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  • Blogging: Why is a Pathway to Citizenship "The Hardest and Most Vexing Issue" for Condoleezza Rice? by Roger Algase

    Why is a Pathway to Citizenship "The Hardest and Most Vexing Issue" fir Condoleezza Rice?

    by Roger Algase

    Bloggings: Why is a Pathway to Citizenship "The Hardest and Most Vexing Issue" for Condoleezza Rice? by Roger Algase

    First we had the Senate Group of Eight, with its bipartisan, but limited, *"framework" for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This proposal would make legalization for unauthorized immigrants conditional on increased immigration "enforcement", which we already have to the tune of $18 billion a year, based on the figures for 2012. It also omits granting any immigration benefits to spouses in same sex marriages, and would require all applicants for legalization of unauthorized immigrants to go to the back of a very long (at least 24 years, but possibly much longer) line in order to receive full legal residence and eventual US citizenship.

    Then we had the president's slightly more immigrant-friendly proposal, which would not make legalization conditional on more enforcement (since he has already reached the logistical limit of deporting 400,000 people a year). The president's proposal would also provide green cards to spouses in same sex marriages. However, his proposal, like the Group of Eight's one, would also make unauthorized immigrants go to the "back of the line" in order to become full permanent residents.

    Even the idea of a long delayed eventual permanent resident status for unauthorized immigrants seems to bother many Republicans who apparantly prefer the idea of keeping unauthorized immigrants in a permanent legal limbo, where they are allowed to work and cannot be deported, but at the same time could never become full members of American society, with guaranteed legal residence and, eventually, citizenship and the right to vote.

    Now comes another bipartisan group supporting the idea of immigration reform which also has an ambiguous position on a "Pathway to Citizenship" for unauthorized immigrants. A task force led by Republicans Condoleezza Rice and Haley Barbour and Democrats Henry Cisneros and Ed Rendell, with other members to be announced. has issued a statement saying that it will also promote immigration reform, including worker visas, border security, internal enforcement and unauthorized immigrants, as reported in the February 11 Huffington Post.

    Exactly where will this group stand on granting full legal status to unauthorized immigrants? We do not know. Condoleezza Rice, according to the Huffpost (Condoleezza Rice: Immigration Reform Group Will Discuss Path To Citizenship), made the following statement to reporters on Monday:

    "I come with an open mind on this...I don't actually have an exact answer on this point because I think this is actually the hardest and most vexing issue. So I look forward to sharing views with other members of the task force,"

    Why is an eventual "pathway to citizenship" for unauthorized immigrants such a "vexing" issue for Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Republicans, even those who, like her, are considered to be moderates? Is this because there is a certain "fundamental unfairness" involved in "rewarding" people who have broken the law by entering or remaining in the US without legal permission with a green card and eventual citizenship?

    Certainly, one might argue this, but are leaders of Secretary Rice's party, who, in the view of many Americans, may have been allegedly responsible for pushing the US into an illegitimate war through deception, and engaging in illegal torture, in a good position to single out unauthorized immigrants as people who must pay the heavy price of being barred from full participation in American society for at least a generation because they also disregarded the law? Which offense is more serious?

    How Interested are our politicians in either party in applying the full letter of the law to the big banks with their allegedly shoddy lending practices which almost caused a financial meltdown, to the big polluters who want to abolish the EPA, and many other alleged lawbreakers among the rich and powerful elite?

    Is "fairness" the real issue in immigration reform? Or is the issue rather the fear that legalized immigrants would vote for the Democrats if given eventual citizenship rights?

    What is motivating the Republicans who oppose the pathway to citizenship more? A sudden concern for the welfare of immigrants who are waiting for many years to come to the US though legal channels because immigration restrictionists have blocked attempts to make more legal visas available? Or is a party which depends in large part on older, more affluent white males for its very existence simply terrified by demographic change?

    About The Author

    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.

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. AILA Member's Avatar
      AILA Member -
      Is this because there is a certain "fundamental unfairness" involved in "rewarding" people who have broken the law by entering or remaining in the US without legal permission with a green card and eventual citizenship?

      Or is the issue rather the fear that legalized immigrants would vote for the Democrats if given eventual citizenship rights?

      Perhaps a mixture of both since both have merit.

      In reality, there is not that much more we can add when it comes to the eligibility criteria for illegal immigrant applicants (when compared to the eligibility criteria for lawful immigrants). Instead, the only real difference and the only real opportunity to send a message is to adjust the benefit received…. To differentiate it from the benefits available to those who didn’t violate immigration law.

      No matter how an amnesty is designed, there will always be those who do not qualify and they will just illegally enter the USA so we are sure to face this same problem again one day. Keeping citizenship off the table gives stability and safety to the current EWI population yet sends a message to the millions who may contemplate illegal entry into the USA at some future date.

      I have a feeling that any CIR will lead to citizenship, however I don’t mind there being a full discussion of other benefits that do not lead to citizenship. And I’m also interested in solutions that are acceptable to both parties, as I would like to see something done in the realm of immigration reform.

      In light of compromise solutions that might be acceptable to both parties, perhaps Congress should consider a new status for the 11 to 20 million EWIs currently in the USA known as “Limited Lawful Permanent Resident” status (LLPR status). LLPR status will usher in the positive aspects of having a legal presence in the USA, while also imposing some real - meaningful distinctions that differentiate LLPR status from traditional LPR status.

      1. The LLPR can remain in the USA, and live and work legally in the USA. This is the main goal of the typical EWI. LLPR status gives safety and stability to the EWI population, brings them out of the shadows, takes away the ability of unscrupulous employers to exploit them and ends the fear of removal from the United States. It also brings those workers and their tax payments into the system.

      2. LLPR status will not apply to the EWIs minor children that were smuggled into the USA when the child was under a certain age (Congress will have to determine that cut-off age). If the EWI parent(s) achieve LLPR status, then these EWI children will obtain “regular” LPR status. That means these kids will have the opportunity one day to become U.S. citizens if they choose to do so. LLPR status focuses the limitations on the parent who made the decision to violate the law, not on their innocent children.

      3. The LLPR can “never” apply to become a U.S. citizen. That means the LLPR will never be able to vote in U.S. elections. This should quell the concerns of those who don’t want to reward lawbreakers, who don’t want to see one political party get a windfall of new voters, and who understand how unfair it is to reward EWIs with the same status as those who have waited patiently in line for years to achieve LPR status.

      And finally…
      4. The LLPR can never file a petition or application to help a relative immigrate to the USA. This should quell the concerns by those opposed to the concept of chain migration. It will also keep the hopelessly backlogged family preference visa system from becoming even more backlogged. LLPR status is created to help the individual come out of the shadows, not to be a reward enabling them to bring in relatives into the USA who don’t currently live here.

      Now of course, there is no requirement that an EWI apply for LLPR status. If the EWI wishes to pursue already existing immigration options the EWI can do so. For example, if the EWI is successful in obtaining a waiver (stateside adjudication) for his or her unlawful presence in the USA and reenters with an immigrant visa, that EWI would achieve regular permanent resident status. That LPR may desire to become a U.S. citizen one day and would not be precluded from doing so.

      The LLPR limitation on citizenship and filing for other relatives only applies to those who chose to violate our immigration laws in the first place, who do not want to “now” follow the procedures currently in place whereby they could normalize their status, and instead would rather apply for a lawful status under an entirely new program we had to design due to the shear numbers of EWIs currently living within the USA.
    1. dmhk's Avatar
      dmhk -
      Mr. Algase's article cheapens the dialogue concerning immigration reform. I appreciate that everyone is entitled to his/her views, regardless of their motive or lack of merit, but other websites are more suited to partisan, inane vitriol. I expect that ILW can do better.

      Mr. Algase's criticism of the bi-partisan committee on immigration reform founded by Mr. Rendell, Mr. Barbour, Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Rice appears to be as follows:

      1. That Ms. Rice was involved in the decision to go to war in Iraq and related matters and thus, in Mr. Algase's view, she is in no position to opine on unauthorized immigrants.

      2. The 'full letter of the law" has not been applied in other sectors of society, such as Wall Street, and thus should not be applied to unauthorized immigrants.

      Regarding point 1, former Governors Ed Rendell and Haley Barbour are each widely perceived as effective governors of their respective states. Henry Cisneros was a successful mayor, and then a member of the Clinton administration. Ms. Rice was a senior official at Stanford University and then Secretary of State. By all appearances, each is very busy, and politically astute. None would volunteer his/her time or reputation to this committee if he/she thought another founding member of the committee is unfit to participate. None would participate if he/she thought the outcome would be the crass racial and gender based motives that Mr. Algase ascribes to immigration reform.

      Regarding Mr. Algase's point 2, there is an adage that "the perfect is the enemy of the good". The fact that some laws are imperfect, or imperfectly enforced, does not justify voiding immigration law, or avoiding discussion of immigration reform. In any event, the fact is that immigration reform is on the table. To claim it is not legitimate to consider is a "stick one's head in the sand" approach that is wholly unhelpful.

      Whether one agrees or disagrees with the content of the first reply to Mr. Algase's article, posted 2/12/2013 at 8:56, at least that reply is an intelligent discussion. Let's see more dialogue of that standard on the ILW website.
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