❄ Immigration Reform?
As I write this, there are reported to be White House and Republican plans for comprehensive immigration reform as well as a bipartisan proposal being negotiated among senators of both parties. Some Democrats have long urged that there should be a path to citizenship for non-citizens of the United State who are living in the United States but without a recognized immigration status. By contrast, among Republicans have been vocal critics insisting that such non-citizens be known as illegal immigrants or illegals … and that they must not be granted amnesty. How is it that there might be, despite an obstructionist Republican majority in the House, a basis for Congressional agreement to comprehensive immigration reform?
Pundits are quick to point to the Republicans poor electoral showing in 2012 among immigrants, especially those who identify as Hispanic. How to appeal to voters in 2014?
Whats missing from almost all accounts of this seeming convergence on comprehensive immigration reform is that in all plans now being trumpeted the provisions for a path to citizenship are actually voting delayed. Delayed for how long? For thirteen years … until—at the earliest—2026 or 2028. This is accomplished by stipulating, among many obstacles to be met and overcome before the immigrant may apply for citizenship, that the candidate first spend eight years (or ten) in an intermediate status (at the end of which the candidate would win a green card), at which point a five-year (or three-year) clock begins ticking until the candidate is eligible to be granted citizenship. Both calendars now being mooted total a minimum of 13 years from beginning to end. Why is this attractive to Republicans? Because it enables them to keep up to 11,000,000 immigrants off the voting rolls. In the years and months leading up to recent elections Republicans have pushed schemes to keep likely Democratic voters from voting: photo ID requirements, long lines in Democratic precincts, questionable exclusion from registration. Keeping immigrants from gaining citizenship is just another arrow in the Republican quiver.
Perhaps, with ingenuity, the Republicans can find ways to stretch the delay to citizenship. After all, some fraction of the estimated 11,000,000 will not survive to 2026, and thereafter the number of survivors will shrink, at a rate around 200,000 each year. Perhaps the Republican strategy is a plan for the long term. Or it might be nothing more than to use smoke and mirrors to hide the central driver of their comprehensive immigration reform, that is, to fool enough of the people, enough of the time.