A group of bipartisan senators led by John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) has reached an agreement on sweeping legislation that will completely overhaul immigration laws.
Senators endorsing the new principles:
- Charles Schumer (D-NY)
- Dick Durbin (D-IL)
- Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
- Michael Bennett (D-CO)
- John McCain (R-AZ)
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
- Marco Rubio (R-FL)
- Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Rubio has been preaching immigration reform to the GOP since 2011. His advice fell on deaf ears until November 6th. After losing the presidential election by a landslide amount of electoral votes, it was (finally) evident to the GOP that they were never going to win another election if they continued to alienate the Hispanic population. John McCain is on board:
“What’s changed, honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle – including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle – that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” McCain said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
“I think the time is right. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that,” he said. (Miami Herald)
McCain said change also is needed because:
We can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were born here, who were brought here by their parents when they were small children, to live in the shadows, as well. (Reuters)
In an opinion piece in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, Rubio said that what we currently have is a “de facto amnesty” and that both sides should want this “common-sense reform”:
As a nation of immigrants, Americans know how important immigration has been throughout our history. It’s an indispensable part of our future.
Sadly, our immigration system is broken, and our dysfunctional Congress has been unable to put in place a new legal immigration system that honors our heritage as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. To do this, we need to address three key areas.
John McCain, who collaborated with Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy on the McCain-Kennedy bill of 2007, has been working for years on immigration reform. The legislation was pushed by President George W. Bush in 2007, but failed in the Senate due to lack of GOP support. In case they think we’ve forgotten who opposed the 2007 bill, I’m providing a complete list of who voted for and who voted against the bill. It will be entertaining to watch lawmakers who gave an absolute NO in 2007 become suddenly excited in 2013. One notable “NO” was Mitch McConnell. I wonder how much he has “evolved”
since November 6th over the years?
What the proposed changes are expected to cover (some short-term goals, some long-term goals):
- Border security
- Guest workers
- Employer verification
- A path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants and their families who are already in the country
- Agricultural workers program that will allow the U.S. to bring in seasonal and long-term laborers that who will provide the agricultural industries with workers
- Visa programs to attract entrepreneurs, investors, and highly skilled workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (so now we’re not just helping the ones who are here, but we’re recruiting new immigrants, eh?)
- Improvements in law enforcement
- Addressing the immigrants who are already living and working in the U.S.
- Finding, arresting, and deporting immigrants who have committed serious crimes
In his Las Vegas Review-Journal article, Rubio stressed the importance of family:
None of this should lead us to abandon or undermine family-based immigration. That is how my parents came to America legally, and how a great many new Americans join our society every year. Family unification should remain a high priority alongside the nation’s economic interests.
Expected changes will also be in enforcement of any new immigration laws, Rubio said:
A second key area is improving our law enforcement. Every nation has a right to protect its sovereignty by enforcing its immigration laws. We must attain operational control of our borders, create an effective workplace enforcement mechanism, and make sure that visitors to our nation leave our country when they’re supposed to.
Rubio acknowledged that illegal immigrants broke the law by coming here illegally, but he recognizes that most did so to pursue a better life for their families. He also stressed that since they are already here, they should be integrated into the American society and culture:
Most of those who are undocumented are not dangerous criminals. But most are also not victims. They knowingly broke our immigration laws and do not have a legal right to remain here. But they are also human beings who made those choices in pursuit of a dream we recognize as the American dream.
The best thing for our country is to deal with this issue in a humane but responsible way that ensures this never happens again – not because anyone has a “right” to reside here illegally, but because, with or without documents, most of them are here to stay.
We can’t round up millions of people and deport them. But we also can’t fix our broken immigration system if we provide incentives for people to come here illegally – precisely the signal a blanket amnesty would send.
Instead, the first step should be to require those who have not committed any felonies and are assimilated into America, to have the opportunity to apply for temporary non-immigrant status. To receive this status, they will have to come forward, admit wrongdoing, undergo a background check and pay back taxes and a meaningful fine for violating our laws.
To keep this status, they must maintain clean criminal records. And they will not be able to receive welfare, student aid or any other federal public assistance. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
He also emphasized that special exceptions would not be allowed, but the new process will make things simpler:
Once our new enforcement measures are certifiably in place, they should be allowed to apply for permanent status – not through a special pathway, but through the new and modernized legal immigration process we envision. They will have to wait behind everyone who applied before them legally. And when their turn comes up, they will have to meet the conditions of the visa they apply for.
My children have two grandmothers who immigrated to the U.S. decades ago from Mexico and Cuba, and my children go to school with some amazing kids who were brought to this country illegally as infants and toddlers, so I watch immigration news with interest. My primary concern–and I believe that it’s shared by most liberals–is for our hard-working and family-oriented immigrant friends. We want to see them pursuing the American dream and working and living side by side with us as citizens or legal immigrants.
Seeing increased progress in immigration reform pleases me and should please all liberals and conservatives. However, I personally believe, as is evidenced by my own conservative friends and family, that many (many, many) of them will be unhappy with this and we must NOT forget that, three months ago, the Republican party had no intention whatsoever of embracing any sort of immigration reform. None.
Mitt Romney endorsed “voluntary self-deportation,” with the underlying idea being that if people
get hungry enough can’t work, they’ll go somewhere else, where they can.
Here’s the video:
Herman Cain–the number one contender for a brief time in the GOP primaries–made a “joke” about building an electric fence to keep immigrants (specifically Mexicans) out of the country. His “joke” included installing a sign on our side of the fence saying “it can kill you,” and the roaring cheers and raucous laughter of the conservative audience were deafening.
Here’s the video:
They weren’t joking, folks. We must remain diligent to the fact that they are only discussing and embracing reform because they know they’ll become extinct as a party if they don’t. This would have never happened had the GOP not had the huge wake-up call in the November elections.
Rubio has approached right-wing media talking heads with his ideas. Previously contemptuous to the point of cruelty, people like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Mark Levin are suddenly gushing over the idea of opening their arms to illegal immigrants. (Seattle Times)
- Hannity: “[Rubio’s ideas are] probably the most thoughtful” he has heard.
- O’Reilly: “We all want fairness, and I think your program is a good one.”
- Levin: “This is very fascinating to me.”
Wow. Whatever. If they think we’ve forgotten, or that we’ll allow them to exploit Hispanic people for their political aspirations, they’re really, truly, definitely living outside of reality.
A stark reminder of the fact that the GOP’s partisan tendencies will continue to rear their ugly heads is evident in the closing paragraph of Rubio’s opinion piece:
I’ve been encouraged by the support for these ideas I’ve found across the political spectrum, and my hope is President Obama will use his voice and influence to further this approach. However, if what he offers is a process for the undocumented that is more lenient, faster and unfair to those waiting to come legally, it won’t bode well for reform.
I hope he proves that he is as serious about solving the problem as I and many colleagues are. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What?! In other words “our way or nothing.” Good luck with that, Senator Rubio. We’re going to get immigration reform, and it is very sweet of you and your cronies to suddenly act like you guys want to help out, but if you think you’re going to take over the fight we’ve been fighting for decades and call all the shots, you’re delusional.
They are doing this for votes. We’ll accept that because, again, our primary concern is for immigration reform, and, personally speaking, it’s not my goal to cast a negative light on any efforts that will help our immigrants. We’ll be watching this process carefully, however. The GOP has a long path towards successfully capturing the bulk of the Hispanic vote, and it is my opinion that they likely will never gain enough ground to be the Hispanic party of choice. People don’t quickly forget the kind of discrimination that these good people suffered at the hands of GOP leaders as recently as three months ago.
President Obama will visit Las Vegas Tuesday to share his own vision. It is expected to overlap somewhat with the Senate efforts. McCain will make an official announcement at a news conference Monday afternoon.
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.