Monday, February 4, 2013

The Senate Immigration Plan Isn't Terrible—It's Just Unworkable

The Gang of Eight's framework isn't all terrible—it's just unworkable. It places conditions it's unlikely to meet, and then further compounds the problem by putting a veto in the hands of people who are likely to oppose the plan even if those conditions were met.

By Adam Serwer, Mother Jones
January 28, 2013

The bipartisan Senate "Gang of Eight" released their framework for comprehensive immigration reform today. As expected, the plan includes increased enforcement and a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the United States. It also contains several tripwires that, if triggered, could destroy the entire effort. The Gang of Eight includes Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

The plan includes a path to citizenship, which excludes those with criminal backgrounds and those who have committed crimes since entering the United States. Undocumented immigrants would have to register with the government and go through a background check, and would be allowed to stay under "probationary legal status," after which they would have to "go to the back of the line" before eventually qualifying for citizenship. They will not be eligible for federal benefits during their probationary legal status.

Interestingly, the plan makes the path to citizenship easier for two groups of immigrants: those eligible for the DREAM Act (young people brought to the US as children who are prepared to go to college or join the military) and agricultural workers. A cynical person might point out that in doing so, the plan goes out of its way to help the most sympathetic immigrants, and those most essential to powerful business interests. Or, as the plan puts it, workers who "who commit to the long term stability of our nation's agricultural industries." [...]

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