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Could the Debt Ceiling Dispute Lead to an Immigration Meltdown? By Roger Algase

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Update, October 9, 12:55 pm:

According to reports in both the Huffington Post and Politico, House Speaker John Boehner met this morning with House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer about the debt ceiling. Also, the Huffpost reports that the head of Heritage Action, one of the main instigators of the debt ceiling disaster, may be about to bail out on his opposition to raising the debt ceiling too.
Even though it is too early to tell, the GOP may be looking for a way out. If this happens, immigration in America, which depends on a healthy economy and a functioning democracy, may have dodged a bullet.


Update, October 9, 8:05 am:


As of Wednesday morning, the House GOP leadership line appears to have hardened again, at least on the basis of a Washington Post op-ed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) with the cynical title: Bipartisan negotiations required.

Negotiations at gunpoint, that is.

When were the House Republicans ever interested in negotiations on the health care law before it was passed? And why are they doing everything in their power to avoid a Senate - House conference on immigration reform?

The Tea Party is staking everything on its hope that Obama will continue to be a weak president and cave in to their demands which, sooner or later, will inevitably include gutting immigration reform and putting state and local officials such as Joe Arpaio back in the immigrant persecution business, as well as tossing out 14th amendment birthright citizenship for all US-born children.

As I will argue in more detail in a subsequent post, the only way that Obama will be able to save immigration reform is by finally becoming a strong president and using his full executive powers to implementing Plan B and suspend all deportations.

In the same way, he will need to use his 14th Amendment power to raise the debt ceiling, as well as the president's inherent national security power, which the Republicans were so anxious to support under George W. Bush, to save America from the Tea Party's attempt to overthrow our democracy and destroy our economy.




Update, October 8, 12:47 pm:

Just a few minutes ago, Politico reported that House Speaker John Boehner announced that there were "no lines in the sand" on the debt ceiling, and that "nothing is on or off the table". Politico describes this as a radical shift in tone from his previous statements.

Could this mean that sanity is finally coming to prevail within the GOP, and that the Republican leadership is realizing the consequences of giving in to the Tea Party madness?

Also, maybe if the House GOP comes to its senses on the debt ceiling and the government shutdown issues, perhaps it will do the same on immigration reform too. Or would this be asking too much?

My original post from earlier this morning follows.

First, immigration supporters were worried that Congressional focus on the government shutdown and debt ceiling issues during October would divert attention away from immigration reform this month. This would make it even less likely that the House will take up immigration reform this year, before what promises to be one of the most divisive and polarized Congressional election campaigns in our history gets under way to put CIR on the farthest away of media and legislative back burners in 2014.

However, now that the Tea Party's government shutdown has been under way for the past week, there is an even more immediate worry: all immigration that involves the US Labor Department has also been shut down. This means no new H-1B's (even for people not already affected by the annual cap), no H-1B transfers or extensions and no PERM Labor Certifications. This punches a big hole in the entire employment-based immigration system.

As if that were not enough, no one knows how much longer it will be before overseas US consular posts start running out of money to process visas, even though this has evidently not happened yet.

To be sure, these are very serious disruptions, which could be enough to render a large part of the legal immigration system dysfunctional over time, unless the parts of the immigration benefits system which are still operating come up with some creative stopgap solutions.

For example, USCIS could decide to accept and approve H-1B petitions without an LCA - subject to the condition that a certified LCA must be submitted within a reasonable amount of time after the DOL reopens, or the H-1B approval will be automatically revoked. Perhaps something like this could even be worked out for I-140 petitions based on clearly approvable Permanent Labor Certification Applications while the DOL is shut down.

If the visa issuing system closes down through lack of money, possibly the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) might be able to parole in people who are prima facie eligible for visas but prevented from receiving them because the consular posts are not functioning. These ideas may seem far fetched, but if the shutdown looks likely to go on for several months, rather than hopefully only only a few days or weeks more at the most, it might be necessary to consider them seriously. One should not underestimate the Tea Party's destructiveness, not to mention its hatred of immigration.

But immigration disruptions caused by the shutdown are only the tip of the iceberg compared to what could happen to America's legal immigration system if the debt ceiling is not raised on or before October 17.

If the Tea Party Radicals and their supporters in Congress succeed in blocking the debt ceiling increase and making it impossible to America to pay all its bills, as they show every sign of having as their immediate goal, most experts believe that America's, if not the world's, entire financial system could be devastated.

I am not an economist, and I know very little about financial markets. Nor is ilw.com a site that focuses on economic issues. But, according to what is available on the Internet, about 30 percent of the federal government's budget is made up of borrowed money.

If the US government is no longer able to borrow, either it will default on its Treasury bonds, which are at the heart of the international financial and US banking systems, or it will have to make unimaginable cuts in its expenses. To mention only one point, even though USCIS does not depend on Congressional appropriations, there might be an irresistible temptation for the government to raid USCIS filing fees in order to pay for other, non-immigration related expenses, such as Social Security, Medicare, defense, etc.

Is it realistic to think that in the midst of a US and world wide financial crisis, there would be enough money available for USCIS to operate normally? This idea seems delusional.

But this is the lesser of the twin threats to immigration as we know it that could result from a refusal to raise the debt ceiling. The most dangerous threat of all could be the destruction of America's entire system of democracy and its replacement by a far right wing, anti-immigrant, Tea Party dictatorship.

These are strong words, but they are not at all inappropriate to describe what America may be facing after October 17, if the Tea Party gets its way.

Update: October 8, 2:55 pm

First, look at what the Tea Party Republicans reportedly want in return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. According to slate.com House debt ceiling bill shows why compromise is unthinkable (September 26) their list of demands is almost endless:

"From Jonathan Strong's report at NRO, what Republicans want in exchange for not agreeing to default on the national debt is a one-year delay of Obamacare, Paul Ryan's tax reform, the Keystone XL pipeline, partial repeal of the Clean Air Act. partial repeal of bank regulation legislation, Medicare cuts, cuts in several anti-poverty programs, making it harder to launch medical malpractice lawsuits, more drilling on federal land, blocking net neutrality, and a suite of changes designed to make it harder for regulatory agencies to crack the whip."

In short, virtually the entire Republican platform, which was resoundingly defeated by the voters in 2012, could be forced into becoming the law of the land through the extortion of threatening to bankrupt America, risk causing a catastrophic recession and essentially making this country ungovernable if these demands were not met.

This is not democracy; it is more like a coup without the tanks.
But suppose that the Democrats, who actually won last year's election (including gaining more total votes for House candidates than the Republicans) were to agree to some or all of these demands in order to avoid financial and governmental disaster?

Then what would there be to stop the Tea Party extortionists from saying:

"Oh, but we just have a few more little items - criminalize every single immigration violation, even the most technical, give the states back the immigration enforcement powers which the Supreme Court took away from them (at least in part) in 2012, and cancel birthright citizenship for any once whose parents are in the country illegally (or have one parent without status, or whose parents are legal but without green cards, or whose parents are not both US citizens - you name it) - and, by the way, before we forget, lets put in a one year moratorium on all immigration."

The point is that once democracy and majority rule go out the window, there would be no limit to the types of immigration restrictions that a small minority of Tea Party fanatics could force on the rest of America.

However, even this might only be a prelude to something equally drastic, namely impeaching President Obama over the debt ceiling no matter what he does, and replacing him with 100 per cent anti-immigrant, self-deportation supporting president such as Mitt Romney had promised to be if elected.

There already is a possible legal strategy in place for using the debt ceiling as an excuse to impeach President Obama - something that right wing Republicans have been dying to do since America's first black president was elected in 2008.

More about this in my next post.





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Updated 10-09-2013 at 11:57 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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