The Slow Track of Immigration

What was once a fast track has now become a slow track stalled by its own over-reach, political reaction and re-reaction, public reaction and the turmoil called ObamaCare. The train on that track was a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

It, at first, had a bi-partisan shove, championed by Florida’s U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio. This push lasted for awhile, but the tracks weren’t exactly greased. Continued concern about stopping the flow of illegals over the border, executive movement to stop deportations, complexities of the bill, accusations of pork barreling and over regulation (setting wages for workers and declaring Nevada a border state, for instance), politics and ballooning number of pages (1,200), all combined to create opposition to the movement.

In spite of that, a Bill did get through the U.S. Senate pretty handily. The problem rests in the House which (the Republicans, that is) doesn’t want to consider the Senate Bill, but wants to create its own which, ideally, would go to conference and be blended or compromised into a new Bill. That’s doubtful. There appears to be support for  piece-meal rather than comprehensive legislation. That is, breaking the issues down into its parts: what to do about the 11 million (and growing) illegal immigrations already here; streamlining or at least reforming the legal path to U.S. residence; providing for immigrant workers, temporary and not so temporary; border security; and so forth and so on.

Border security gets the most attention although 40 per cent of the problem lies with people overstaying their visas. Businesses say they need workers now and that creates political support within the Republican party and, of course, with Democrats. According to critics, all this just means cheap labor. But, Democrats see votes everywhere. Plight of the 11 million, facing possible deportation although they’ve been here for decades and their children born here are U.S. citizens, is, in many cases, heart breaking. So, all these special interests combine to create pressure, although no solution.

One of the problems is the general public whose reactions are reflected in the fear of politicians running for re-election particularly where these issues aren’t in the forefront. The biggest issue is the existing unemployment which is reflected not only in the 7 per cent plus figure, but by the fact that the number of people working has declined dramatically. Also, people are concerned about stopping the inflow of illegals. I suspect that the issue of illegal immigrants getting citizenship gives people pause, but I also suspect that the majority are sympathetic. However, the strident rhetoric and sometimes actions of the more radical illegal immigrants and their representatives probably doesn’t help things. The Senate Bill, by the way, provides for a path to citizenship over a 13 year period. That’s not exactly radical even if it gets called “amnesty”.

Anyway, that is a quite short and shallow description of where we are now. Yet, it does demand a solution. Both Clinton and Bush failed to get support for a comprehensive plan primarily because people don’t trust the government to keep the scenario from repeating itself. That’s what happened under Reagan: amnesty, then a rebuilding of illegal immigration.

If the only track to dealing with these problems is to approach them piecemeal (although they are inter-linked), then get on with it. Setting the priorities then becomes the first debate. It has to start with the path to citizenship and stopping the bleeding at the border and elsewhere. Providing needed workers would be second. Whatever the approach, doing nothing doesn’t do the country or the people much good.

The item by item approach probably would be more transparent and palatable to the public who haven’t taken well to such comprehensive approaches as ObamaCare. Politically, the Republican controlled House appears to have gotten it right. Now they have to act.

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