Silver Spring The long awaited immigration “framework” for a bill to bring what was hoped would be comprehensive immigration reform made its debut in a late afternoon op-ed by Republican Senator Graham (NC) and Democratic Senator Schumer (NY). A woman working next to me on turnout for the Sunday rally and march for immigration reform turned to me and said essentially, “what’s a feeling beneath ‘underwhelmed?’” With more eye rolls and grimaces she finally mustered enough to say, “well, I guess some kind of bill is better than no bill at all.” Indeed, true enough, but…no one is going to feel any “love” in this bill as it stands now, so where will this bill find the passion sufficient to propel it to passage?
Here is the highlight reel: biometric cards identifying all workers in the USA; more enforcement of workplaces and the border; green lights for green cards for any tech-science types that we can poach from foreign lands after they have gotten doctorates from US universities; some bungee cord programs allowing corporations to snap blue-collar workers back and forth across the border as needed; and, finally, a “survival of the fittest” hard road to citizenship for some of the 12+ million people now in-country if they are willing – and able – to (1) say they are sorry for having come, (2) pay back taxes and fines, (3) prove proficiency in English, and (4) endure the wait at the “back of the line” for citizenship, oh, and needless to say, if they have any record at all, have ever been in gangs, or anything like that, then, so long! All of that is the upshot. No coddling of immigrants and undocumented workers can be found in this framework, and that is the point after all.
Remember this is the framework, few details allowed. Of the four pillars, as the authors call them, only one will give advocates any hope, and it is deliberately vague about many important issues like, what will happen to these “waiting” workers while they are “at the back of the line.” Will they be deported and then “called back?” Is there anything that will be offered to the 4 million people here with children born in the USA and now citizens already or will these families continued to be divided and broken up? 4 million people is not a rounding error that can just be lost on the ledger, but I didn’t see any splinter hanging in the framework to address this crisis.
Indeed, the promise made by the President to the advocates in the meeting last week was met. The framework did emerge. The White House issued a statement of “attaboy,” though the statement was silent and vague about the time line, which was high on the advocates list, urging only an ASAP kind of sentiment.
Perhaps as my young colleague indicated, something is better than nothing. Unfortunately, as we all know from the current health care “reform” lesson, if this is where we start, it is going to be the high peak compared to the valley where we might end. Gulp!
The only imaginable “game changer” now is the revitalization of a genuine mass movement among immigrants and their supporters and maybe even their employers that leavens the language with some justice and empathy to go with tough talk and high tech. It’s not over, until it’s over, and on Sunday we’ll see if the rally is a footnote in this legislative tedium, or a new chapter that restarts the real debate.