On its surface, the proposed "bipartisan" and "compromise" immigration bill looks to be an enormous first step in dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the country. As is usually the case, however, the devil is in the details. A close examination of the legislation makes it clear that the bulk of the benefits promised by the bill does not flow to the poor, unskilled workers from Mexico and Latin America looking for work in the US to support their families. An article in today's NY Times makes that quite clear.
To become full legal residents, under a compromise Senate leaders announced Thursday, ... immigrants would have to pay a total of $5,000 in fines, more than 14 times the typical weekly earnings on the streets here, return to their home countries at least once, and wait as long as eight years. During the wait, they would have limited possibilities to bring other family members. ...
The compromise Senate bill proposes an initiative to give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. It also portends a major shift in the priorities and values of American immigration for the future. It would gradually change a system based primarily on family ties, in place since 1965, into one that favors high-skilled and highly educated workers who want to become permanent residents.
In the future, low-skilled workers ... would largely be channeled to a vast new temporary program, where they would be allowed to work in the United States for three stints of two years each, broken up by one-year stays in their homeland.
... a slowly increasing number of permanent visas would be approved through a merit system, based on points granted for English language proficiency (an acute hurdle for the men waiting for work here, as none spoke English), level of education and job skills, among other factors.
Siblings and adult children of legal immigrants will no longer be able to apply for visas, and visas for parents of United States citizens will be limited to 40,000 a year. [Emphasis added]
In other words, the poor huddled masses are no longer welcome. We want other nations' cream for our coffee. President Bush, speaking yesterday in his weekly Saturday radio address, made that clear:
"...this legislation will transform our immigration system so that future immigration decisions are focused on admitting immigrants who have the skills, education, and English proficiency that will help America compete in a global economy."
So, the poor and unskilled get the privilege of working in this century's version of the bracero program, while those who will help the multinational corporations' bottom line will get preference.
Sorry, Senator Kennedy, I think you've sold out on this one.