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Letters of the Week: Jan 20 - Jan 24

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  1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    Greg Siskind has expressed the hope that the Democrats will keep an open mind when the Republicans come forward with proposals for immigration reform rather than reflexively shut the door on a deal. Roger Algase has responded that, "The whole point of immigration reform was to get immigration reform, not more Republican enforcement-only." I agree with Greg for several reasons.

    First, the key Republicans in the House of Representatives have never advocated an enforcement-only approach. They are asking for a wipe-the-slate clean deal like the one they agreed to 28 years ago when the last legalization program was enacted (IRCA in 1986), i.e., give lawful status to undocumented immigrants who are here now and establish enforcement measures to ensure that a new group of undocumented immigrants doesn't take the place of the ones who are legalized. The legalization program was implemented right away, but the promised enforcement program never happened. This time, they want the enforcement measures first.

    Second, I think Roger and too many other Democrats think that "comprehensive" immigration reform means a bill that has everything the Democrats want. If a bill is going to be comprehensive in a politically meaningful sense, it has to meet the political needs of both parties. That is especially true when one party controls the Senate and the other controls the House. Will that approach produce a good immigration reform bill? Maybe; maybe not. But it will accomplish the best outcome that we can expect from a democracy, which is to enact legislation that represents the views of our elected representatives. If you don't like what they do, vote for new representatives in the next election.
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan Rappaport's comment is thoughtful, well considered, sensible - and, with all due respect, wrong, in my opinion. First, I am not a partisan Democrat and have no ax to grind in that area.

    (It is true that I have always voted for Democrats for president, beginning with John F. Kennedy in 1960, but I did not hesitate to praise George W. Bush for supporting immigration reform in 2007 and I have not hesitated to criticize Barack Obama for his mass expulsions of minority immigrants ever since he first took office.)

    But the idea that the Senate CIR bill did not take into account the Republicans' political needs is a total myth. The bill was developed by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight". It responded to many Republican concerns, chiefly by making both legalization and citizenship subject to numerous conditions and pitfalls.

    It also threw tens of thousands of potential African and South Asian immigrants each year under the bus by abolishing the DV lottery, as well as reducing what some far right GOP racists like to call "chain migration" and the rest of us know as family immigration in order to cut down on legal immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The Senate bill also threw gay couples under the immigration reform bus to accommodate the Republicans. Same sex couples were rescued by the Supreme Court, not Senate Democrats.

    I am not even discussing the H-1B program, important parts of which would also go under the bus in return for more, badly needed, visas.

    When this was still not enough to avoid the threat of a Republican filibuster, the Democrats then agreed to Republican demands to line the pockets of wealthy defense contractors in the name of Border Security (BS) to the tune of $46.3 billion.

    And this is in a nation which (we are told) cannot afford food stamps for the poor or long term unemployment benefits for millions of people struggling to find work.

    However, even this hard fought for, carefully thought out compromise to "Republican political needs" was rejected out of hand when it reached the House.

    Since then, the House Republican leaders have been steadily pushing to the right on reform and the Democrats have been giving in.

    First, piecemeal in stead of comprehensive - OK. But the House Republicans don't do things piecemeal when they want to deport people. Look at their SAFE Act passed last year. Look at the Sensenbrenner immigration bill of 2005 - which would have made Arizona's SB 1070 look like a walk in the park (or along the Rio Grande) by comparison.

    Next, the House Republicans wanted to throw citizenship under the bus - again OK, according to many Democrats and other reform advocates.

    But that is still not enough for the GOP leaders - now they are talking about draconian enforcement triggers before anyone is even legalized, at least according to "moderates" such as Bob Goodlatte and Paul Ryan. In my view, they are scared that the Democrats may even agree to this as well.

    The point is that the House Republican leaders want to avoid mass legalization at all costs - "amnesty", they are afraid, would end their political careers.

    Well, I don't want to belabor the point. The House Republicans haven't asked for electrified fences or alligators in the moat - yet.

    So exactly what are Republican political realities that, in the opinion of many respected, sincere and well meaning reform advocates such as Nolan Rappaport need to be accommodated?

    I don't need to answer this question. Rep. Steve King, FAIR, and Heritage Action are very well able to speak for themselves.

    They are the real obstacles to reform and they are not going away any time soon. As long as they are around, trying to blame the Democrats, who have already given away so much with no result except even more extreme right wing demands, for reform's failure so far, is nothing more than a parlor game.

    I earnestly hope that I will turn out to be dead wrong about all of this, and that we will actually get a decent reform bill passed this year. But I would not advise reform supporters to hold their breath.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 01-25-2014 at 05:38 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  3. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    The Senate bill was bipartisan in the sense that the authors were from both parties, but it was not supported by a majority of the republicans in the Senate. More importantly, to be truly bipartisan, it would have to have satisfied the political needs of the House Republicans too. I mention the key one in my letter, fear of another IRCA situation in which legalization happens but enforcement doesn't, which resulted in a new group of undocumented aliens taking the place of the legalized ones.

    Incidentally, I don't think Rep. Steve King, FAIR, and Heritage Action speak for Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte. If you want to know what needs have to be met to satisfy House Republican needs, read his statements and watch some of the hearings his committee has had on immigration issues to see what he and other republican members, such as Lamar Smith have said. King is only one member on Judiciary.

    If you are right that the House Republicans don't want legalization under any circumstances, my approach won't work. But the approaches that have been taken so far haven't worked either. I think it is time to stop talking about how wrong the House Republicans are and find a way to work out a compromise that both sides can live with.
  4. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    I want to comment on the point Roger Algase makes when he refers to the additional compromise the Senate made on border security, "When this was still not enough to avoid the threat of a Republican filibuster, the Democrats then agreed to Republican demands to line the pockets of wealthy defense contractors in the name of Border Security (BS) to the tune of $46.3 billion."

    I agree completely with his concerns about giving defense contractors $46.3 billions. We need a border security ombudsman or some other way to make sure that border security money is well spent. If this concerns you too, please read my article, "What is SBInet? And what does it have to do with spending billions of dollars on border security?" You can get to it with this link.
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    With regard to Nolan Rappaport's latest comments, I admire and respect his optimism and trust in the good faith of the Republican leaders, especially in the House. If they are genuinely interested in immigration reform, I certainly agree that Democrats should not let any rigid pre-conditions stand in the way of a deal which would actually help millions of out-of-status immigrants and make our legal immigration system fairer.

    I also agree with Nolan Rappaport that we have to understand the concerns of the great majority of Republicans, in the Senate as well as the House, who opposed the Senate CIR bill.

    Did they oppose it because $46.3 billion in border security wasn't enough money, or because there was no provision for electrified fences or alligators in the moat? I don't think so.

    I respectfully suggest that they opposed it because of one word and one word only: "amnesty" - the same buzzword that killed reform in 2007 and is standing in the way of reform now.

    And what does "no amnesty" mean, in real English? It means don't let any more brown people stay in America. We are also hearing another racially pejorative term from some more "moderate" Republican leaders as well: "Stop chain migration".

    What does that mean? It means not letting any more brown people into America legally.

    In one of my recent posts, I wrote about a gay rights activist who quit the Republican party because the GOP was infected by bigotry against people in same sex relationships.

    In the same way, the Republicans must come to terms with and take action to eliminate bigotry against minorities in their own ranks - bigotry which includes not only blocking immigration reform, but stopping American citizens of color from voting.

    I don't know how much Democrats and other immigration supporters can do to help the Republicans deal with this issue in their own base. But ignoring it or giving into to it in order to get a phony "enforcement -centered" immigration deal which helps no one and may make life even worse for millions of immigrants would not be a solution.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 01-26-2014 at 09:02 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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