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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is There Hope for the Passage of an Immigration Bill in the US?

The New York Times led with a headline today (prior to President Obama's State of the Union Address) that top Republicans in Congress were calling for legal status (albeit not citizenship) for at least some undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, I noticed that during the State of the Union Address this evening there were Republicans, notably Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who were clapping when President Obama talked about getting immigration reform through Congress. However, a more careful reading of the NYTimes article dampens (but does not destroy) one's enthusiasm for the idea that anything will, in fact, get through Congress this year.
With concern already brewing among conservatives who call any form of legal status “amnesty,” the document has the feel more of an attempt to test the waters than a blueprint for action. House Republican leaders will circulate it at a three-day retreat for their members that begins Wednesday on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Several pro-immigration organizations that have been briefed on the guidelines say they are not intended to serve as a conservative starting point for future negotiations, but as a gauge of how far to the left House Republicans are willing to move.
The principles say that Republicans do not support a “special path to citizenship,” but make an exception for the “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, quoting a 2013 speech by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,” Mr. Cantor said at the time. “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.”
On the Democratic side, a major question is whether those pushing for a broad immigration overhaul would accept any Republican proposal that falls short of full citizenship for immigrants who are now here illegally. President Obama has said he wants any new immigration legislation to include a path to citizenship for both children and adults.
My own view is that governance is about compromise, and if legal status rather than citizenship is the compromise that will get the legislation passed, and will bring people out of the shadows and into a position where they can defend their rights, then I think that's a good start. 

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