By Teresa Welsh |
The so-called "gang of eight" in the Senate – composed of four Republicans and four Democrats – this week finally unveiled its long-awaited immigration reform bill. "We all met in the middle, knowing we would not please our entire constituencies, but the imperative of doing this is so important to the country that we had to get it done," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on the bill for Friday and Monday, the first step in what will likely be a long, arduous legislating process if it is ever to become a law.
Perhaps the highest-profile sponsor of the measure, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., appeared on the Sunday talk show circuit last weekend to preemptively defend the legislation from its almost inevitable detractors. "This is not amnesty – amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier," he told Fox News. "It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process I've outlined."
Under the plan, undocumented immigrants who were in the U.S. before December 31, 2011 will be able to apply for "provisional" resident status (after paying fines and back taxes), and eventually have the option of navigating a 13-year path to citizenship. Aside from young people – so-called DREAMers – who were brought into the country by their parents, no immigrant would receive residency or citizenship status until a series of border security requirements are met by the government. The bill would also create a new way for guest workers to enter the country.
One immigration expert told Reuters that the proposal is "a very smart, strategic and forward-looking bill." And some undocumented immigrants told the Los Angeles Times that they are pleased with the draft. "If this happens, it will be such a relief," one said.
But other says it goes too far or doesn't go far enough. "It is a good start, but some of the compromises it offers will continue to hurt American immigrant families, prolong separation and force some aspiring Americans to remain in the shadows," said the Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, director of clergy organizing for the PICO National Network.
So should the Senate pass the gang's plan? Here's the Debate Club's take:
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
Lisa Garcia Bedolla Chair of the Center for Latino Policy Research