In my January 28 comments, I pointed out two major obstacles to the ability of unauthorized immigrants to receive green card status (not citizenship) under the immigration "reform" proposal outlined by a bipartisan group of eight senators. The first of these obstacles is that no green cards would be given out until the various enforcement measures in the proposal are "completed".
How would we know when that is? The answer would come from a commission made up of border state governors and other officials who would make a "recommendation" about when the various "security" measures are complete. Who would be on this commission? Arizona Governor Jan Brewer? Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
Their "recommendation" that border security is "complete" and that it is acceptable to proceed with granting green cards to unauthorized immigrants would be eagerly looked forward to, no doubt, as long as no beneficiary of this "reform"plan holds his or her breath waiting. This is Poison Pill Number 1.
Then there is Poison Pill Number 2. Once this commission makes its recommendation that border security is "complete" (including drones), the unauthorized immigrants who have been languishing in "probationary" status, would now be allowed to receive their green cards. But wait a minute - not so fast! They would not actually be allowed to start receiving green cards, but only to go to the back of the green card line.
As I mentioned in my last comment, that line is currently almost 24 years long, based on the current waiting period for Fourth Family Preference green cards for the Philippines. True, the Framework outlined by the eight senators promises some reduction in backlogs for both employment and family green cards. But there is nothing about how this is to be accomplished, compared to the specifics about how there would be more immigration enforcement.
What is involved in the "probationary" status that would be granted to unauthorized immigrants during the nearly quarter century waiting period to receive real green cards (after the "security" arrangements finally receive the approval of Sheriff Joe or others like him, that is)? The eight senators do not say much about this. Perhaps Dante's Purgatorio might offer some guidance.
This does not mean that everything in the bipartisan Framework is bad for immigrants. The Purgatorio of probationary status is still an improvement over the Inferno of deportation. And no one is expecting immigration reform to be like the Paradiso. But, given the election results, it is disappointing, to say the least, that the Democrats in this bipartisan group were so willing to accept interminably long green card delays for so many people.
Let us hope that the president's proposal will be more balanced between benefits and enforcement, and that it will also contain more specifics on reforming the legal immigration side, which is also essential to any decent reform bill, and will be the subject of my next comment.Latest reports are that the president's plan, to be announced on January 29, does not link green cards to more enforcement measures being put in place.
Politically, as so often happens in Washington, each party may be more interested in having a bill fail and then blaming the other party for the failure than in actually passing one. If the eight senators' proposal fails to pass, the Democrats may be the winners with the Latino and other immigrant communities, because the Dems could argue that they agreed to a bill with many Republican enforcement-heavy proposals, but that Republican extremists still killed it.
In that case, in the next election, the Republicans' share of the Latino vote may drop from their already miserable 29 per cent to more like 9 percent. Then the GOP would really find out what the Inferno is like.
But on the other hand, if the senate group of eight's proposal is enacted, the Republicans might be the big winners politically. They could claim credit with Latinos for "supporting" immigration reform, while the Democrats would, with great justification, be blamed for selling out to the Republicans by going along with the GOP's poison pills.
All in all, it is incomprehensible why Senator Schumer and the three other Democrats in the group of eight were in such a rush to agree to this totally inadequate set of proposals. If President Obama had some real spine, he would immediately announce that he will not sign any poison pills, but would hold out for real reform which would not keep unauthorized immigrants waiting in limbo for their green cards for a quarter century or more.
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.