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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

How House Republicans May Save Immigration Reform

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

A few months ago I was pretty down on House Republicans and
the prospects for immigration reform legislation in that House of Congress. I
was basing this pessimism on past votes, the tone of committee hearings and the
ratings by anti-immigration groups of those chosen to head the committees
dealing with immigration.

There are still voices in the House that worry me, but the
Democrats in the Senate could also blow it both in terms of pushing provisions
that doom the final passage of a bill or, if we get a bill, putting us in the situation
where we're back in the same place in a few years and need new legislation.

There are three areas where House Republicans can make a bill more better.

1. Guest workers - The 1986 immigration bill legalized three
million people and gave us the I-9 enforcement system. Both addressed major
problems. But the Congress couldn't agree on what to do about the future flow
of immigrants and decided to let a future Congress figure it out. Guess what?
They never did. And we now are talking about legalizing 11 million people.

In 2007, immigration reform efforts failed when union
opposition to a guest worker program led many Democrats to pull their support
for reform. Senator Schumer has smartly tried to get the US Chamber and labor
unions to hammer out a deal on the front end to avoid a similar result. But
from what I am hearing, Big Labor is forcing a deal that will result in a
wholly inadequate guest worker program that will lack enough numbers and cover
only unskilled workers as opposed to the workers the economy needs.

House Republicans need to remember they are the pro-business
party and hold a tough line that ensures the unions don't doom long term
immigration reform. If employers can't bring in guest workers when they can
prove Americans are unavailable, we will simply end up with a new illegal
immigrant flow.

2. Path to citizenship - Many of my pro-immigration
colleagues think differently on this than I do, but I LIKE what I'm hearing
from people like Rep. Labrador and Goodlatte that we need to avoid setting up a
path to citizenship for legalized immigrants that is easier than that being
used by everyone currently in line. We shouldn't have a special path to
citizenship. Legalized immigrants should have to apply for green cards using the
family and employment-based green card categories already on the books and go
through the same application process as immigrants currently in line. What we
can do, however, is make enough green cards available to process everyone
currently in line in a more reasonable timeframe and once all of those people
process, then begin processing the new applicants. We also should ensure that
enough green cards are made available to absorb all the new family and
employment-based green card applicants in the pool of legalized immigrants.

I don't agree that we need to link enforcement benchmarks to
allowing legalized immigrants to file for green cards. But I also could live
with benchmarks if they are reasonable. We will never have a completely sealed
border. But if we put more resources in to enforcement and have  a decent
guest worker program, we should be able to dramatically cut illegal crossings.

The Senate sounds like they're looking at a measure similar
to what was proposed by President Obama - simply allowing people to file a
green card application after a certain number of years without going through
the conventional green card application process. I think that doesn't serve us
well if people perceive the legalized immigrants as having gotten a better deal
than those who are currently in line. And I think the conventional path to
citizenship being suggested by some House Republicans makes more sense.

3. Skilled workers - The Senate has been very vague on what
is going to be proposed on skilled workers. The I-Squared marker bill proposed
by Senators Klobuchar and Rubio is superb and if the Gang of Eight simply
inserts it as is in to the big bill, I'll be very happy. But I'm already
hearing that some of the protectionist forces out there are trying to mess around
with the language. I hope I'm wrong. But this is also an area where House
Republicans can channel Ronald Reagan and give employers the freedom they need
to pursue the best talent and make us as competitive as we can be. If the
Senate bill doesn't deliver on the skilled worker provisions, House Republicans
need to push back. Fortunately, I think Reps. Goodlatte and Gowdy get it.

We'll know in a couple of weeks where we stand when the Gang
of Eight introduces its bill in the Senate.

On a separate note, I wanted to sincerely apologize to
Congressman Goodlatte for the harsh post I wrote in November where I labeled
him an extremist and made the snarky statement questioning whether he had
practiced immigration law. I updated the post at the time after doing some
checking and let readers know he was, in fact, a member of the immigration bar
before joining Congress. But it was a dumb thing to have suggested and I
shouldn't have written it.

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  1. George Chell's Avatar
    I have always thought Goodlate was neither an extremist nor a racist. He was always for skilled immigration. I dont think Grassley, Durbin or Sanders are racists either...misinformed, yes.
  2. George Chell's Avatar
    The real extremists are Brewer, Kobach, Nathan Deal as well as Rep. Bartletto who oppose legalization but keep eerily quiet about skilled immigration.
  3. George Chell's Avatar
    Why is skilled immigration a problem when even the chairman of IEEE supports increasing green cards...

    "Green cards also grant immigrants the valuable ability to switch jobs easily. To Morrison, a former politician who now represents IEEE, that makes them far preferable to H-1B visas. "There are no problems for which green cards are not a better solution than temporary visas," he said, adding that Congress should "create more green cards for skilled workers.""

  4. George Chell's Avatar
    Also of interest....

    And no..$120.000 annual salary for the fruit pickers is not the answer.
  5. George Chell's Avatar
    Surprise, Surprise...even some people I used to think are bigots are supporting high skilled immigrtion reform...
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