Since losing the 2012 elections, in part due to lackluster support from minority voters, the GOP has decided it needs to make immigration reform a key issue and do more than propose building a big fence.
Republican Senators McCain, Rubio, Graham, and Flake joined Democrats Schumer, Durbin, Bennet, and Menendez in months of negotiations to come up with a piece of legislation that might have a chance of getting through Congress.
Democrats had long been proponents of a path to citizenship along with some degree of amnesty for entering the country illegally. Most Republicans countered this idea, believing that transition from illegal to legal immigrants should be more difficult than following legal channels in the first place. So after all this time what have they come up with to present to Congress?
On Tuesday they unveiled this plan, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. However, it seems more like an obstacle course than a path. For a person living in the United States illegally to start this journey to legality, they would have to first pay a fine for their transgressions. After that, they would fill out the necessary applications along with paying another fee. Then, they would have to undergo a thorough background check. After however long it takes to process all this, that person may then qualify for a work permit.
In order to apply for full citizenship, someone would have to live and work in the US for at least 10 years under the work permit program. During this time, they would be ineligible to receive any federal assistance, such as food stamps, welfare, or Medicaid to make sure that these people can make it on their own and do not end up as the dreaded “moocher class” we hear so much about.
Despite the onerous barriers to this path, Republican Senators seem to believe that any path to citizenship for illegals would attract more illegal border crossing. After all, what poor immigrant doesn’t want to pay two fees to possibly be allowed to toil as a second-class, low-wage worker for years? So to stem the tide, the right wing faction of the bipartisan group called for stricter border control to the tune of $6.5 billion in Department of Homeland Security funding for border patrol enforcement and, you guessed it, more fences.
Other enforcement mechanisms in the bill include the requirement that a government system is put into place to allow employers to run a photo check on perspective immigrant workers, verifying their work permits as well as a system that could track legal immigrants to make sure they do not overstay their welcome after their visa expires. These programs, along with the beefed up border security, would have to be implemented before anybody could even start to apply for one of these work permits to begin the decade-long wait for citizenship.
Basically, this proposed piece of legislation reflects the previous Republican solution of self-deportation, where the conditions that illegal immigrants have to work under are so bad that they go back home. Senator Marco Rubio insisted that the process be more difficult than the current system which requires illegals to leave the country and wait ten years to apply for a visa.
In the end, the only change is that now we’d have a way to keep using the cheap labor that undocumented workers provide while simultaneously punishing them for being here and dangling the hope of being an American in front of them.
To top this all off, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced the same day that this proposed legislation was revealed that he plans to move it through the House broken up into individual pieces of legislation, so don’t be surprised when nothing gets passed.
The House will probably shoot down the parts of the bill supported by the Democrats and the Senate won’t pass anything without a path to citizenship. Not that I’m a fan of this plan, but it speaks volumes about the state of Washington; that months of negotiation will be wasted because Mr. Boehner doesn’t know the meaning of the word compromise.
Evan Wilson is a junior studying Cognitive Science and Biology. For him, politics is akin to watching a car crash… you know something awful is about to happen, but you can’t really do much now, so you might as well enjoy the show.