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  • Article: Bipartisan Signals Show Lawmakers Are Seizing The Opportunity On Immigration Reform by Amanda Peterson Beadle

    Bipartisan Signals Show Lawmakers Are Seizing The Opportunity On Immigration Reform

    by Amanda Peterson Beadle


    After more than a decade of being overshadowed by other events and political causes, there is a distinct opportunity now for Congress to reform our nation’s immigration laws. Voters signaled in the 2012 federal elections that they were tired of enforcement-only immigration policies, record-setting deportations, and the senseless pain they caused by separating families. Now, it seems that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are coming together to figure out how to fix the broken immigration system.

    Lawmakers should seize this opportunity to craft a bill that reflects American values, supports families, allows employers to hire foreign workers, and creates a clear and fair path to citizenship.

    In late January, the “gang of eight” – a bipartisan group of senators – released the Senate’s framework for comprehensive immigration reform. They laid out an overhaul of our legal immigration system, including an earned path to citizenship, while expanding border security measures and hardening current employment verification procedures. Shortly after their announcement, President Obama presented a very similar plan, showing that the president and Senate leaders were on the same page about what it will take for immigration reform.

    Obama repeated his call for a comprehensive immigration reform plan in his State of the Union address this week. “Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants,” Obama said during the speech Tuesday. “And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” The responses to his speech, though, exemplified how immigration reform has become a bipartisan goal. In the Tea Party response, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called on his party to embrace immigrants. “We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.’” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is a member of the bipartisan Senate group working on immigration reform, delivered the Republican Party’s official response to the president’s speech.

    Senate and House committees are moving forward with hearings about immigration policy ahead of an expected comprehensive immigration bill. An early February hearing about immigration held by the House Judiciary Committee showed signs of common ground – despite attempts by committee leadership to paint an earned path to citizenship as extreme – so there are opportunities to break the immigration logjam in the House. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, several members said there is need for bipartisan action on immigration although there are still partisan divides about the details. But there is no better time for immigration reform, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when he asked if she had seen a better opportunity for an immigration bill. “This is the moment,” Napolitano said.

    As the Immigration Policy Center explains in a brief history of immigration reform,  the sheer scope of the immigration issues the U.S. is facing underscores that “the time for a genuine debate over immigration reform is not only much anticipated, but long overdue.” There are still many specifics that need to be ironed out, but Congress has a unique opportunity to pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan to overhaul our immigration system. Lawmakers should seize this opportunity to craft a bill that reflects American values, supports families, allows employers to hire foreign workers, and creates a clear and fair path to citizenship. That is what our nation needs.

    IPC AILF - For the Immigration Policy Center for Amanda Peterson Beadle

    About The Author

    Amanda Peterson Beadle is a Reporter/Blogger at ThinkProgress.org. She received her B.A. in journalism and Spanish from the University of Alabama, where she was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Crimson White and graduated with honors. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked as a legislative aide in the Maryland House of Delegates. In college, she interned at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, the Press-Register (Mobile, Alabama), and the Ludington Daily News. She is from Birmingham, Alabama.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. AILA Member's Avatar
      AILA Member -
      The only real difference between the eligibility criteria the President and Senate proposes and the eligibility criteria already imposed on lawful immigrants is the imposition of an additional filing fee. Those who lawfully immigrate to the USA must pay fees, must wait starting at the back of their line, must have background checks performed, and when applying for citizenship they must demonstrate some basic English skills. Saying “They must take responsibility for their actions” sounds good, but in reality there is no significant difference and a pathway to citizenship sends the wrong message.

      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.

      Perhaps the final version of CIR will include a pathway to citizenship, however there should also be a discussion and consideration of other benefits that do not lead to citizenship. I’m 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 their 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 to become U.S. citizens one day 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 help ease 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 help ease the concerns of those opposed to the concept of chain migration. It should 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.
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