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  • Article: Immigration Reform in the 2016 Presidential Election. By Kevin R. Johnson

    Immigration Reform in the 2016 Presidential Election



    To this point, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Hillary Clinton have declared themselves as candidates for President in the 2016 election.  Others, including Sen. Marco Rubio (who has waffled on immigration reform), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush, are waiting in the wings. With President Obama's expanded deferred action program bogged down in litigation, immigration reform and border enforcement likely will be significant issues in the presidential campaign. 

    To this point, the Republican candidates seem to be firmly committed to opposing President Obama's executive actions and comprehensive immigration reform, putting few constructive immigration proposals on the table.  The lone declared Democratic candidate supports the President's actions and comprehensive reform.  All candidates to this point have at various times express3ed support for increased border enforcement, although the emphasis among the candidates differs to a certain extent.

    Hopefully, we will see immigration addressed constructively in the primary campaigns.  The last campaign seemed something of a race to the bottom among the Republican candidates, all seeking to appear as hawkish on immigration as possible. (Remember Herman Cain proposing electrifying the border fence?).  Time will will where immigration goes in the campaign ahead.

    Two recent events suggest where immigration will  be go in the near future.  It does appear that the President's deferred action programs, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, are in jeopardy if one of the current Republican candidates is elected President.   In addition, the furor over the President's latest actions on immigration will likely shape how the candidates address the issue in the campaign.  Unfortunately, at this time, the national discussion is shrill and may not culminate in congressional action on immigration in the near future.


    This post originally appeared on ImmigrationProf Blog. Copyright 2004-2015 by Law Professor Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

    About The Author

    Kevin R. Johnson

    Kevin R. Johnson is Dean, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and Professor of Chicana/o Studies. He joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989 and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1998. Johnson became Dean in 2008. He has taught a wide array of classes, including immigration law, civil procedure, complex litigation, Latinos and Latinas and the law, and Critical Race Theory. In 1993, he was the recipient of the law school's Distinguished Teaching Award.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      Professor Johnson observes that, "To this point, the Republican candidates seem to be firmly committed to opposing President Obama's executive actions and comprehensive immigration reform, putting few constructive immigration proposals on the table." This isn't a constructive way to view the Republican candidates. It has been 29 years since the enactment of the last comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included legalization programs (IRCA in 1986). Instead of criticizing republicans for opposing President Obama's executive actions and current immigration reform efforts, we should be looking at IRCA and what followed to find ways to meet the political needs of both parties. I provide my ideas on that topic in my article, "It is time to try a different approach to comprehensive immigration reform" (May 2, 2014), http://discuss.ilw.com/content.php?3...olan-Rappaport Do you have suggestions on ways to make comprehensive immigration reform acceptable to both parties?
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      With all due respect to my distinguished colleague Nolan Rappaport, I would like to point out that at the time of IRCA. leaders in both parties were genuinely looking for constructive solutions and a way forward on immigration reform. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. One of our two major parties has become so radicalized by its own anti-immigrant agenda that it is no longer willing or able to participate in a bipartisan effort to solve our immigration problems.

      I know that this is a strong statement, but look at the bills that are coming out of Chairman Goodlatte's committee. One of them would give back to the states the power to harass and persecute minority immigrants through racial profiling, mass roundups, desert tent concentration camp style internment, and terrorizing innocent schoolchildren that we saw in states such as Arizona and Alabama before the Supreme Court stepped in and imposed a measure of sanity in immigration enforcement in 2012.

      Goodlatte's bill is not an example of two parties working together in good faith to accommodate each others' legitimate objectives. Instead, it is an inflammatory throwing down the gauntlet of putting Sheriff Joe back in business, in order to appeal to the worst instincts in the American electorate - those of hatred and prejudice, in order to get votes. Nolan doesn't like it when I make these accusations against the Republicans (or at least some of the leaders who claim to speak for them), but haven't we just been through another egregious example of the use of hate for political purposes in the same party - the now failed Indiana law permitting discrimination against LGBT people on the grounds of "religious freedom"?

      If I am not mistaken, every single announced or prospective Republican candidate initially supported that law, until the nationwide outrage against it forced Governor Pence to retract it. In the same way, the fact that all the likely GOP presidential candidates, including turncoat Rubio (and possibly with the sole exception of Jeb Bush) are supporting a hard line, enforcement only, policy on immigration is a sign of caving in to bigotry, real or presumed, among their older, more affluent, white male voter base. Professor Johnson is right to be concerned about this.

      The only difference between the GOP's anti-immigrant bigotry and its anti-gay bigotry is the use of different code words: "border security" instead of "religious freedom". But the intent is the same.

      For the above reasons, the Huffington Post report that Ted Cruz, certainly one of the most extreme, if not the most fanatic of all, of the GOP's immigrant-haters running for president, has raised $4 million in the first week of his campaign, is more than a little disturbing. It shows that not only is the less discriminatory immigration system that America has known for the past 50 years in danger, but so is our democracy.

      If there is any lesson to be learned from Europe's experience with fascism in the 20th century, it is that when the rights of immigrants, or any group of people different from the majority, are eroded in any given country, the rights of its citizens, or its majority group, are also in danger.

      If radical right wing billionaire dark money causes America to elect a president who is committed to expelling 11 million immigrants of color from our midst, the rights of no American will be safe.

      The last hope for survival of our current immigration system against regression to the pre-1965 openly white supremacist one, as well as the survival of our democracy itself, may turn out to be that Hillary is no slouch herself at getting the billionaires to open up their wallets.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      Roger seems to be suggesting that times were different when IRCA was introduced, that the two parties were more cooperative then, genuinely looking for constructive solutions and a way forward on immigration reform. In fact, IRCA was introduced initially in March 1982. It took six years of hard work to pass IRCA!

      "Opposition to the legislation came from a spectrum of powerful interest groups. Immigrant advocates argued that IRCA would lead to increased discrimination against Hispanic workers. Agricultural groups claimed that the bill's passage would deplete their labor force. Employers resisted the burdens of the new hiring requirements, and labor unions were opposed to a guest worker program in the bill that they believed would undercut U.S. workers and undermine labor protections. Privacy advocates resisted identification requirements that might lead to a national ID or government-wide databases." http://www.migrationpolicy.org/artic...s-legacy-lives

      Roger sums up his position by saying, "The only difference between the GOP's anti-immigrant bigotry and its anti-gay bigotry is the use of different code words: 'border security' instead of 'religious freedom'. But the intent is the same." That attitude makes Roger part of the problem, along with all of the other immigration advocates who choose to demonize the Republicans instead of pursuing the long and arduous path of trying to bring the two parties together. Like it or not, we live in a democracy. The views of both parties count.
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      In addition to the opposition to IRCA that Nolan mentions, there was also widespread distrust within the immigrant communities. Many eligible people did not apply for the IRCA green card program because they mistakenly thought it was a trap, not a genuine road to legal status. Toward the end of the eligibility period for applying, in 1988 if i remember correctly, the INS had to conduct a major public relations campaign in order to meet a target of having at least 2 million people sign up foe the IRCA legalization.

      Many illegals realized that the IRCA legalization was genuine only after it was too late to apply, and, unfortunately, many others tried to take advantage of it even though they had not actually been in the US before 1982. This led to the notorious LULAC litigation, which, regrettably, opened the door to a torrent of false claims, many of which took years or decades to resolve.

      Nolan accuses me of demonizing the Republicans, which would make an agreement on immigration reform impossible. I am not demonizing anyone. In my previous comment, I only gave a summary of one of the immigration bills which House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) is promoting. This bill, by taking the extreme step of overturning the Supreme Court decision Arizona (2o12), and putting some of the most extreme immigrant persecutors such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio back in business at the state level, is meant to deal a mortal blow to any hopes of finding a good faith compromise on immigration reform. If Nolan has a different analysis of the Goodlatte bill from mine, I woukd look forward to his sharing it with us.

      So, one might add, is the malicious, meretricious lawsuit by 26 Republican controlled states seeking to overturn the presidents' DAPA and DACA extension initiatives. The fact that this lawsuit has had some initial success with an overtly biased anti-immigrant federal judge does not make it legitimate. The reality is that the Republicans are making the expulsion of 11 million mainly Hispanic immigrants the linchpin of their immigration policy.

      Nolan may regard that as a sign of willingness to compromise on immigration in order to accommodate the interests of both parties. I regard it as an exercise in using hate and prejudice to gain political capital, just as the Republicans have been trying, and failing, to do with their recent attempts at enacting anti-gay bigotry into law using the specious and trumped up grounds of "religious freedom" as a pretext.

      This, I might add, is not only a calculated insult to America's LGBT communities, but also to millions of sincere religious believers who regard their faith as a force for goodwill and tolerance toward their fellow human beings.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
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