In the last few days, two House Democrats have introduced a new immigration bill (CIR ASAP) that creates a path to citizenship, and reports have surfaced of a plan for introduction of a Democratic bill, led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), similar to the Senate’s S. 744 (with the “border surge” language.) The Gang of 7 may be dead, but there are still a lot of options for immigration reform legislation this fall.
Including a potential Republican proposal, where immigrants are granted legal status but no specific path to citizenship. Immigrants could apply for citizenship through existing channels, which–this is the important part–might be able to accommodate significant numbers of the undocumented if they are expanded. Otherwise we’re back to square one, stuck with an immigration reform system that benefits no one because there aren’t enough legal avenues to get into the country.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post today has more on what this GOP-oriented proposal might look like:
1) House Republicans pass piecemeal border security measures, plus the Goodlatte “legalization” measure. The latter isn’t “amnesty” or a “special pathway,” so this could happen, with a lot of Dem votes. If not, Republicans might pass border security plus the “KIDS Act” that gives citizenship to the DREAMers. The point is to hope Republicans will pass one border security measure and one citizenship or legalization measure piecemeal — which could happen, even with the backing of a majority of House Republicans.
2) Some conservatives will call on the leadership to refuse to go to conference, and to challenge Dems to take the above or leave it. But Dems may respond by demanding negotiations — and threaten to tar Republicans with killing reform if they refuse. Remember, the Hispanic media is fully prepared to tar the GOP with all the blame for reform’s demise. So conference isn’t impossible.
3) Can Democrats and reformers accept the Goodlatte architecture, given that it doesn’t provide a special path to citizenship for the 11 million? Yes, there is one way this could happen. Dems could insist that if Republicans want to use the normal channels to citizenship — rather than the special pathway — that those channels must be unclogged. That means removing various barriers to green cards (which start the path to citizenship) for those who would be sponsored by employers or family members. Reformers believe you can get to citizenship for most of the 11 million this way.
Sargent writes that such a proposal might be acceptable to Democrats and Republicans, who would both get most of what they want. Republicans are still under heavy pressure to take action on immigration reform this year, or risk having their inertia hung around their necks going into 2013 and beyond. As Sargent points out:
Even leading Republicans are warning that the GOP is increasingly coming across as fundamentally incapable of governing. If Republicans get pasted politically in the coming government shutdown and debt limit fights, it’s not impossible they’ll be looking for some way to prove they can address the country’s problems. There aren’t too many remaining ways for Republicans to prove this in the near future, are there?
And as America’s Voice has said in the past, talk is cheap. Republicans are going to have to present a proposal first, before anything can be considered. And Republicans serious about immigration reform should blow past Bob Goodlatte, and make an honest effort to work with Democrats.