The groundwork is being laid for comprehensive immigration reform.
Counting on the support of the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.
The lawmakers are considering abandoning a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.
The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico(.)
For those of us who believe in public policy driven by the desire to lift people up and not driven by nativism, xenophobia, and racism, this is great news. Of course, we know that what finally comes out won’t look quite like us, but setting the bar high now makes it possible for something reasonable to come out in the end. To his credit, President Bush supports comprehensive reform.
The lack of reform is supposedly what drove cities like Hazleton and Escondido, CA, to impose their own regressive immigration ordinances. If Congress can get this done, it takes that excuse away. (As an aside, it is worth noting that Escondido- which was like the West Coast version of Hazleton- decided not to enforce its ordinance.)
I gave a talk to a small group of young people a few months ago, and someone asked me what one issue we’re working on really drives me. I said immigration because I’m troubled by the shape of the debate. Afterwards, one of the adult volunteers asked how I could reconcile our position on immigration with the fact that undocumented immigrants have broken the law. I told her that the Constitution does not exclusively protect citizens but also protects “persons.”
I can’t remember what else we said, but there was one thing I left out. This is not a debate on letting people get away with breaking the law but is instead a debate on just how severe a violation of law this is. I could have said to this woman, “Millions of people break the law every day in their cars when they speed. How can we reconcile allowing them to continue to drive when they are putting millions of other drivers at risk?”
Good people who come here for a better life, who have strong family values and a good work ethic and whose only crime is the way they entered the country, deserve the opportunity to enjoy the full benefits of our country. It’s what has made this country great.
On a side note, I found this to be hilarious:
After the dismal showing (at the polls), House Republicans denied F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the departing chairman of the Judiciary Committee and an architect of the House immigration approach, a senior position on any major committee in the new Congress.
It’s a little shameful to take pleasure in another person’s misery, but if there is anyone who deserves it, it’s Sensenbrenner. He has been a thorn in the side of civil rights and freedom on immigration, Real ID, and the PATRIOT Act. The only positive thing that can be said about the guy is that he was a strong supporter of the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, but otherwise, he deserves a demotion.
Andy in H-burg