Why The “Gang of 8” Immigration Proposal is Not Immigration Reform

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There has been much made of the Immigration Reform Proposal put forward by the “Gang of 8,” a bi-partisan group of Senators seeking to “solve” the immigration problem in which we find ourselves. President Obama says he support most of these principles.   But the solution proposed by these well-meaning Senators will not really fix our Immigration System, and this solution may very well make our immigration problems worse.

The “Gang of 8” is made up of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).  Potentially there is some really good immigration reform proposal that could come from these specific Senators.  What most folks don’t realize is that the “Gang of 8” has NOT introduced any actual legislation!  All we have so far is an “outline” of what they believe an immigration bill should do.  These good Senators propose a plan based upon four “Pillars:”

  1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
  4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

The first Pillar contains the backbone of a legalization and border security plan intertwined together in such a way, and with such a lack of detail, that it is entirely possible to read the provisions of the first Pillar and conclude that it is likely that any permanent solution to the undocumented situation could take decades to complete.   The first Pillar also includes a separate Agricultural worker “path to citizenship,” without any definition as to what that might be.  The first Pillar requires that any movement toward temporary legalization of the undocumented only start after a commission made up of elected politicians from the Southwestern Border states (perhaps these Senators have forgotten that Canada is not yet part of the U.S.),  advises on when and how the border is secure.  Another ill-conceived, but long sought after provision of the first Pillar is that of implementing the now infamous Exit/Entry Control system, seeking to ensure there are no visa overstayers in the U.S.   (yeah right, let’s see the funding for that one) Finally, the first Pillar completely ignores the DREAM act, and basically says to these kids who are in every way, except birth, Americans, you have to get to the back of the line too, even though it was not your fault you are here.   Each of these provisions of the first Pillar create an untenable and remarkably unworkable fix. What is clear from the first Pillar is that you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

The second Pillar, which focuses on making our legal immigration system what it needs to be to reunite families and assist in growing the American economy, is perhaps the easiest part of the overall plan.  The provisions of this Pillar calls for increasing the number of family and employment based immigrant visas (this is LONG overdue), and creates a separate path for permanent residence for those who graduate with PhD and Master’s degrees in STEM fields.    There is no mention of what those new numbers should be, or how long a wait is too long.  There is NO talk of fixing our broken non-immigrant visa system, increasing H-1Bs visas, getting USCIS in line on crazy RFEs on L-1s, and securing an investor visa system that works for entrepreneurs  investors and America.  

The third Pillar calls for “strong employment verification.”  Basically, every employer in America will have to use E-Verify.  Period.  To Congress, this is simple. To employers, its another burden and unfunded mandate. While many employers are willing to trade this effort for access to workers when they need them, they are not aware that the fourth Pillar does NOT get them those workers!

The fourth Pillar admits new lesser skilled workers and “protects workers rights.”   Supposedly.  The Gang of 8 is going to make American employers demonstrate that they have recruited for open positions before hiring an non-immigrant, something which is in place now. SO basically, they are reiterating that they will make the current H-2A (agricultural workers) and H-2B (non-agricultural workers) more usable, without saying how that is going to happen with an Obama administration Department of Labor which has consistently made these visas harder for employers, not easier.  

What we see from the Four Pillars of immigration reform from the Gang of 8 is NOT the Pillars that will fix our broken immigration system, assist in growing our economy or secure America into the future.  Rather, we see the elected politicians trying to kowtow to the same old anti-immigration restrictionists.  These are NOT bold ideas.  These Pillars are retreads, ready to blow up on the first big pothole they hit.

Where are the provisions fixing our immigration system? Where is the provision eliminating the 3 and 10 year, and permanent bars?  Where is the provision restoring discretion to our immigration judges? Where is the provision raising the artificial quota on the H-1B visa? Where is the provision creating an Entrepreneur visa?  Where is the provision eliminating per country quotas?  I could go on for pages like this, but you get the idea.  

Word on the street is that a bi-partisan group in the House of Representatives is drafting a bill and will have it introduced before the State of the Union Speech in two weeks.  We will see if our Congressman are better suited to lead here than our Senators.  If they all fail to lead out, President Obama says he will send his bill up to Capitol Hill and demand a vote on it.  But, oh Mr. President, why didn’t you do that four years ago, and what will your bill say?

I hold out great hope we will have immigration reform this year, I just hope it is an immigration reform we can be proud of.  A reform that will make America strong long into the 21st century.  We deserve that much.

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Charles Kuck

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