reflected in the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of Wang. The juxtaposition of the prospect of common sense immigration reform with the wholly unnecessary appeal of the U.S.
The publication of the rule allowing for processing of provisional waivers for unlawful presence in the United States was another act of administrative rule-making that the President has undertaken to make the immigration laws more humane. Over the past year, the effort at prosecutorial discretion, the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the provisional waiver have created a much improved immigration system that attempts to solve real immigration problems for families.
As most of us in Washington returned to work on January 2, 2013, we noticed that many of our fellow Washingtonians were bleary-eyed and slow-moving. Unfortunately, their lethargy stemmed not from all night and day new year’s electro-funk raves, but from hours of C-SPAN, watching the country go over the fiscal cliff, then climb back up the cliff, and then just hang out somewhere in the middle.