Friday, January 16, 2009

The "More Effective Political Approach" for Immigration Reform

(15th in Border Lines series on Movement for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.)
How is the immigration reform movement working to ensure that comprehensive immgration reform (CIR) succeeds this time around?

They have a “four-pillar” structure that the Carnegie Reporter describes in a recent feature article: “Immigration: Reform Movement Rebuilds.” According to the Carnegie Corporation report:
“Now these advocates are using the sometimes painful lessons learned from their legislative battles to build alliances on a local and a national level and to bring together disparate voices. Seeking to overcome the hurdles involved in merging hundreds of organizations, several leading groups, including those who are cited in this article, have been working to develop a re-energized and re-focused structure that consists of “four pillars,” which center around: a more effective policy approach, more effective work in the media, a stronger grassroots effort better linked to the nationwide effort, and successful efforts to promote citizenship and encourage civic participation.”
Central to the policy approach are a priori demands for immigration reform. That the United States should have a liberal immigration policy that legalizes illegal immigrants and has an open door for new immigrants is the common assumption on which their policy advocacy is based.

This a priori case for liberal immigration reform perhaps best illustrated by the policy approach of the National Immigration Forum, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier immigrant rights organization.”

Its case for a pro-immigration policy and comprehensive immigration reform is crystallized in its mission statement: “The Forum is dedicated to embracing and upholding America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants.” Its slogan, “Immigrants Are America,” echoes the organization’s core belief: namely, that America was, is, and should always be a “nation of immigrants.” In other words, if we believe it is so and others believe it is so, then it must be so and should always be so.

They may be right, but they will certainly need a more effective policy approach if they are to convince the American people and Congress. But there is little sign that these immigrant-rights advocates are prepared to go beyond their beliefs and convictions to make a comprehensive case for comprehensive immigration reform.

One might think that after more than a quarter-century enmeshed in immigration policy debates in Washington that groups like the National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice (an offshoot of the forum), and National Council of La Raza would have a policy agenda that not only made the case for liberal immigration reform but also set forth specific policy proposals. 

But that’s not the case. Instead, what they offer are a set of principles that double as agenda items, including Reunite Families, Protect Workers, Give Undocumented Workers a Chance to Get Right by the Law, Restore the Rule of Law, and Promote Citizenship and Civic Participation.

But the more effective policy approach of these immigration reform advocates does include at least one new thrust – the campaign to discredit the restrictionist institutes as “hate groups” and an increased emphasis on instrumentalist argument that the expanding Latino electorate makes voting for liberal immigration reform politically imperative.

Meanwhile, as the immigrant crackdown continues, there are increasing signs that immigration reform is a fading priority not only for the citizenry as a whole but also for Latinos.

One can only hope that the more effective policy approach of this immigration reform movement is still being fine-tuned and that it includes convincing argumentation why liberal immigration reform is in the national interest – not just immigrants, not just Latinos, but all Americans.

Otherwise, this movement will likely be as marginal to the national policy debate over CIR as it was last time around.

Read Entire Border Lines' CIR article. 

Next in Border Lines’ CIR Series: The Latino Path to Immigration Reform

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