At Crooks and Liars, Dave Neiwert has an excellent post titled “The Coming Fight on Immigration Reform: What Progressives Want.” He lays out a very clear agenda, setting the stage for the upcoming immigration debate from a position of strength. Given the results of the 2012 election, the fact that the American people want reform, Democrats promised it, and Republicans need it, a pro-immigrant position of strength is exactly where the debate should begin. We’re including a long excerpt from Dave’s post here, but, read the whole thing. It’s worth it:
Progressive Democrats will be entering this debate from a position of strength, especially given the American public’s eagerness to resolve the immigration mess. Yes, Republicans will make the most noise and will pout and make faces, but progressives have the upper hand, and should act accordingly.
So what should progressive Democrats expect in any immigration-reform legislation? Obviously, at some point things will be diluted in the process of negotiation. But instead of taking the standard Obama approach to negotiations — which has been to dilute everything down by negotiating with our own side first, then making that the starting point in negotiations with Republicans — it’s time to take an aggressively progressive approach and insist first on progressive legislation, which is to say, lawmaking that will actually work to solve the problem.
What does a progressive agenda on immigration look like? Something like this:
- An earned path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants currently in the country who wish to remain — and a guest-worker program for those who just want to work and return home.
- Modest, appropriate penalties for those currently here illegally, plus requirements to study English, pay taxes, and otherwise get right with the law.
- Make obtaining citizenship a rational process, free of unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic hurdles.
- Create a guest-worker program that ensures participants’ full constitutional rights, including the right to organize, while enabling the distribution of labor, both skilled and unskilled, to those industries where it is needed.
- Discard the current system’s longstanding phobia regarding “chain migration”, instead emphasizing the value of family ties when considering admission and work visas.
- Undertake a complete overhaul of immigration-quota system, so that immigrants are admitted on the basis of economic needs and are not based on nations of origin.
Making a progressive argument for this agenda really is a matter of common sense — though often, the messaging on immigration has often focused on advancing ethnic rights and fairly narrow interests, when the larger arguments that reach across many different interests and backgrounds and appeals are what we need to be discussing.
It is, for instance, easy to dismiss the fact that what many ordinary people – many of whom are otherwise sympathetic to immigrants — really don’t like about the immigration mess is that laws are being broken, and with such apparent disregard. It’s why the meme that reduces immigrants to the dehumanizing term “illegals” resonates so widely. It’s why they so often say, “We should just enforce the laws on the books.”
Of course, we used to hear people say that about the “war on drugs” all the time. Hardly anyone makes that argument anymore, though, because it’s been proven an abject and expensive failure.
And it has failed for exactly the same reason the our immigration laws have failed: The “laws on the books” simply don’t work — and they don’t work because they criminalize a whole lot of otherwise law-abiding, decent, hard-working people.
Again, read Dave’s whole post. Citizenship for the 11 million is the top goal — and it should be for progressive and conservatives.