Thursday, January 30, 2014

House Republicans Have an Immigration Plan

USA Today and other media outlets report that House Republican leaders unveiled on Thursday their principles for an overhaul to the nation's immigration laws, which require tighter border security, more interior immigration enforcement and allow the nation's undocumented immigrants to "get right with the law" and stay in the country. The principles distributed to Republicans gathered for an annual retreat, say undocumented immigrants can legally live and work in the country if they register with the federal government and are "willing to admit their culpability." They must also pass a "rigorous" criminal background check, pay "significant" fines and back taxes, learn English and civics and prove they can support themselves without government assistance. The principles do not make clear whether most undocumented immigrants would ever be able to apply for green cards or become U.S. citizens. (For commentary on this aspect of the principles, click here.) But it does say that those brought to the country as children "would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents" and could eventually become U.S. citizens if they meet certain criteria.

UPDATE:  Here is a copy of the "Standards for Immigration Reform.

The "PREAMBLE"  reads as follows:  

"Our nation’s immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced. Washington’s failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security. The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America’s national interests and that is not the case today. The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them. But they cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand, and therefore, we will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill. The problems in our immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures. These are the principals guiding us in that effort."

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System


Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law

"Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."

The legalization principle is likely to be one of the most debated parts of the House Republican immigration reform principles.  As Mae Ngai has opined, barring undocumented immigrants to have their immigration status regularized and denied the opportunity to ever become U.S. citizens,  has a caste-like quality to it.  The regularized noncitizens would be denied the right to vote and forever locked out of the formal political process.  At the same time, it is a real benefit to the undocumented to have regualarized immigration status and not face the threat of removal.  We will need to wait and see how  the House Republican principle of "no special path to citizenship" plays out in the political process.

UPDATE (2/1):  Indicating room for negotiation, President Obama has not ruled out a path to legalization without citizenship in a compromise immigration reform package.


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