The Game Immigration, what is that? This article features a blow-by-blow account and an insider’s view of the attempt to put together comprehensive immigration reform
in the early years of the Obama administration, or the game immigration. It all came to naught. But, we hope, this account of how sausages get made is interesting.
On Friday, immigration reform looked good, then came Saturday… The Game Immigration, the beginning …
Last week, immigration reform looked possible. The Administration had been giving small bi-partisan groups in the House and Senate room to work on compromise legislation, comments from both sides of the aisle were very positive, and things generally looked good.
That was Friday.
On Saturday, the Administration draft proposal was leaked to the press. On Sunday, Republicans denounced it. Now its Monday, a Federal holiday, the government is shut down, and Congress is in recess for the rest of the week. Where will this go now?
Forget about how or why the Administration proposal was leaked. Yes, its interesting, but not important. It is the substance of the proposal you should examine.
The Presidents proposal would create a new visa entitled Lawful Prospective Immigrant which would allow illegal immigrants to work and travel after paying fees and passing a criminal background check. Immigrants holding the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa could apply to become a legal permanent resident (green card) after eight years. Current law allows green card holders to apply for full U.S. citizenship after five years.
Some Republicans call this Amnesty
and will not support any plan that contains a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, but many seem willing to move forward as long as the borders are secured. Reluctant GOP members point to the last immigration reform legislation in 1986 that granted blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants, and allowed them to cut into line for a green card if they could prove they had been in the U.S. for five years. On top of that, they also argue that it does nothing to address guest workers or future immigration.
There are some things that the Republicans do like – increased funding for Border Patrol, additional immigration judges and expanded use of the E-Verify system for employers to check the immigration status of job applicants. There were other tidbits for the GOP mentioned in the Administration proposal like requiring Lawful Prospective Immigrants to pay back taxes and pass English and civics tests currently only required for citizenship applicants. Nevertheless, this is a draft proposal. Democrats interpret it as a trial balloon while Republicans see it as a veto threat, but I see it as a good sign.
Congress was making progress on the issue, and moving forward quickly. The Administration realized it, and knew that they needed to quickly define its position more clearly than it did in the State of the Union Address. While it was clumsy, putting their unofficial position on the table as Congress left town for a week was probably a good idea. Theyve said their piece, appeased their supporters, ticked off the Republicans, and can now work on other agenda items. When Congress gets back to town next week, the Republicans will have cooled off, the Administration leak will be old news, and the working groups in the House and Senate can get back to work. And, it would be a good idea for the Administration to hold their peace until Congress starts moving legislation.
There is still a very good chance well see something move forward in 2013, but then comes 2014, a mid-term election year
Immigration reform was still hot last week (and this week)
February 25, 2013, The Game Immigration, Round 2
On the good news front, Republicans got over the leaked Obama plan, discussions continued, committee hearings moved forward and legislation is expected before April.
The talks in Congress boil down to two main issues border security and a process for checking the immigration status of workers. The latter is of greatest importance to employers, who will likely bear the responsibility of any new process for ensuring work authorization or immigration status of workers. Securing the borders before allowing the nations illegal immigrants to move toward citizenship is a critical issue for conservatives, while a simplified and cost effective employment verification system is essential to business.
The AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed on basic principles for low-skill workers, this compromise would likely mean that U.S. workers should get the first crack” at jobs, it would also create a new guest worker program process, and establish an oversight office to provide transparent, data-based labor information to Congress.
Now for the not-so-good news. The House Judiciary Committee Chairman said he does not support an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Border State House members voiced opposition to the Senate plan, and a recent Reuters poll shows more than half of U.S. citizens believe that most or all of the countrys 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported. When broken down by party, 75% of Republicans think most undocumented immigrants should be deported, while only 40% of Democrats would send them away. No wonder Republican Members of Congress are reluctant to endorse immigration reform until they see the details.
Some of those Republicans are scarred from the battle in 2007, but most of them have never debated immigration reform. In fact, more than half of Congress has turned over since comprehensive immigration reform legislation was last considered. House leaders have been moving at a deliberate pace so that they can educate more than 100 first and second term members, and Republicans believe the poll numbers can be moved at the grassroots level.
A new GOP super PAC has been created to push for immigration laws supporting a conservative, broad-based approach to immigration reform, funded by a cross-section of industries. The Democratic controlled immigration PACs are far ahead of their Republican counterparts, and although their contributors are different, they are ultimately working together for the same outcome. Motivations may be different, but these unusual bedfellows both understand, No peso, no say-so.
Although the noise from the sequester debate overshadows these developments, today Republican Senators head over to the White House for a chat with the President, and Congress holds a hearing to define Border Security things are moving and still look good…
A strong, bi-partisan effort continues, The Game Immigration part 3
Last week the President met with GOP Senators to talk about immigration legislation.
According to the Senators the meeting went very well, and they believe that the President will be flexible. While details were not discussed on the record, the talk is that both parties understood the pathway to citizenship will be tied to border security.
A small group of Senators from both parties continues to meet each day to work on comprehensive legislation, and based on comments from participants in both parties, there is strong optimism that an agreement will be reached. The House is a bit different.
The talks there are much more delicate because they have to pass a Republican-controlled chamber where a majority of members represent districts with a Hispanic population of less than 10 percent, and while theyre in safe Republican Districts, they fear a challenge in their primary. This week it was illustrated when a potential 2016 Republican Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, positioned himself to the right of Marco Rubio, one of the Senators working on the bi-partisan bill.
GOP leaders are engaging in listening sessions to educate members, and will probably approach the overhaul in pieces instead of moving one comprehensive bill, working on the low hanging fruit first, and then working on tougher elements later. The details are being circulated but its hard to tell whats real and whats a trial balloon. One a good note, last week the House Judiciary Chairman said he did not support an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, however, this week he seems to be more open to compromise.
This week the Presidents Cabinet Secretary for Homeland Security Secretary said that immigration reform is the top priority for her Department this year, but she also came under fire for releasing immigration detainees due to the budget sequester. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security will need to release 1,000 detainees a week through March to deal with the budget cuts. Republicans accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement of releasing people charged with serious crimes and are concerned that up to 10,000 detainees could ultimately be released. Some Members of Congress are also accusing the Administration of using the sequester as a way to enact immigration changes that would not get through Congress, and they feel that this illustrates that even with comprehensive immigration reform, the Administration cannot be trusted to enforce the law if passed.
As a footnote, there was also a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week where members of both parties questioned the H-1B visa program. There is concern that some employers have abused the program by hiring people at entry-level wages which ultimately undercuts many American workers. There was an effort last year to categorize 50,000 green cards, that are usually offered as part of a lottery, for graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Democrats objected that it favored one group of immigrants over another. Democrats supported simply increasing the number of green cards for the STEM category. This may be one issue that moves early in the House.
What you can take from this weeks activities is that all parties are making a strong effort on this issue. So far there has been minimal political posturing, and its the only issue in Washington where you see cooperation.
The Game Immigration Finale, attached is the Senate immigration reform bill draft (full text):
Senate draft bill