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AP: Upcoming Senate Immigration Bill Cannot Leave Out Hundreds of Thousands


The Senate Gang of 8 immigration bill will likely not be publicly released until sometime next week. But, Washington being Washington, details about the bill are already leaking out, including this troubling piece from the AP:

A bipartisan immigration bill soon to be introduced in the Senate could exclude hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally from ever becoming U.S. citizens, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals.

The bill would bar anyone who arrived in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2011, from applying for legal status and ultimately citizenship, according to the aide, who was not authorized to discuss the proposals before they were made public and spoke on condition of anonymity.

It also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before Dec. 31, 2011, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they’re likely to stay off welfare.

Those requirements could exclude hundreds of thousands of the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally from the path to citizenship envisioned by the bill, the aide said.

Although illegal immigration to the U.S. has been dropping, many tens of thousands still arrive each year, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. That may come as a disappointment to immigrant rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.

We’ll reserve full judgment until after we see the official language (and realize that many of these leaks are by people with an agenda to spin the bill a certain way).  And as Jamelle Bouie wrote at the Washington Post yesterday, the fact that an immigration bill has come so far is huge.

But an immigration reform bill that potentially leaves out hundreds of thousands of people?  We can do better.

Let’s not forget how we came to the cusp of this historic moment.  For the first time in recent memory, we have a clear shot at passing immigration reform and leaders from both parties in both chambers support it.  Monumental strides have been taken since the last election, when Obama promised again to pursue immigration reform and Mitt Romney lost the Hispanic vote by more than a 3-1 margin after espousing anti-immigrant policies such as “self-deportation.”  Americans support reform, Democrats have promised immigration reform, Republicans need it, and our movement is ready to deliver it.

But that means pushing immigration legislation that creates a clear and inclusive path to citizenship.  That means refusing to hold citizenship hostage to border triggers, it means preventing waiting lines and backlogs from becoming so long they take a lifetime to go through, and it means including all the aspiring Americans who already call the US home.