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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

Here They Come - The GOP Legalization Bills

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Darryl Issa has been a key player in the House on immigration reform and is the lead sponsor of the high skilled worker bill that passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this year. He surprised many yesterday, however, when he announced that he's going to introduce a legalization bill that would grant most people here illegally a work/travel status valid for up to six years. This a one time offer with no guarantee that Congress would extend the program or that it would lead to anything more permanent.

According to Politico:

Issa, an influential Republican who leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, described the legislation as a “come-from-the-shadows” effort that would allow the government to do a full accounting of those who are in the U.S. illegally. Immigrants in this new status would be able to travel to their native country while on this temporary visa, he said.

“It’s halfway – and it always has been – halfway between full amnesty and simply rejecting people,” Issa told POLITICO on Wednesday. “I think if we’re going to break this logjam that’s occurred for my whole 13 years I’ve been in Congress, we have to find middle ground.”

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“If somebody has a nexus that would reasonably allow them to become permanent residents and American citizen, we should allow them to do that,” Issa said. He added: “Our view is that long before six years, people would be in those categories heading toward some other pathway, in a guest worker program, or of course, have left the country.

The Issa bill seems to be similar to DACA in terms of providing interim relief until a more permanent solution is reached later on. And while Issa mentions that many will be able to get permanent residency through other means during this six years, the key will be whether the bill addresses the 3/10 year bars that prevent many people otherwise qualified for green cards from being able to get to the finish line. I don't want to condemn Congressman Issa for proposing a bill that is inadequate. But I'd put it aside and look at it if Congress fails to come up with a long term solution. If we get to the end of this Congress and have not passed immigration legislation, the Issa bill might be an attractive option.

But maybe there is a longer term legalization plan the GOP can introduce that might make the Issa bill unnecessary. According to the Wall Street Journal, Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is looking to take some of the concepts from the failed House Gang of Eight efforts and get fellow Republicans to co-sponsor a legalization bill that includes border security benchmarks incorporated in to a legalization program.

I also hear that Congressman Paul Ryan has been working on a legalization bill.

This is all very positive news. If the GOP can come up with a reasonable legalization strategy, then we have a good shot at getting a deal done.

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