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, 07-23-2015 at 06:52 AM (2227 Views)
This post is a continuation of my July 15 comments about former Maryland Governor and current Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley's proposals for immigration reform as contained in his 8-page manifesto: Welcoming New Americans To Rebuild The American Dream. My following comments will focus his proposal to overhaul the legal US immigration system, contained in the last page of his manifesto.
As is to be expected in a document which devotes only one page to legal immigration, compared to six pages to its unauthorized counterpart (not counting the first, introductory page) Governor O'Malley offers less in the way of specific proposals to reform the legal immigration system.
But, just as in the case of his proposals to reform the enforcement system relating to unauthorized immigration, O'Malley zeros in on some of the features of current laws or proposals which are arguably the most influenced by anti-immigrant prejudice, rather than sound or rational policy considerations.
For example, in his discussion of reforming the system for dealing with unauthorized immigration, O'Malley, as I mentioned in my last post, focuses on the need to reduce the number of people subject to the 3 and 10 "unlawful presence" bars to admissibility, an especially harsh feature of the 1996 IIRIRA statute.
As I have pointed out previously, IIRIRA was enacted in response to a "backlash" against the 1965 immigration reforms which had ended 40 years of discrimination against immigrants who were not from Western Europe. IIRIRA was also hardly a shining example of American democracy in action; it was rammed through Congress at the very last minute without debate or discussion, and attached to a veto-proof "must pass" military appropriations bill only a month before that year's presidential election.
It would have taken an enormous amount of courage to veto that bill, which was signed by President Clinton.
Also in the context of unauthorized immigration, Governor O'Malley calls for the end of a host of due process violations and similar abuses involving detention, removal and other enforcement policies which are arguably more reflective of anti-immigrant hysteria than of any real respect for basic rights under the rule of law.
Governor O'Malley's approach to reforming legal immigration reflects the same boldness and precision in combating proposals which, on their face, have more to do with pandering to prejudice than they do with making our immigration system more equitable and workable.
I begin with his last proposal: Protect the Diversity Visa. This may seem like a small thing; there are only 55,000 of these visas issued every year. This is not about the fate of millions of unauthorized immigrants of hundreds of thousands of foreign skilled and professional workers held up by antiquated and grossly inadequate H-1B or immigrant visa quotas which date from the last century, but are no more relevant to our society and economy today than they would have been if they had been established in the Middle Ages.
But as O'Malley points out, about half of the diversity lottery winners each year come from Africa. This is a far cry from the predecessor of the diversity visa, which was originally known as the "AA-1" program and was meant to benefit European, and especially Irish, immigrants exclusively. ("AA" meant "adversely affected" and referred to European immigrants who had lost their privileged position prior to the 1965 immigration reform).
Now that this program has morphed into one that is truly based on diversity, especially by making it easier for African immigrants who do not belong to the highly educated, privileged elite in their countries to come to America, there is a movement afoot to kill this entire program.
Shamefully, eliminating this visa was one of the provisions included in the bipartisan S 744 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill which passed the Senate in 2013. As everyone will recall, this bill was promptly pronounced "Dead on Arrival" in the House.
One would like to think that the opposition by House leaders to taking up S 744 was motivated by a desire to protect African and other non-white immigrants by keeping the diversity visa in place. Perhaps one day a scholar at Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, or Center for Immigration Studies will come up with evidence to this effect and share it with the rest of us.
In the meantime, Governor O'Malley should be commended for battling to keep this visa, instead of throwing an entire continent under the bus.
To be continued in an upcoming post.
Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been helping primarily skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards for more than 30 years. Roger believes that success in immigration cases depends not only on thorough knowledge of the law, but also on building relationships of trust and understanding with the clients whom he is dedicated to serving.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org