GOP Immigration Principles Contradict, Deny Basic Aspiration

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

If the GOP leadership has it’s way there will be an official immigrant underclass: legal, but ripped of the most basic aspirational ideal.

That, in essence, is what the GOP proposed yesterday in it’s one-page list of immigration reform principles. The list has the predictable GOP demands: a visa tracking system, preferences for high-skilled workers, workplace verification, stronger border security, a guest worker program. It also includes a path for legalization and citizenship for DREAMers. All of these are a sound step toward compromise; a good starting point for meaningful debate.

The trouble will come with the question of what to do with the 11 million undocumented who are already in the U.S. Here’s what the one-pager says:

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.

There’s a lot packed into that statement, some of it patented conservative points that won’t be too hard for Democrats to accept: back-of-the-line and fines and such. But the bit about “There will be no special path to citizenship … ” will be a problem. The regular process of legalization includes an option for citizenship after a determined number of years. So there’s noting special about it. In fact, what’s extraordinary is the denial of that path; so it’s not a negation of a special path, it’s the placement of a special roadblock. But that’s semantic wrangling.

The practical outcome of that line will have deep social, political and economic impacts.

The undocumented are already a sub-class of American resident. Legalizing them with no path to citizenship formalizes that class. It separates them from all other immigrants in history, and it separates them from the essential immigrant aspiration.

It’s an ironic idea, coming from a political party whose ranks have criticized immigrants’ lack of willingness to “assimilate.” And it’s also a brilliant political roadblock. The majority of those 11 million will tend to lean Democratic, if and when they become voting citizens.

But it’s a temporary brilliance, at best. The GOP may be looking at demographic trends when they make assertions like this, but they aren’t looking far enough. The roadblocked 11 million have kids, or will have them. And those kids will be citizens, and will eventually vote, and they will remember how their parents were denied.

On the other hand, it could a play to the fringes of their base, with the intent to walk the debate toward eventual citizenship for the undocumented. Right?

Then again … nah.

[Photo by House GOP]

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