The House GOP leaders announced their long awaited "Principles" for immigration reform on January 30. Predictably, this has caused a lot of excitement among immigration reform advocates and in the media, because the principles include a way for people who are "living and working here illegally" to "get right with the law" and "live legally without fear in the US".

This is certain to be denounced as "amnesty" by the Tea Party bigots and the hate groups which have not changed their demands for mass expulsion of millions of Latino and other brown immigrants over the years. Anything that makes FAIR, Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and Heritage Action angry is something that immigration advocates have good reason to cheer about.

But focusing on this support for legalization - in "principle" - is reading the GOP document backwards, literally. Why? Because legalization comes at the end of the Republicans' manifesto. It is also conditioned on harsh and perhaps impossible requirements for many people such as paying back taxes and showing ability to support themselves and their families without access to public benefits.

How can people who are presently not allowed to work or may even be in detention awaiting deportation meet those requirements?

But that is not even the main problem with the Republican "Principles". The biggest problem is with what comes first. I quote:

"Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First."

And also look at what comes last:

"Finally, none of this [legalization] can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulflll our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."

There it is. Enforcement, which means, among other things, even more deportations, is the alpha and omega (beginning and the end) of the GOP immigration "Principles" manifesto.

Under these conditions, does it really matter very much what is in between?

The purpose of the "Principles" seems to be the same as what the House Republican leaders have had as their objective ever since the Senate passed its CIR bill last June. This has been pretending to support reform in "principle" while reassuring the party's white anti-immigrant base that the GOP doesn't intend to implement legalization (let alone citizenship) for millions of non-white immigrants - now or ever.

The entire document can be accessed at the January 30 Huffington Post: GOP Reveals Immigration Reform Principles


Roger Algase is a New York attorney and a Graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has devoted his practice to helping professional and business immigrants overcome the obstacles of our complicated immigration system.

He has made it possible for H-1B, O-1/EB-1 extraordinary ability, Labor Certification and marriage-based immigrants, among others, from many parts of the world, to achieve their goals, develop their careers and build a firm foundation for their lives in America. His email address is