Immigration Reform on the Horizon

Posted on June 14, 2013

As we go to press, the U.S. Senate is debating SB 744, the proposed immigration reform bill. It is long and complicated — 840 pages so far — and amendments are pending. The bipartisan bill developed and proposed by the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate is a good compromise bill, addressing issues of economic need, family reunification, and a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. It is not an amnesty bill. There is a very challenging and expensive path toward citizenship for those who qualify, with several eligibility criteria to be met and penalty fees to be paid. The process takes several years for most families, but it does assure that qualified individuals can stay with their families in the U.S.

Raleigh Bailey
Article by Dr. Raleigh Bailey, CNNC Director and Research Fellow

A Senate vote is projected for early July. After that, the bill moves to the U.S House of Representatives, where it is unclear what will happen. If there is strong support in the Senate, then it is hoped that the House will move forward on a bill. There is bipartisan agreement that the current immigration situation is untenable and unresolvable under current laws.

There are some bizarre aspects to the proposed immigration reform bill, all part of bipartisan negotiations and compromises and leveraging of funding for government contractors. Title I of the bill, entitled “Border Security,” must be addressed before any action can be taken on immigrant visas. Title I requires adoption of a comprehensive border strategy to secure the border of the U.S. prior to implementation of other sections of the bill. Upon submission of a border security strategy acceptable to Congress, the next stages of the immigration reform bill will move ahead.

As legislators work on this bill, it is helpful for us to remember that they are only talking about the southern border, which stretches 2,000 miles across isolated deserts and mountains. Approximately 700 miles of border fence has been constructed at great expense to taxpayers. Other parts of the southern border are under surveillance with radar, drones, and other processes.

There are no requirements to build fences or otherwise secure the 5,500 mile border with Canada, the longest contiguous border between two countries in the world. Nor is there discussion about special procedures to secure the 12,383 miles of US coastline, most of it accessible by boat.

It appears that the border security issue with the bill is not really about border security, it is actually a barrier to slow down or block passage of an immigration reform bill, to provide cover for hesitant legislators, or to advance the business interests of government contractors.

We are in an era when communication knows no international boundaries. NAFTA unites the economies of North American countries, and corporations are international. European Union member states allow unrestricted travel of citizens between member countries. West African nations have similar arrangements.

Sometimes we have to make bizarre compromises to advance the political process. We should notify our Senators immediately what we think is important for our country, our neighbors, and our heritage.

If you are supportive of this bill, it is very important to call your Senators and register your support. Senators are reluctant to support it unless they sense constituent support. Senator Kay Hagan’s office number is 202-224-6342 and Senator Richard Burr’s office number is 202-224-3154.

– Raleigh Bailey

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