Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't get excited about immigration reform

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Frank Moraes


Like Frank, I'm interested to see how this will go. And, obviously, there's still a long way to go to get anything meaningful done. But there's a political calculation at work for Republicans here that may very well lead to meaningful bipartisan reform.

As Jon Chait notes, the Republican strategy coming out of the election is to move left on immigration and right on everything else -- or to solidify their extremist right-wing positions. (It's a faulty strategy based on a faulty reading of the election -- that the problem was the Hispanic vote, and all Republicans need to do now is agree to moderate immigration reform and change some of their rhetoric generally, with no changes whatsoever to their positions on other issues (e.g., remain anti-tax absolutists) -- but it's got broad support across the party establishment, including 2016 frontrunners Ryan and Rubio.

And so both House and Senate Republicans are working on bipartisan reform. Chait again: "It's pretty amazing how fast this has happened. Republican leaders recognized an electoral weakness, figured it was on an issue they didn't want to fight on anyway, and are cauterizing the wound as fast as they can."

Again, it's still very early. There's a framework but nothing else, and we'll have to see if Republicans hold together on this one and if they're actually willing to make concessions to get a deal done that, in the end, would be seen as a major victory for the president. But it's promising that we're at this point, and it's all because Republicans, however delusional still, have been scared shitless by the demographic changes that, over time, will continue to isolate them out of power.

It's a fortuitous combination of political opportunism and the urgent need for reform, and Democrats should do everything they can to take advantage of the situation.



Yesterday morning, an immigration reform framework was announced by eight senators. There are two big reasons why we shouldn't be excited by it.

First, it is primarily a huge giveaway to corporate power. It specifically calls for making it easier for high tech and farm workers to be giving a quick route into the country. I'm not against this necessarily. But the biggest problem we have in this country is in the health-care field where groups like the AMA and ADA manage to erect huge barriers to foreign doctors and dentists practicing in this country. This is all about priorities and for the ruling class, getting tomatoes picked for a cent and a half a pound is far more important than providing all Americans affordable healthcare.

Second, this is a framework, not even a bill. Plus, it is coming out of the Senate and not the House. Anything that is good in the bill (and there is much) is likely to be stripped out or at least watered down. So stay tuned.

Part of me thinks that this is all one big PR push for Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential run. As such, it doesn't matter if the framework goes anywhere; it just matters that Rubio does something that looks like he gives a shit about anyone but our corporate overlords. I find it interesting that Rubio was the one to push the most conservative aspect of this plan: that the 11 million undocumented residents must get at the back of the line in applying for citizenship. This could put off citizenship for these people for decades. As they say, the demon is in the details, but this could make the whole reform practically nonexistent.

So let's just wait. Let's see how this moves forward. It will be a good test of whether the Republican Party is prepared to make even the smallest steps toward reform. 


The framework specifically mentions children. Ezra Klein reports:

The obvious exception is children, and sure enough, they get a special mention: "individuals who entered the United States as minor children did not knowingly choose to violate any immigration laws. Consequently, under our proposal these individuals will not face the same requirements as other individuals in order to earn a path to citizenship."

These are pretty words, but they don't make much sense. The whole reason that conservatives are against "amnesty" is that sets a bad precedent. It gives people an incentive to come to the United States illegally. The children may not have come here knowingly, but their parents did. Giving children special treatment gives parents everywhere an incentive to bring their kids here illegally.

Having said that, I'm all for making it easier for children to immigrate here. But I'm also for amnesty. I really think there is there is more than enough room here in the United States for everyone who wants to come. That isn't true of most conservative or even liberals.

(FM section cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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