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House GOP Polarizes America by Race Over Immigration Reform. By Roger Algase

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House Republicans are moving the immigration reform goalposts again - in the direction of an America with its two major parties divided along racial lines.

On Sunday, August 4, Paul Ryan, who is considered one of the more reform-friendly House GOP members, said on "Face the Nation". that 11 million unauthorized immigrants would need to jump through the all the familiar hoops of paying fines and back taxes, learning English and civics, etc. before even receiving a work permit.

As if this were not harsh enough, the border would also have to be "secured" before work permits would be available.

See POLITICO - Ryan to GOP: Don't do immigration based on politics (August 4).

It is one thing to enable unauthorized immigrants to live and work in the US provisionally without fear of deportation, while putting off permanent resident status or citizenship for many years into the future, if ever.

But legalization without work permission is not legalization at all.
If "legalized" immigrants are not even allowed to work until all the other goals have been met (and if they ever are, one can be sure that new ones will be imposed), then "legalization" or "provisional status" is just a joke. It is only a caricature of reform.

The loud and clear message is that the Republicans are retreating from immigration reform faster than anyone can say "Steve King" and are taking the goalposts with them. The only explanation is that they are abandoning the post 2012 election scenario of recognizing the need to appeal to Latino and other minority voters, and are instead letting themselves be seduced by the mirage of basing their future as a party only on white voters.

And this does not even mean all white voters, as Alex Gonzales pointed out a month ago in his July 5 article: Get Only White Votes: A Self-destructing economic and political GOP Strategy?

(available at

Gonzales writes that the GOP anti-immigrant strategy is appealing only to working class, less educated white voters; Republicans are not gaining, and may even be losing, more affluent and educated white voters over this issue.

Ryan Lizza also warns about the dangers of an America with two parties divided along racial lines in his July 12 New Yorker article: Killing the Immigration Bill, Polarizing America.

Lizza writes:

"The seduction of this alternate path for the GOP is obvious. The changes associated with diversifying the Republican Party's coalition are dramatic, and to some conservatives, frightening. Superficially, at least, simply attracting more whites seems safe and more ideologically consistent with the Party's current agenda.

If this is indeed the path that the GOP pursues, it would intensify one of the less welcome political trends of the past few decades: the racial polarization of the electorate."

Lizza also writes:

The net result of all this is the opposite of what the RNC originally had in mind: a Republican strategy to defeat immigration reform, increase its support among whites, and make it harder for some nonwhites to vote."

Will the above be the epitaph for immigration reform? Each passing day's news coming out of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives makes this more likely.

Posted by Roger Algase
August 5, 2013

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Updated 08-05-2013 at 12:15 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Tony Weigel's Avatar
    It was difficult for me to believe that Rep. Paul Ryan actually said that work permission would have to wait until a person completed all of the steps for 'legalization.' Did he just misspeak? I agree with Roger that legalization without work permission is not legalization.

    But then I viewed the following: (immigration discussion starts at 4:18 and comments regarding timing of work permits is at 6:05)

    A transcript of which is included at:

    That is what he said, but that runs 180 degrees against ?getting immigration reform right.? In order for the system to work, regardless if it ends up with regular permanent resident status or the House Republican permanent/temporary status, granting interim work authorization early on in the process is a core component to ?getting it right.?

    A failure to grant interim work authorization, post-legalization application, leaves individuals without work authorization. It also places employers in the position of continuing to employ these workers. As E-Verify mandates would prematurely kick in under this scheme, we are back to the failed IIRAIRA ?self-deportation? policy of the last 15 years or so, especially if employers are forced to re-verify existing workers. Placing the cart 100 miles in front of the horse cannot be considered close to right.

    Of course, a clever drafter could amend the INA as follows to permit employment, incident to status:

    INA 274A(b)(1)(C)(ii) [8 U.S.C. 1324a(b)(1)(C)(ii)] other documentation evidencing authorization of employment in the United States which the Attorney General finds, by regulation, to be acceptable for purposes of this section, to include evidence of an individual?s application for legalization pursuant to [Relevant Citation].

    Otherwise, Congress could leave this entirely out of the legislation and instead rely upon the DHS to, by regulation, include legalization applicants as work authorized ?incident to status? under 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(a).

    The problem is that, If either ?work around? is pursued, there is no way to hide this large of a ball from immigration reform opponents. If Rep. Ryan and his well-meaning pro-reform colleagues desire to retain credibility, they need to confront the over-caffeinated elephants in the room.

    Again, just my personal opinions.

    Tony Weigel -Twitter: @TonyWeigel
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I completely agree with Tony Weigel. "Legalization" without work permission is nothing more that "self-deportation" by a different name.

    Paul Ryan is smart and he knows this. If he was quoted correctly on this point, he is trying to sabotage reform, not support it.

    This is true of other House Republican leaders as well. See my post for August 6.

    Roger Algase
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