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September 23, 2014

Go ‘Small’ on Immigration | Kondracke

Next to achieving Middle East peace, the hardest thing in the world seems to be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a “broken” immigration system. But there’s a chance, if Republicans and Democrats think not big but small.

The just-unveiled House Republican leadership document, “Standards for Immigration Reform” has part of a good idea — don’t even consider a “comprehensive” bill like the Senate’s bipartisan monstrosity.

Comprehensive reform would be great in theory — and might have been possible as either George W. Bush’s or Barack Obama’s first order of business — but right-wing anti-“amnesty,” “enforcement first” forces won’t allow anything to pass that isn’t punitive, restrictive and enormously expensive.

And that’s what the Senate bill is. It will cost probably $100 billion to build a wall across the whole Southern border and set up a national electronic status verification system covering every worker in the country.

And, it will invite illegal residents to identify themselves to authorities, then run through possibly 16 years of hoops to get a shot at citizenship, while failure to get through a hoop (say, proving continuous employment) could mean deportation.

Even the House GOP “step by step” approach isn’t likely to get through Congress. Partly that’s because some Republicans don’t want to interfere with the party’s anti-Obamacare, election-year message. Meantime, libertarians (and civil libertarians) fear that requiring every American to carry a national “biometric” ID card is Big Brotherism. And, ultra-restrictionists in the party think that giving any legal status to the undocumented is “amnesty.”

Ironically, Obama has set new records for border enhancement, deportations and “silent deportations” using federal databases to deny employment to the undocumented. He’s getting grief from Latino activists and his liberal base — but zero credit from Republicans.

He and Democrats certainly aren’t going to support a bill — such as House Republicans seem to be moving toward — that denies illegal immigrants any chance to become U.S. citizens, creating a “second class” system some have likened to apartheid.

A better answer is to think even smaller: to find elements of immigration reform with enough appeal to pass, without elements that might sink the whole process.

For instance: agribusiness and the United Farm Workers agree on the AgJOBS Act, a bill that would enable undocumented farm workers now in the U.S. to earn green cards and would allow in foreign guest workers who’d have to go home when the crops are picked.

Both Democrats and (many, if not most) Republicans agree that young people brought to this country as children and raised as Americans ought to be able to become citizens. So the DREAM Act ought to make it as part of “small” reform legislation.

Both parties also agree we need more highly skilled workers and should allow foreign science graduates to stay in the U.S. if they choose.

And, to satisfy “enforcement first” types, the package could include experiments in biometric identification for guest workers and persons coming in on visas — plus an electronic status verification system to track them, but not IDs and electronic tracking for every person in the country who applies for a job.

Granted, this “small” reform package would not address the plight of most adults here illegally. It’s terrible that they have to live their lives “in the shadows,” but the polarized American political system just can’t solve their situation now.

The bottom line: Congress should get a few sensible, necessary things done. Fix part of what’s broken. Politically, that will be hard enough.

  • left wing

    with the corrupt ogama administration in power why have any laws. holder’s department of bigotry, racism and politics will not enforce any laws that are not political. if the immigratin laws on the books were enforced, the law would NOT be broken.

    • Layla

      Support the Senate Conservatives Fund and vote FOR AMERICA, vote TEA. Send the bastards who can’t remember their Oaths of Office HOME.

  • ID-2

    Kondracke misses the fact that just because money is spent on a problem, in this case enforcement, does not mean it will get solved.

    • ggm281

      Money won’t be spent on THE problem. Most of the CBP budget goes to agents on the bridges expediting commercial traffic. “Beefing up” border security is simply going to mean that more lanes can be open 24 hours a day to ensure low wait times. Time is money, and all those manufacturers like who moved factories to Mexico want their products moving. GE doesn’t donate heavily to campaigns for nothing!

      • ID-2

        Good point.

  • ggm281

    What’s your objection to the $100 bn on border security? Isn’t that just another “jobs” program? I’d think you’d be happy to support building infrastructure.

    And your petty objection to employee verification? Every recent college grad I know had to produce ID, SSN on their first day of work/grad school. The foreign born students had to produce ID, ITIN, AND Visas. My own daughter even had a 1099 problem she had to correct with a day at the SS office because of a typo that has been on her SS card since birth. A ‘k’ where an ‘x’ should be caused a “no-match”. SO why is it ok to ask some “workers” for documents but it is “punitive” to ask it of others? How is it reasonable to ask some “workers” to correct no-matches, but “profiling” to call attention to the fact that another “worker’s” SSN/name combination seems to be in use by another person (or 5)?

    • BMarie

      I totally object to spending billions of our tax dollars on border security. Quit allowing children born to two illegals to be U.S. citizens and eligible for all sorts of welfare, fine any employer who hires an illegal enormous sums of money, quit giving them driver’s licenses and law licenses and any other benefits and they will self-deport as Romney said. On the other hand, we do need a work visa program, altho if we weren’t inundated with millions of illegals who take the low-paying jobs and drag down salaries, and quit paying more for people on welfare than they would earn in a minimum wage job, maybe some of them would actually go to work and our unemployment numbers would go down.

  • Layla

    Mort, is your brain hardening? Over 50 million Americans have lost jobs thanks to the people in this Congress.

    There is no doubt what the priority in this Congress should be and they haven’t a clue. VOTE OUT ANY Member of Congress who voted for OBAMACARE (Dems) and ANY who supports legalization/amnesty.

    It’s time to bring the troops home, station them on the border and shut it down. Then and only then will Americans EVER consider this.

  • Butteblack

    The current immigration program is not broken. It is not nor has ever been enforced. Any new “comprehensive immigration” law will suffer the same fate as the last (1983) immigration law.
    Furthermore illegals are no longer in the shadows. Hell they not only protest in our streets but they now attend the State of the Union.
    I’m waiting for someone to explain why we as a sovereign country are to bow down and change our laws for the benefit of those who do not respect our laws.
    Let’s try and enforce current laws before we enact anymore immigration laws.

  • Mickey Kovars

    As long as Obama is president we are in a lawless environment, and it makes no sense to pass new laws which he will simply bend and break as he sees fit. The Republicans need to just say no to an immigration bill.

  • Maniccheapskate

    “be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a “broken” immigration system.”

    Wrong. The present immigration system is not “broken”.

    Right: The present immigration system is not being enforced.

    And just because the author’s acquaintances think something; that ain’t everyone.

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