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Legalization Without Citizenship: Panacea, or Poison Pill? By Roger Algase

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Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been floating a proposal which would provide for legalization of unauthorized immigrations, but without the special pathway to permanent residence and eventual US citizenship which Democrats and immigration supporters consider to be essential to any immigration reform package, and which is provided for in the Senate CIR bill.

As Goodlatte describes his proposal, legalized immigrants would be eligible for green cards if they meet the same qualifications as everyone else - family or employment sponsorship, in most cases.

(He doesn't explain how they would get over obstacles such as the unlawful presence bar in the current law, for example. This would put green cards out of reach for the great majority of people who are unauthorized immigrants now, unless a waiver were specifically included in the reform statute, and Goodlatte has said nothing about that, as far as I know.)

But despite the fact that Goodlatte's statement about permanent residence or citizenship being available through "regular channels" may be meaningless for most of today's 11 million unauthorized immigrants - except for those with USC spouses or adult USC children, who do not need legalization in any event - some immigration advocates appear to be taking Goodlatte's proposal seriously as a possible solution to the impasse over CIR.

"Why is a special pathway to a green card or citizenship so important?" the argument goes. "The essential point is to grant legalization, i.e. protection against deportation, to 11 million people. If we can get that through Congress, we will have accomplished a great deal. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good."

Far be it from me to disparage the possible utility of throwing the "Pathway" to green cards and citizenship under the bus, to join the other immigration benefits already occupying that space - the diversity visa - H-1B as we now know it - sibling green cards, etc.

But would this really be enough to satisfy Goodlatte and to get a legalization bill through the House? Or would the goalposts be moved once again, as they have already been moved before by Republicans in both Houses of Congress?

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post quotes Goodlatte as making a comment indicating somewhat less than good faith in backing any type of reform at all. See: Here's how Republicans may try to kill immigration reform (August 20).

www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/08/20/heres-how-republicans-may-try-to-kill-immigration-reform/?print=1

Sargent quotes Goodlatte as saying the following at an August 19 town hall meeting:

"Even if it [a House immigration bill] doesn't go all the way to be signed by the president - because I have a hard time - like you do - envisioning him signing some of those things - it doesn't mean we shouldn't show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem that we have in our country."

Sargent comments:

If we're right, he [Goodlatte] wants to pretend to want to get reform done, he wants to get a majority of House Republicans to agree with his bills, and then, when the Democrats say it's not good enough, try to blame them for 'blocking reform' - as if the GOP is ever going to win a blame game on immigration reform."

But suppose the Democrats try to take Goodlatte at his word and actually agree to a bill which provides for legalization without a pathway to citizenship, just as they made so many compromises to get a CIR bill through the Senate?

Would that ensure that reform with legalization for 11 million people would actually pass in the House? Not by a long shot.

According to the Huffington Post's August 19 article about the same town hall meeting; Bob Goodlatte On Immigration: No "Special Pathway from House", the GOP Congressman also said that he would not support moving forward on legalization, even for DREAMERS, until other border security and enforcement mechanisms were in place.

www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/bob-goodlatte-immigration_n_3782654.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

The goalposts are moving again. Even if the Democrats are willing to accept an immigration "reform" bill without the pathway to citizenship which Goodlatte and most other House Republicans so adamantly oppose, is there any real sign that the House GOP is doing anything other than looking for a way to kill immigration reform which would give them the best chance of blaming the Democrats for its demise?

Rather than waiting for the House Republicans to continue playing a cynical game for which the final score already seems to be clear, even though the game is not yet over, isn't it time for the Obama administration to take Plan B off the shelf, wipe away the dust, and start thinking about how to put it into action before hundreds of thousands, or another million, more immigrants who pose no threat to America, including 44,000 people who were due to be deported during the August recess (according to Pablo Alvarado writing in The Hill on August 2), are sent back?

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Updated 08-21-2013 at 10:01 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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