“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity. Until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country
Barack Obama. Inaugural address 1/21/2013
If one thing was made clear after President Obama’s decisive victory this fall, it’s that he needs to follow through with his strong commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. That was the bargain, that’s why he got our support. His inaugural address shows he plans to do just that. This pact and the strength of our conviction as voters has also given moderate Republicans the guts to finally move their party forward.
Not wanting to see their party demonized and loathed by Latino immigrants, three moderate Republican senators joined four Democrats to release a new immigration reform plan. This rare display of bipartisanship includes a path of citizenship for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. Now known as the ‘Gang of Eight’, these senators have put out a plan that seems pretty reasonable. Oh, but perhaps you’re wondering how three plus four equals seven? It doesn’t. There is one more senator involved and that would be Marco Rubio (R-FL), of course.
Rubio initially rejected the idea of the group itself as well as their methodology, insisting that comprehensive immigration reform shouldn’t be solved with one big law but with many little ones. Because you know, the more chances for a stalemate and gridlock, the better.
Finally, in view of the imminence of a solution and the momentum that the idea of reform was getting, an acute sense of opportunism took the better of Mr. Rubio. He gave up and finally joined senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D – IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schummer (D-NY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) in the “Gang of Eight.”
I mentioned that the plan seems reasonable, but there is of course a catch to this path to citizenship. Before illegal immigrants can obtain citizenship, the border must be deemed “secure.” In the meantime, these immigrants would be granted a “probationary legal status” which very likely would stick them in an endless legal limbo. To the surprise of no one, this was a republican requirement. I feel very tempted at this point to echo Senator McCain and ask the federal government to “build the dang fence.” But what would that really achieve when immigration from Mexico is in negative numbers? Or could they be talking about the Canadian border? I didn’t think so either. It seems to me that the “Gang of Eight” is confusing crime and drug trafficking with immigration … Hmmmm.
President Obama has his own plan ready as well , which was announced in Las Vegas just today. It is very close to the “Gang of Eight” proposal, but without the probationary status. The president’s plan also includes a path to citizenship for foreign spouses in same sex couples married to American citizens. This part of his plan is already facing heavy artillery from the GOP who have called on their Christian evangelical supporters to get in on the fight.
So far, the president has delivered swiftly and true to his campaign promises. The fight looks to be long and bitter. While the three-and-a-half Republican senators in the Gang of Eight have worked hard to put forward a surprisingly reasonable and bipartisan effort, their fellow party members in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania are putting forth very aggressive efforts to diminish the political power of the minority voters. A Republican-backed bill in Arizona would require the uninsured to show proof of citizenship before receiving medical care, turning hospitals into immigration check points.
If this continues, they will need more than an effort at immigration reform to warm our Latino hearts.
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