Eight Senators, including four Republicans (McCain, Graham, Rubio and Flake) and four Democrats (Schumer, Durbin, Menendez and Bennet) have issued a five page "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" which is scheduled to be announced formally on January 28. The full text is available in Monday's Huffington Post.
Presumably, this manifesto will form the basis for legislation which would ultimately be enacted by the Republican - controlled Congress and presented to President Mitt Romney for signature.*
Oops! Did I make some rather serious typos here? Wasn't President Barack Obama just sworn in for a second term last week? And didn't the Democrats keep control of the Senate in last November's election? Yes, both these events did in fact take place, but it would be hard to tell that from reading the eight senators' proposal, which,at least in part, looks like a classic Republican immigration restrictionists' dream.
For years, the Republicans have been pursuing an "enforcement only" or at least "enforcement first" policy toward immigration. The heart of this idea has been the doctrine that no reform can take place until the Mexican border has been certified as being "secure". When will that ever take place? Almost by definition, never.
Even if it were possible to confirm that not one single brown skinned Mexican or Central American had entered the US without authorization in any given year, there would always be the chance that someone would somehow manage to get through without permission in some future year. The border can never be "completely" secure.*
But the "Framework" provides:
"We will demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combatting visa overstays by requiring our proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card." (Emphasis added.)
What does this gobbledygook mean? It means that anyone who is granted "probationary legal status" (i.e. relief from deportation and a work permit) will have to wait for a green card until the impossible dream (not DREAM) of securing the border and making sure that all unauthorized workers are fired (through increased employment verification) actually comes about.
However, let us assume that this retrictionist utopia is actually realized one day. Then, some of the 11 or 12 million unauthorized people who have managed to comply with the"tough but fair" requirements for "probationary" legal status will finally get their green cards, right?*
Sure they will *- but, according to the Framework, they"will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received their [sic] green card."
And when will that be, exactly? Just how long is this "line"? A good answer can be found in the February, 2013 visa bulletin. Look under Family Fourth Preference (petition by a US citizen sibling) for the Philippines. The current priority date is June 1, 1989 - a waiting period of almost 24 years! Another classic restrictionist mantra: "Get into (a nonexistent) line if you want full legal status" has been adopted in this manifesto.
Who won the election, anyway? Did 70 percent of Latino votes go to Republican immigration restrictionists? One might think so, looking at this Framework.*But at least the Framework would make some improvements in the legal immigration system, would it not? We should not be so sure. My next blogging will examine further whether this is a Framework for immigration reform, or a Framework for a bipartisan immigration sellout.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.