Today in the Washington Post Senators Schumer and Graham have posted a jointly written column outlining their forthcoming immigration reform package.
In the House Rep. Gutierrez released a much more left leaning package called CIR ASAP, but several months ago Pelosi said that the Senate needs to move first.
I'll preface my thoughts on the Schumer-Graham bill by saying that it's a good step forward in both restarting the debate and getting serious about reform, but it's significantly more right leaning and "law and order" than it should be. It leaves some critical pieces out, and progressive activists have a lot of work to do.
And you can start by going to Reform Immigration for America's march in DC this Sunday, March 21st. Details here.
I'd encourage everyone to take a read of that Washington Post piece. Details are hopefully forthcoming but Schumer and Graham have 4 pillars to their package:
Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here
The first two are sure to raise the ire of a lot of activists that have been working on this issue. They are heavy handed and buy completely into right wing frames.
The third provision deals with "future flow" and it's incredibly important to get this right to actually "fix" the system. Ideally you want a system that doesn't need to be touched by politicians for a long time and allows people a reasonable path for entry into the country.
Here's how Schumer and Graham describe it:
Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest. Our legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy.
Our blueprint also creates a rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers. Our current system prohibits lower-skilled immigrants from coming here to earn money and then returning home. Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.
That first part is pretty much exactly what big business and silicon valley want for high skilled workers. The second part dealing with lower-skilled workers I'm less sure about, but the devil will be in the details. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the actual proposal here.
The final provision deals with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Right wing groups are already sending screaming emails to their members about this. This is important but I hate the way they've framed this in their column.
For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.
They've managed to include 4 big right wing frames and misconceptions in the debate in the space of that short paragraph.
So... we're already starting in a tough place compared to the much better Gutierrez bill. However, there are some key victories already. First they've already recognized that mass deportation would not only be stupid but incredibly expensive. Chalk one up for our side. Secondly they are making nods to the economic importance of this reform, which is another battle that's being waged.
What's left out?
Well a lot if you read the Gutierrez bill. But one critical concept that seems to be missing is family reunification. That's a critical human rights component of the debate. Our current immigration policy breaks up thousands of families.
And we're going to have to work extra hard to make sure that LGBT families are included here because they're already thrown under the bus, even in the Gutierrez bill. If you want to read more about what's at play there I'd suggest this piece.
So we have our work cut out for us. But there's one more nagging question...
How is this different than Health Care Reform?
Regardless of your current position on whether you support the HCR bill or want to kill it, the process has been incredibly frustrating. Based on some of the things I've learned it looks like there will be a lot of different dynamics in play with this battle.
First, the coalition around this is unique and there isn't a clean left-right partisan divide. You'll see both Republicans and Democrats supporting and opposing this bill. The usual progressive groups support it, labor (for the most part - but there will be some critical breakpoints) supports it, religious groups support it, the chamber of commerce supports it to name a few.
Secondly, there is no group out there that has tons of money on the order of Pharma or Insurers that can fight this. You've got mostly nativist groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA that are funded but can't drop $900M in ads.
Finally, if there's one thing politicians are good at it is protecting their jobs. And I think most of them realize the demographic and voting impacts. America's Voice has a great report out about this that shows the Latino vote making the difference in 40 races in 12 states for 2010.
So if you're in the DC area join 50,000+ of your closest friends to march this Sunday. Details here.
If you're not then you can use this tool developed by SEIU to start calling your Senators.
Update: and one interesting thing is you're going to begin seeing the wedge attacks we'll face play out in this thread. Fun! Thankfully most of them are completely fact free.
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