What Kind of Smaller Immigration Deal Could Pass Congress?

fences keep you in tooImmigration reform has been on President Obama’s
election since it was deployed in 2012 to shore up support among
Latino voters. Congress spent much of its working 2013 on
legislation that ended up topping 1,000 pages, largely because, as
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
noted supportively
, lobbyists keep coming to legislators for
more carve outs. So a bill theoretically about legal status for
illegal immigrants becomes a bill about border security, jobs,
employment verification, subsidies, and who knows what else. It
shouldn’t come as a surprise that such a monstrosity is having
trouble getting passed. House Republicans are currently
on unveiling an outline of broad immigration reform

Obama’s decision not to prioritize immigration reform during his
first term also lowered the odds it would pass. George W. Bush’s
similar effort at the end of his term also failed. An unpopular
president can have the effect of making popular legislation easier
to oppose. Bush’s efforts were torpedoed by a coalition of
conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, including Obama
himself, who as a senator in 2007 helped the attempt at immigration
reform fail by pushing pro-union amendments that would weaken the
bill and its support.

Most of the senate’s current immigration reform bill and
previous iterations is concerned with issues other than the human
factor in the issue. While I’ve argued previously for
amnesty for illegal immigrants
, that solution is a non-starter
in the current political climate. Nevertheless, perhaps a smaller,
more focused bill that deals with the human cost of poor
immigration policy would have a better chance of passing. Such a
bill would not have to include e-verify, deal with any agricultural
work specifically, or reform border security.

What it would have to do is provide some kind of legal status
for the nations 7+ million illegal immigrants, the vast majority of
whom are  otherwise law-abiding. Crossing the border
illegally, after all, is merely a misdemeanor. Opponents of
immigration reform, including some legal immigrants themselves,
complain that illegal immigrants didn’t “wait in line” like
everyone else. That line should be cut as part of immigration
reform. Entering the country legally ought to be simpler for those
seeking to immigrate to the US that have the means to do so.
Concerns about illegal immigrants seeking to abuse the welfare
system are largely unfounded, but could be alleviated by offering
expedited legal status for illegal immigrants willing to forgo
access to the welfare system. Every illegal immigrant I know (quite
a few) has said something along those lines; they want to be legal
in this country and couldn’t care less about getting welfare. They
want to work, and ought to be allowed to.  To that end,
immigration reform should make it easier for employers to hire the
employees they want without having to worry about running afoul of
immigration law. If this kind of narrower immigration reform
couldn’t garner the support it needs to pass, reform supporters
ought to consider a concession that could dampen opposition: making
it easier to deport illegal immigrants convicted of violent crimes,
and perhaps even banning such immigrants from ever returning to the
US. Again, most illegal immigrants would be ok with this: they are
law-abiding people just as upset by illegal immigrants who drink
and drive and hit and run as legal immigrants and US citizens

Getting immigration reform passed in a divided, hyperpartisan
Washington where each side is mostly interested in demonizing the
other is a difficult task. When it is in the form of a 1000+ page
bill that looks and feels like a clusterfuck that expands the power
of the federal government while promoting more profligate spending
and ignoring the actual human beings it is theoretically supposed
to help, it’s an impossible one.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1bCtrLG

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