Tag Archives: citizenship

Immigration Reform: What’s Next?

It is safe to say any perceived progress toward comprehensive immigration reform came to a dead-stop the minute the Democrat-heavy U.S. Senate gave away some high-dollar, high-collateral items to the Republicans to gain their support for Senate Bill 744. The House Republicans not only sensed blood, they sucked it right up and made themselves political dead wood on the issue–with no reason to move, no reason to care. It’s hard to believe that soon after President Obama’s re-election, immigration reform was the top issue for him and “Latino outreach” became the task of Republicans. So much for that.

President Obama has been using the last five years to “prove himself” as an immigration enforcer to gain Republican votes in Congress. He’s funded and bolstered programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities to the point of throwing out almost 2,000,000 immigrants from the United States–a large portion being low-level offenders who didn’t even fit these programs’ description of “criminal immigrant.” And he and Congress have also bolstered detention policies and the private prisons who warehouse these folks. How’d that work out? Certainly not  well for the broken families affected by these policies.

Some of my lib-lab friends utilize the talking points well:  It’s the Republicans! I don’t argue that fact, but when it comes to deportation, it is President Obama who holds the keys to the deportation bus.

Certainly, Republicans knew exactly what President Obama was doing since they didn’t budge at all on the House side. If anything, the issue may still figure prominently in 2014 elections as Republican primary candidates try to out-hate each other on the issue. What will the Democratic campaign response be in 2014?

And while the national pro-migrant organizations (LULAC, NCLR and others) kept their talking points intact, all the while while turning their collective cheek to the mass deportations, mass human warehousing, and general indifference of both sides of the aisle, it was the immigrant-activist community whose message seemed to be strengthening:  Stop the deportations. The question that goes unanswered is if there is agreement on taking anything less than a path to citizenship.

According to the latest Pew Hispanic Center polling, 55% of Hispanics now favor deportation relief over a shot at citizenship. Given that Hispanics make up 3/4 of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, this is a significant trend. And according to the experts at Pew, it is this trend that could cause a major shift in the immigration debate–one that could allow piecemeal legislation and other compromises. That’s if the Republicans don’t feel the need to try to milk the issue for what it is worth to them in the GOP primaries.

According to Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition, a piecemeal approach is what is going to happen.

Walking away with nothing is not an option for us; “citizenship-or-nothing” is not an option. We can’t ask our communities to wait for “citizenship” while we see our mothers, our fathers being separated from their children. Citizenship is our ultimate goal but we cannot let it become a hardline that poisons bipartisanship.

This year we have a real opportunity to secure our first victory; a victory that will allow us to live and work freely, to travel and see our family members we left behind. Rest assure the next day, we will be ready to work and fight for the next victory, including a path to citizenship. Let’s, however, get our first win 2014.

Ultimately, a piecemeal package may not spell political victory for either political party.

If the immigration bill dies, a plurality of Hispanics (43%) and Asian Americans (48%) say they would mostly blame Republicans in Congress. But sizable minorities of each group—34% of Hispanics and 29% of Asian Americans—say they would hold Democrats in Congress and/or President Obama mainly responsible.

I would think that simple deportation stops wouldn’t give an edge to either Party at this point. Political promises and niceties from both political parties have failed as campaign tactics, given Hispanic numbers tanking for President Obama and achieving new lows for Republicans. For those Hispanics who continue to have faith in their vote, or perhaps aren’t single issue voters (folks like me), I’m sure they will continue to be engaged at some level. But breaking down immigration reform (and the Hispanic community) to the point of accepting only deportation relief is concerning–at least for folks like me.

To me, there is nothing more important than citizenship–the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Although it is understandable that those who live in the shadows and fear detention and deportation want some sort of relief, I fear the formation of, for lack of a better term, a legalized sub-class of people will only be detrimental to our democracy. Sure, it may be a boon to our tax system at all levels, and to our economy, but eleven million people in a tax-paying, non-voting class all to themselves does not help further public policy that benefits our country, our states, and our local governments. If anything, it allows those who make the rules (on both sides of the aisle) to run roughshod over these folks–and any other group with a similar demographic make-up, yet, are citizens and voters.

Unfortunately, President Obama has now given a tentative “OK” to a piecemeal approach that the Republicans have been pushing, and the pro-migrant, national Latino groups will soon follow or get out of the way. Given the image of victory will be those groups led by immigrants who are asking for deportation relief, while Republican politicians will say, “Well, we’re just doing what they asked for.” In other words, Republicans will support anything but citizenship if they were to go along with this. That’s the even bigger question:  Will Republicans go along with it? Or will Tea Party bigotry be the victor, again?

I’ve been writing about immigration reform since I started this blog. My entire intent was not to become an “immigration blogger,” but what made me driven as a supporter of immigration reform was that citizenship was the end-game. At this point, deportation relief may bring a sigh of relief to a certain extent–depending on what the parties agree to–but a lack of a path to citizenship and whatever else the Republicans tack on which will limit the rights of this new legalized sub-class is not a workable solution, in my opinion. Some will call it a step toward citizenship (to be achieved in another 10? 20 years?), but what is the reality? How will the private prison and jail industry be appeased? And how will local law enforcement agencies who defend 287(g) and SCOMM move forward? There are a lot of unanswered questions as to how “deportation relief” will be defined in the end.

So, a new question is being asked:  Will we have something in 2014?

It’s hard to tell when even Professor Larry Sabato stated on CNN that this issue was a big loser in 2013 and that he didn’t expect much movement on it in 2014. And neither does my favorite policy guy, Robert Reich. Pro-reform Republicans, too. 

Obviously, we need to keep an eye on things. And, ultimately, the “pro-migrant” side needs to get its message straight so the rest of us know what we’re supposed to support.

Aura Bogado has a cool Prezi at Alternet about what happened in 2013.

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Does Rubio’s CIR Proposal Include Citizenship?

It never surprises me when non-Latino sites immediately praise Republicans who move a tiny bit toward a sensible immigration reform plan. The question to Republicans from pro-migrant advocates (and lefty bloggers) should always be:  Does it include a path to citizenship?

As I went through a power nap this afternoon with the MSNBC on in the background, I heard the terms Marco Rubio and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the same sentence, and that awoke me! Reading more on the direction he’s headed left me wanting a longer nap.

It’s all still very vague and the White House and Senate have yet to produce a specific bill of their own to compare it to. But while Rubio stressed that his plan “is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship,” he made clear that the legislation he had in mind would strive to ensure that the undocumented population is not left in legal limbo indefinitely. Given that Rubio has toyed with bills that might have stopped short of citizenship before, this is a significant move.

And I call it a move toward announcing for 2016 with a kinder, gentler attitude toward Latinos, who only supported the GOP at about 27%. Creating a second class of people is not an option, just like creating multiple “temporary” work programs is not one. For Rubio and the Republicans, all it takes is appeasing another 18% of the Latino electorate to achieve a win.

It seems we all need a quick lesson on why citizenship matters, and the Center for American Progress provides us that lesson. And then, we must all push for citizenship in immigration reform proposals.

Here we review the top five reasons why citizenship—not just legal status—is of critical importance to our society and to our economy.

1. Big gains to the economy. A December 2012 study by Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins of the University of Southern California found that a path to citizenship leads to higher wages for naturalized immigrants both immediately and over the long term. Naturalized immigrants earn between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen, and peak at between 10.1 percent and 13.5 percent higher wages 12 years to 17 years from the time of naturalization. Higher wages means more consumer spending, and more spending means more growth for the overall economy. Pastor and Scoggins also found that even if only half of those eligible to become citizens do so, it would add $21 billion to $45 billion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.

2. Economic gains for the native born. Numerous studies have found that immigrants raise the wages of the native born—for example, by complementing the skills of the native born and by buying goods and services, all of which expands the size of the economy. And with even higher earnings after naturalization, more money would be moving through the economy. The $21 billion to $45 billion in extra wages would be spent on things such as houses, cars, iPads, computers, and the like, and as people buy more products, businesses see more revenue and are more willing to hire new workers. Put simply, more money in the system creates economic growth and supports new job creation for all Americans.

3. Certainty for both immigrants and employers. number of scholars working on the economics of citizenship have pointed out that naturalization sends a signal to employers that their workers are fully committed to life in the United States, while also giving immigrants the certainty that they will never have to worry about suddenly uprooting their lives and moving elsewhere. This certainty gives employers the peace of mind that they will not have to retrain a new worker—often at high costs—if the immigrant employee loses their visa or chooses to move elsewhere, and gives individuals the stability to invest in more schooling and more job training, both of which ultimately lead to higher wages and better careers.

4. A stronger, more integrated United States. Since the founding of our country, we have granted citizenship to newcomers and have actively worked to ensure that they are fully integrated into everyday life. Nations such as Germany that historically denied citizenship to many immigrants have struggled to integrate those individuals into society, leading to blocked social and economic mobility. On the other hand, in countries such as Canada that expressly view immigration as a part of their national and economic successstudies find a greater sense of belonging and attachment to the nation among newcomers. Our goal should be the full integration of new Americans, not the creation of a permanent underclass.

5. Forward, not backward, on equality. The United States was founded on the idea that we are a nation of immigrants and that we gain strength from diversity. Over the past half-century—since Congress removed de jure racial discrimination from American life with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—we have moved toward broader equality and a recognition of the power and strength that diversity brings to the nation. Instead of moving backward toward an idea of America as a country club that accepts some people as full members and rejects others, we must move forward toward greater equality. Creating a group that can legally reside in the United States but can never naturalize, can never vote, and can never become full and equal members goes against the very ideals that founded our nation.