Thursday, November 13, 2008

Contradictions of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

NDN, the successor organization to the New Democratic Movement, believes that Latinos and citizen immigrants are a critical part of a new Democratic coalition that will ensure a Democratic majority for decades.

NDN, through its Hispanic Strategy Center, supports comprehensive immigration reform as a kind of quid pro quo for the party loyalty of the Latino/immigrant voting bloc.

 Typical of well-heeled advocacy groups in Washington, DC, NDN commissions polls to support its political convictions. NDN, headed by Simon Rosenberg, commissioned a pre-election poll to support its contention that there is widespread public support for comprehensive immigration reform, particularly among Latinos and especially in swing states. But what is comprehensive immigration reform?

 For immigration restrictionists, it is a code liberals and the “open-borders lobby” use for “amnesty.” They’re right, minus their own labeling. Pro-immigration groups regard legalization as the central policy in comprehensive reform. When they call for comprehensive reform, they are calling for a “pathway to citizenship” for unauthorized immigrants.

Clearly, the issue of the fate of 11 million illegal immigrants who’ve made their homes in the United States is what makes comprehensive immigration reform so contentious. Rather than simply dealing with the issue straight-on, legalization supporters have included this explosive issue within a larger package in hope of winning necessary political support for legalization.

By including border security and immigration law enforcement measures with the package, legalization advocates hope to pull in moderate and conservative Democrats as well as a sprinkling of Republicans (enough so they can call it a bipartisan effort). By including proposals for expanded temporary and guestworker programs, they hope to win support from business.

And by including provisions for family reunification visas, they seek to guarantee and deepen support among immigrant communities (not just Latinos, but Asian Americans as well as others). Instead of a simple Immigration Reform Act, the latest comprehensive bill under consideration was the proposed Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

The inclusive nature of the bill – bringing in border control infrastructure and a complicated new guestworker program – represented the evolution of several comprehensive reform proposals (Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (2005), Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act (2005), and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006).

 The strategy to advance legalization by including it in a comprehensive reform of immigration policy and border control has led to bills that include an array of contradictory measures. On the one hand, the bills aim to close the borders and decrease immigration inflows. But on the other hand, they propose to increase immigration, both temporary and permanent, through new guestworker initiatives, high-tech immigrant worker programs, speeding-up visa processing, and new family-reunification allowances.

In this mix of “security” and “economic opportunity,” the proposed solutions for bringing immigrants out of the shadows through legalization have become increasingly more complicated and restrictive. The comprehensiveness of the bills may bring in some additional congressional support because of certain proposals in the mix.

But as immigration reform becomes more comprehensive, it also sparks new opposition, even from those who strongly support legalization. In other words, as the reform adds new elements, it sparks new opposition, as the vote against closure in 2007 showed, bringing together a bipartisan majority against the Senate bill. On Sept. 10 NDN released a poll that it said found “overwhelming public support for comprehensive immigration reform in key battleground states.” 

NDN, America’s Voice, and other pro-immigration groups now cite the polling by the Democratic Party’s in-house Latino pollster Sergio Bendixen to support claims that there is intense and widespread support for comprehensive immigration reform. But the question asked 500 people in four states (Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado) was not if they supported legislation to legalize illegal immigrants.

Rather it was if they supported comprehensive immigration reform. As the report on the polling results noted, “Different groups and individuals use the term “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” to mean very different things.”

In this case, NDN commissioned the Bendixen firm to defined comprehensive reform in the harsh yet expansive terms that it encouraged the Democratic Party to adopt in its 2008 party platform. Here’s the question as framed by NDN: “Would you support or oppose a comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens border security, sets up an employment verification plan, establishes serious criminal penalties for employers that hire illegal workers, creates a new visa program for 200,000 workers annually, substantially increases the number of family visas available for the immediate relatives of legal immigrants, and grants illegal immigrants conditional legal status for six years and then a path to permanent residency and citizenship if they meet certain requirements?” 

The poll showed that 66-69% of those surveyed in the four states (rising to 75-79% for Hispanics) supported such a comprehensive reform package. Legalization, rather than being a centerpiece of this package, is surrounded by other measures variously designed to appeal to different groups – border security and criminalizing hiring of illegal workers for those favoring enforcement solutions, and new worker visa program and substantially increased family visas for those favoring more legal immigration.

Rather than legalization, the package as defined by NDN provides only a highly conditioned pathway to citizenship – hardly a strong expression of support for legalizing the country’s undocumented population of 11 million.


Anonymous said...

If our government proposed a bill titled "Comprehensive Tax Reform", what would it mean? Of course it would mean massive tax increases.
Will Immigration Reform be any different? NO, Just massive increases in immigration and legalization of people who invade our country.

GnipGnop said...

'NDN, through its Hispanic Strategy Center, supports comprehensive immigration reform as a kind of quid pro quo for the party loyalty of the Latino/immigrant voting bloc.'

At least they don't beat around the bush. Ethnicity based patronage, quid pro quo, 'paying back', etc. Uh, pardon me, but what about what is best for ALL Americans? Who cares, it's the politics that count and 'permanent majority' is all that's on their minds. The scary thing is that to such people importing poverty is seen solely as a bottomless well of easy to capture new voters. They have zero concern about fiscal, social, or environmental implications--just winning.

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