Eight senators present bipartisan immigration proposal. Is this good news?

By Alan Bean

How much progress has been made thus far on the immigration front?  Clearly, the Republicans, at least in the Senate, have read the writing on the wall from the 2012 election.  Their “no amnesty; no way” position has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  Thus we see Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, signing off on “a pathway to citizenship” for America’s 12 million undocumented residents.  Will he stick to his new guns?  We’ll see,

The senatorial gang of eight, by the way, consists of Charles E. Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Richard J. Durbin (D-Illinois), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona).

The Senate proposal rests on four pillars:

    1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
    2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
    3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and
    4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

A commission studded with anti-immigration politicians from southwestern states must stipulate that the border is secure (whatever that means) before anything else happens.  Or does this commission merely possess advisory powers, in which case it could be ignored by more pragmatic politicians eager to get on with the process?  We don’t know at this point.

One wonders if any of these guys have actually been to the border and seen the Border Patrol agents tripping over one another.  What more can be done to secure the border without making a virtual police state an actual police state?  The Migration Policy Institute concludes that “The U.S. government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, with the nearly $18 billion spent in fiscal 2012 approximately 24 percent higher than collective spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”

Moreover, “a larger number of individuals are detained each year in the immigration detention system (just under 430,000 in fiscal 2011) than are serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for all other federal crimes.”

The bi-partisan proposal drafted by the eight senators contains a number of concessions to the punitive consensus that has controlled American policy on criminal justice and immigration matters for decades.  The gang of eight are scared to death of looking weak (that is, compassionate).  The undocumented are still regarded as nasty, low-down law-breakers who must “pay their debt to society” before getting in the line for green cards that could last decades and a path to eventual citizenship.

If you have been reading your Bible, you will know that’s not God’s take.  This kneel-and-kiss-my-ring talk is the rhetoric of Antichrist (more on that in later posts).

The terrific news is that, if they choose to do so, the undocumented are now free to register for legal status.  This doesn’t give them a green card, and it certainly doesn’t give them citizenship; but it does mean Gramma is no longer subject to immediate deportation, and that is a wonderful thing.

In addition, Dream Act children will be placed on a fast track to citizenship; another good thing.

Nothing has been settled, of course, but I suspect that this first-rattle-out-of-the-box proposal will be about as good as this debate gets.  It could have been far worse, and will likely get that way (at least temporarily) before this deal goes down.