By Robert Schlesinger |
Migration is about family. Only about 3 percent of the world's population chooses to migrate. Those who migrate do so in order to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, to ensure that those they love have the opportunity for a better life, or to reunite with loved ones from whom they have been separated.
The immigration reform proposal unveiled this week does little to recognize the human needs at the heart of the immigration process. But it does move us closer toward providing an avenue for regularization of status for the estimated 11 million individuals who are living in the United States without authorization.
Unfortunately, it does so by holding these individuals hostage to a set of security "triggers" (including meeting border security benchmarks and the institution of a national E-verify system) over which the applicants themselves have no control. It also comprises a philosophical shift in U.S. immigration policy away from family reunification as a central tenet to an emphasis on employment-based visa programs.
We should pass the gang of eight's plan because it is the most comprehensive immigration proposal that has had a hope of passing Congress in two decades. At the very least, it provides a path for citizenship for the undocumented, even if that path is long, curved, and torturous. It attempts to address the legal immigration backlog, which currently results in wait times of up to 20 years for family members attempting to reunite with U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, the bill throws billions of dollars at immigration enforcement on the southern border at a time when net Mexican migration to the United States is estimated to be at zero. And it treats the applicants for regularization of status as pawns in the quest to hold the immigration enforcement bureaucracy accountable to congressional will.
President Obama called this process one where no one is going to get what they want. That is true, and our democracy depends upon compromise among our elected leaders. But this bill reflects how far the pendulum has swung in terms of immigration rhetoric, and the degree to which "enforcement" is touted as a requirement with no examination of the evidence of whether or not our unprecedented investment in border security over the past two decades has paid off (it hasn't).
A truly comprehensive approach to immigration reform would take immigrants' humanity as its point of departure and accept that the United States cannot address this problem unilaterally. The gang of eight's plan does not get us anywhere close to what we need for meaningful immigration reform. But it will make a dramatic difference in the lives of the millions of unauthorized immigrants who are able to meet its stringent requirements. For that reason alone, our shared humanity should push us to support this bill.
About Lisa Garcia Bedolla Chair of the Center for Latino Policy Research
Mark Krikorian Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies
Luis Alvarado Political Analyst for CNN Español and Telemundo
Tamar Jacoby Fellow at the New America Foundation