New US immigration plans have serious flaws

2013-01-31 11:07
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Chicago - Both President Barack Obama and the US Senate have released plans to deal with the USA's weirdly impotent immigration system this week, yet neither is due to solve actual problems as the plans are weighted in favour of addressing political concerns.
It is a valid fact, proved time and time again, that the policies of immigration in this country are stringently placed in the back seat to the raw politics of it.
As I will demonstrate in this article, both plans sate political concerns for both Republicans and Democrats, but in the process dissuade illegal immigrants within the USA from joining the programmes so keenly being drawn up.
Initially, it is unlikely the president's plan will get anywhere near Congress, as it is up against a plan created by a group of eight Senators*, four from each party.

But there is a very serious flaw in the Senate plan: The entire execution of the plan is "contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays". In other words: Before any of the 11 million people in the US illegally can see their paperwork processed, the border needs to be secure. Who gets to decide this? Here's your answer:
"Our legislation will create a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when security measures outlined in the legislation are completed."

Papers please

Let me simplify that for you: "When the governors of the border states say so." – one of whom presents the possibility of being a severe stick-in-the-mud: Arizona's Jan Brewer.
(You may remember Brewer's name from the raft of legislation she signed into law in 2012, which included what became known as the "papers please" law and compelled police to check the immigration status of people suspected of being in the state illegally, without defining what that actually is. While the law says that race is not to be taken into account the Supreme Court of the USA has said that although it permitted the law to stand, it is keeping a close eye on it to ensure that brown people aren’t needlessly being accused of being in Arizona illegally.)
Arizona passed the laws under the argument that the federal US government wasn't doing enough to protect the border. Texas Governor Rick Perry and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez have made similar arguments, and this legislation would give them a massive bargaining chip when it comes to getting what they want on the border – an 11 million person sized bargaining chip.
But that's not even the largest problem these plans will face. There are two significant others.
Firstly, getting this stuff through Congress will take immense work as most representatives are under no electoral pressure to endorse such plans and will, in fact, be pushed by constituents to prohibit more immigrants entering: A common voter point-of-view around the world.

Stumbling blocks

While fingers will likely be pointed at Republicans in this regard, many Democrats will face similar pressure. People do not like immigration.

There is a glimmer of hope in that America's largest labour federation, the AFL-CIO, has backed these plans, thereby assisting the powers that be with the argument that American jobs won't be taken away.

There is, however, a significant faction that argues that allowing illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship is rewarding people who cross the border illegally.
Secondly, both the president's and the senators' plans will struggle to encourage all of the USA's illegal immigrants to partake due to fiddly legislation meant to keep the other party happy. Here are the numerous stumbling blocks therein:
Stumbling block number one: Because of this contingency on the happiness of officials from border states, no one is going to get a green card until all their concerns have been sated: And no one knows if that is even possible.
Stumbling block number two: The programme requires illegal immigrants to register with the government. The number of deportations and the common societal attitude toward illegal immigrants, which isn't pretty, means people are unlikely to register with the government en masse, particularly the government which has deported more people than ever before.

Best case scenario?

Stumbling block number three: Illegal immigrants who register with the government will be required to pay back taxes (they have been earning illegally, so this will somehow be tabulated), pay a fine for being in the US illegally, and will have to undergo a background check.

Naturally, anyone who has committed a crime of a "serious" nature (as yet undefined specifically) will not be allowed to apply for grounds to stay in the US. Logically, this means criminals won't register, and neither will people who don't have much money.

So initially people will already be weighing up the cost of deportation versus seeking to stay through this suggested programme – meaning at least a portion will choose not to partake. Also required to apply for provisional citizenship will be a history of employment as well as current employment: Unemployed people need not apply.
Stumbling block number four: Immigrants who have fulfilled all the criteria in stumbling block three will (hopefully metaphorically) have to go to "the back of the line", behind all the other people who are legally applying to become US citizens.

According to the folks at, the best case scenario (without being able to become a citizen through marriage to someone who is already a citizen or permanent resident) is six years, but could be as long as 16 years. That's great and nice and fair, but is hardly an incentive for immigrants to apply for the programme.
It is highly conceivable that in fulfilling the requirements for immigration reform to pass through Congress, it is damaging the lofty ideal of giving 11 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Each politically correct step is a step in the other direction when it comes to practicality.
*Michael Bennet – CO, Dick Durbin – IL, Jeff Flake – AZ, Lindsey Graham – SC, Bob Menendez – NJ, John McCain – AZ, Marco Rubio – FL, Chuck Schumer – NY.


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