Immigration Reform: Good Politics and Good Policy for the Dems

Over the past few weeks, I've been arguing fairly strenuously against the Democrats embracing the type of faux-bipartisanship so desperately sought by the Beltway media (here and here, for example). In short, both the White House and the leadership of the Republican caucuses in Congress have acted in such poor faith in recent years and reneged on so many deals with Democrats only to use those deals to try to defeat Democratic members that there is little reason to place any trust in either of them during the 110th Congress. But there are some exceptions to this rule, including immigration reform. And as Rachel L. Swarns reports for The New York Times today, it appears that things might be moving towards a deal on the issue.

Counting on the support of the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.

The lawmakers are considering abandoning a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, a law championed by Republicans that passed with significant Democratic support.

The details of the forthcoming immigration reform packages are still a bit hazy, in part because they have not necessarily been hammered out yet and in part because the bills' proponents are not likely interested in completely laying out their legislation to the public yet. That said, the ideas floating around -- allowing most of those here illegally to have a path to citizenship while removing much of the complicated and not easily implemented tiering (which would divide the  undocumented into categories based upon the length of time they have been in the country) from previously passed Senate legislation -- make for both good policy and good politics.

With regards to policy, it's not clear to me that a Democracy can thrive in the long term wth a permanent underclass of non-citizens living in their midst, whether or not such a situation is allowed under the law. And while legislation creating a path to citizenship for those here illegally today might not wholly alleviate this problem, it will move us much closer to attaining equity under the law for all of the inhabitants of this country.

On the politics side, there are a number of reasons why the Democrats should move forward with immigration reform legislation that would allow for the more than 10 million illegal immigrants to have an arduous, though passable path to citizenship. Two in particular stand out. First, many of these immigrants would likely become Democratic voters in future elections. Second, even bringing up immigration reform (and not necessarily even passing it) would put John McCain in a terribly difficult situation. Though he believes in passing a bill along these lines, which helps him position himself as a moderate and a maverick, joining in the effort to pass this legislation would put him in a tough spot with Republicans, particularly Republican primary voters, making it that much more difficult for him to either gain the Republican nomination or to run in a general election as even somewhat independent.

So once we get past the early stages of the 110th Congress and there have been significant efforts to pass the cornerstones of the Democratic platform, Congressional Democrats should try to make a serious pass at reforming America's immigration policy. Whether or not it ends up enacted into law, such a move will be a net positive for the Democratic Party.

Tags: 110th congress, Democrats, immigration, Immigration Reform (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Re: Immigration Reform: Good Politics and Good Pol

Giuliani:

Mayor Giuliani is wading into the debate over America's immigration policy with the argument that the comprehensive approach being pursued by the Senate is better for American security than what he called the "punitive" approach being pressed by the House of Representatives.

Romney's hypocricy for using undocumented workers literally in his own backyard while doing his best to court the xenophobes has been documented. So has his utter mushiness:

Romney said Wednesday he wants to learn more about the details of the sweeping immigration reform measure that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

"I'm not sufficiently aware of all the details of that bill to speak on that specific piece of legislation -- and I don't do that in my own state either," he said.

The legislation's most controversial provision would put millions of undocumented workers on a path toward citizenship if they met certain requirements. Some critics say the bill is tantamount to an amnesty program rewarding those who entered the country illegally.

Romney refused to comment specifically on the measure. Instead, he stressed he does not support "amnesty or amnesty-like" legislation.

"I don't want to see something .... that encourages people to come here illegally because they think that in the future everything's going to be forgiven and they will be able to stay here," said Romney.

The governor said he wants to see reforms that encourage illegal workers to register with the government, pay taxes and apply for citizenship.

"I don't believe in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country," he said.

Bottom line: he may gain in the primary but will be that much easier for us to defeat in the general.


The Hispanic Vote:

John Zogby says it better than I can:

And what about the Hispanic vote? Will Democrats regain their traditional footing among the nation's largest minority (as they did in 2006) or will Republicans rebound from their 2006 beating among Hispanics (only 30%, according to exit polls) and get back to the significant inroads they had made among this group which includes so many social conservatives?

This is no small question. Just to put things in context , consider these figures: Hispanics were 5% of 95 million voters in 1996, 6% of 105 million voters in 2000, and 8.5% of 122 million voters in 2004. With a highly competitive election in 2008 and a heavy voter registration drive, we could be looking at an electorate that includes a Hispanic component amounting to 10% of 130 million voters in 2008.

Republicans took a drubbing among Hispanics this year. From George Bush's 40% share in 2004, the Republicans managed only to garner only 30% this year. Just think what that means in the context of huge growth in the numbers Hispanic voters. For 2008 that could mean a decline of 1.3 million Hispanic Republican votes in elections that have been won and lost by mere hundreds and thousands of votes. The impact could be particularly significant in such key competitive states like Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado, all of which include large Hispanic populations.

One key factor in Hispanic disillusionment for Republicans has been the party's right wing pushing for a tough position on illegal immigration. In the Zogby International post-election poll of 903 Hispanic adults, only 29% polled said they feel that the Republicans are better equipped to handle immigration. Twice as many favored the Democrats. More ominously for the GOP, only 30% said the Republicans represent the values they hold dearest.

[snip]

Will the Republicans undue this? Will Democrats find a way to solidify the support they gained in 2006? These are not just good questions. They may be the most important questions in American politics as we head toward 2008.

by demondeac 2006-12-26 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform

Will the unions support or oppose this compromise?  Is there any effort on the part of the Dems to work with the unions to arrive at a bill that provides a path to citizenship but also is acceptable to union employees who are worried about job security?

by pontificator 2006-12-26 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform

From The Times article:

Some powerful unions, which expect to exert more leverage in the new Congress, remain deeply opposed to the temporary worker program in the Senate bill. The unions say it threatens American jobs.

Officials at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. say they can scuttle such a plan next year, even though Mr. Bush and businesses say it is critical to ensure an adequate labor force.

I'm not sure if this means that they are in favor of legislation that legalizes these people but does not create a temporary worker program or if they would oppose immigration reform either way. I would assume the first is the case, but again, I'm not certain.

by Jonathan Singer 2006-12-26 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform

Change to Win supported the McCain/Kennedy Guest Worker plan - which I didn't think did enough to protect the workplace rights of immigrants and American workers alike


(read DMI's analysis here

the AFLCIO seems to be strongly advocating that protecting the workplace rights of immigrants is key to protecting Americans from wage suppression.

So many unions are dedicated to organzing immigrants, both legal and not. They realize that protecting the rights of all workers is necessary if you want to stop the race to the bottom. Marginalizing immigrants further only makes things worse.

by DMIer 2006-12-26 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform
Why does Change to Win, McCain/Kenndy or the AFLCIO  
need to protect/advocate for "immigrant" workplace
rights?  Isn't the topic here "illegal immigrants"?
by curmudgeon51 2006-12-26 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform: Good Politics and Good Pol

Jonathan, great post!

You should check out this DMI's op-ed on Guest Worker programs based on our immigration policy report.
http://drummajorinstitute.org/library/ar ticle.php?ID=6436

Our analysis shows that a progressive immigration policy that protects immigrants' workplace rights  and doesn't set up a two-tier economy is best for the middle class.

by DMIer 2006-12-26 11:03AM | 0 recs
There is a reason why

AFL-CIO and Working for Change split. Largely because the interests of SEIU split from the interests of some of the traditional trade unions over immigration.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story .php?storyId=4770471

This following question does not necessarily even make sense any more, you would need to define "union" much more narrowly that the modern reality.

"Will the unions support or oppose this compromise?" Some, and the fastest growing may well will, some, and some of these increasingly moribund probably won't. And given that those 'moribund' unions are exactly the ones that have brought in the best paychecks and so enabled the very existence of the union middle class, this is not exactly an unbridled Progressive victory. The relation between the emerging, and insurgent union movement and the historic union movement is not a simple one, there are worker winners and worker losers and finding common ground is not going to be easy.

"Newman!!" (As Sawicky would say.)

by Bruce Webb 2006-12-26 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform: Good Politics and Good Pol

Correct me if I am wrong; the way this works is;

1) illegally immigrants come to U.S.

  1. the Democratic Congress passes laws to protect the workplace rights of illegally immigrants and "allow for a path to citizenship", which results in ...
  2. more illegally immigrants coming to the U.S.

Why would anyone besides illegal immigrants and employers who benefit from illegal immigrant workers support this?

by curmudgeon51 2006-12-26 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Immigration Reform: Good Politics and Good Pol

Good news this. Creating a fair path to citizenship for the folks already here and letting the Republican xenophobes rave is the clear path to Democratic rule in the future.

The only measures that would actually reduce the flow of immigrants to the US in the near term are measures to help the economies of the sending countries, especially Mexico. I don't see either party doing that work.

by janinsanfran 2006-12-26 02:37PM | 0 recs

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