Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Senate Unveils its Immigration Reform Package

Today is the official coming out party for the Senate Gang of Eight's immigration reform proposal. As noted in previous posts, most of the details of the plan have been known for a number of weeks.

Senator Rubio did the rounds on the Sunday news programs, defending his support of a proposal that critics assail as "amnesty." Rubio emphatically denied that the proposal provided amnesty. And he will continue to deny it because the word "amnesty" is politically charged.

So does the proposal provide amnesty? If you look up amnesty in the dictionary, it is defined as:

1. a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.
2. an act of forgiveness for past offenses, especially to a class of persons as a whole.

If you get pardoned for an offense, then you are free to walk. That's not what the senators are proposing. Although the government would be "forgiving" the past offense of entering (or remaining) in the country without authorization, that forgiveness comes at a price: a ten year waiting period for a green card, three more years for citizenship, and paying a number of fees and back taxes (apparently the wait time for Dreamers will be shorter). That's why, in an interview I had with Fox News' Houston affiliate today, I referred to it as "amnesty light."

Some Republicans are publicly balking about the path to citizenship, mostly because they want to see the path tied to stronger border security. I would suspect that these senators will propose additional security measures in the package that will allow them to save face with their more conservative constituents and end up supporting the bill.

The other big sticking point in the proposal is the number of visas allocated for low and high skilled workers. Labor and business groups did reach a compromise, which permitted the Gang of Eight to proceed with the bill. But there will be a number of business interest groups that will lobby to modify these visa numbers in the upcoming weeks and months. If these groups are successful and the previously achieved balance gets tipped too far, the success of the bill might be in jeopardy.

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