Tuesday, April 16, 2013

La Decisión

Today wasn't supposed to be like this. But with most of the nation's attention still focused on the Boston Marathon tragedy, the US Senate Gang of 8 comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) plan. Yet nonetheless, it's finally been revealed today.

Millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States could earn a chance at citizenship under a sweeping Senate proposal to be released Tuesday that would represent the most ambitious overhaul of the nation's immigration system in three decades.

The highly anticipated proposal from an eight-member bipartisan group also aims to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country by creating tens of thousands of new visas for foreign workers in low-skilled jobs, according to a 17-page summary of the bill obtained by The Washington Post.

In addition, billions of dollars would be invested in new border-control measures, including surveillance drones, security fencing and 3,500 additional federal agents charged with apprehending people attempting to enter illegally from Mexico.

Steve Benen lists more details of the Gang of 8 CIR bill, so let's quickly summarize here what's in it. Basically, most undocumented immigrants will be subjected to a 13 year path to citizenship. Meanwhile, a border security goal will be set to achieve "90% effectiveness" in securing the US-Mexico Border. In the mean time, DREAMers will only face a 5 year path to citizenship while the H-1B work visa program is expanded and a guest worker program is created. That's basically the gist of the Gang of 8 CIR plan.

While the hubbub surrounding today's big reveal has been fairly subdued, civil rights advocates at Voto Latino still held a press conference minutes ago with several House Democrats to speak on this latest CIR development. Nevada's own Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) was among the Members of Congress speaking at this event.

So far, most progressives are sounding at least cautiously optimistic about today's big news. But of course, what everyone is waiting for is reaction from the right. Here's Jamelle Bouie to explain the complicated CIR politics for conservatives.

What ties all of this [Gang of 8 CIR bill] together are a series of border security triggers, to assuage Republicans who fear a new wave of illegal immigration. The first requires the Department of Homeland Security to establish strategies for border security before any unauthorized immigrant can be given "Registered Provisional" status. The second, then, keeps those with said status from becoming eligible for "Lawful Permanent Resident" status until DHS and the Comptroller General can confirm that an employment verification system has been implemented and new border security measures are in place.

There is also a requirement for the federal government to create -- within ten years --an electronic system for checking foreigners as they enter and leave the country through airports and seaports. Overall, these triggers would require DHS to spend $5.5 billion over ten years to enhance enforcement and further extend fencing along the border with Mexico.

All of this should satisfy the various demands and concerns made by Republicans over the last several months. More to the point, it fits broadly with what Republican voters want.

According to a newly released poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, 62 percent of Republicans support a path to citizenship if it includes specific requirements like paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check.

In other words, most Republican lawmakers have no real reason to oppose this based on what they've outlined as their concerns. Which is to say that, with this immigration bill, we'll see if Republicans are actually interested in governing, or if they're still completely invested in an approach of constant opposition to anything proposed or supported by President Obama and the Democratic Party.

If only it actually worked that way. Already, "tea party" darling, US Senate candidate, and current Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has not just announced his (expected) opposition to this CIR deal, but he even tried to tie that to yesterday's tragedy in Boston by claiming that the Boston Marathon Bombing "proves" that "national security should be the focus and a path to citizenship should be put on hold". What?! We don't know yet who did this and why, but most likely yesterday's explosions had nothing to do with CIR. But of course, that won't stop "tea party" radicals from drumming up xenophobic reactions to yesterday's tragedy in hopes of killing CIR.

Now, we must wait to see how other Republicans react to the Gang of 8 plan. Will they embrace the proposal offered by top Republican leaders like Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida)? Or will they follow Steve King and the rest of the "tea party" down the rabbit hole of xenophobia powered excuses for further inaction?

The choice is theirs. And once again, whatever Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) decides will be critical to the future of this comprehensive immigration reform legislation. So what will he do? And who will he listen to?

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