This Is Getting Interesting
Atlanta Journal Constitution. Click on image to enlarge and then return.)
I know, I know: I'm harping on immigration a lot these days. It's just that a lot of stuff is unfolding right now that I find quite interesting (and, truth be told, amusing).
First of all, in addition to the bipartisan group of senators who have crafted the broad outlines of an immigration bill, apparently there is a bipartisan group of House members doing the same thing:
A secretive group of House members from both parties is racing to complete an immigration bill in the next two weeks with an eye toward introducing legislation before President Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12, said two congressional aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The draft bill, written behind closed doors by three Democrats and three Republicans, so far includes a path to legal status, new border security measures and tighter restrictions on employers. It tracks closely with the blueprint laid out by the bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday, said the aides. ...
Congressional aides confirmed that along with Diaz-Balart, Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, are part of the group, with Democrats Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, and the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles.
Gutierrez said in a statement that he has been a part of “very constructive conversations with my House colleagues in both parties,” adding that he is confident that “we are poised for action and not just more talk on immigration reform.” He would not confirm that he is part of the group. ...
Like the senators’ framework announced Tuesday, the draft of the House bill allows most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country to apply for probationary legal status and contains border security and enforcement milestones that immigrants must meet before they can become lawful permanent residents. Unlike the Senate proposal, the House version does not set up a commission to certify that the border is secure.
One detail that has not been worked out yet between the House members is exactly how illegal immigrants who have been granted legal status will be allowed to apply for lawful permanent residence – a green card – and later, to apply for full citizenship. [Emphasis added]
As I noted yesterday, one of the problems will be sealing (or, I guess, "securing" is the preferred term) the borders. Who gets to decide that and what exactly do they mean. People noticed that little problem.
The fate of 11 million people could hinge on the interpretation of border security.
An immigration-reform blueprint by a bipartisan group of senators includes a path to U.S. citizenship for those who are in the country illegally. But the blueprint, released Monday, specifies that the federal government must first certify that the U.S.-Mexico border is secure.
Immigrant rights groups fear that millions of people will be in limbo until the security threshold appeases those dissatisfied with the border's status. ...
Pat Sexton, president of the Tucson chapter of the Arizona Latino Republican Association, said securing the northern and southern borders will keep out those seeking to cross illegally once word gets out about the possibility of legal residency.
“But define securing the border. That’s going to be so politically difficult to do,” Sexton said. [Emphasis added]
And now the president has weighed in on the issue, although what precisely he wants is still not exactly clear:
Details on how to achieve a pathway to citizenship still could prove to be a major sticking point between the White House and the Senate group, which is comprised of eight lawmakers - four Democrats and four Republicans.
Obama and the Senate lawmakers all want to require people here illegally to register with the government, pass criminal and national security background checks, pay fees and penalties as well as back taxes, and wait until existing immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line for green cards. After reaching that status, U.S. law says people can become citizens after five years.
The Senate proposal says that entire process couldn't start until the borders were fully secure and tracking of people in the U.S. on visas had improved. Those vague requirements would almost certainly make the timeline for achieving citizenship longer than what the White House is proposing.
The president urged lawmakers to avoid making the citizenship pathway so difficult that it would appear out of reach for many illegal immigrants.
And that's where we are right now.
What I suspect will happen is that a bill will be sent to the president. What I also suspect is that it won't have a realistic pathway to citizenship for those already here. It will be just enough for the GOP to wave their hands excitedly and to shout "Huzzah! See! We do care about our Hispanic Brothers! Now, vote for us!"
Because, after all, this is really what it's all about.