Wednesday, April 11, 2007

3 Days until Dublin Meeting for families and friends of the undocumented Irish in America

April 11, 2007
New York Times Editorial
Bush on the Border

President Bush went to the Mexico border in Arizona on Monday and showed once again that immigration is an issue he understands. He said America suffers from a system that exploits people who come to do jobs that citizens won’t do. He said the country needed “a practical answer” that promotes an orderly flow of legal immigrants, eases pressure at the border and opens a path to citizenship for the hidden 12 million who keep our economy humming. And he urged Congress to find that answer through a “serious, civil and conclusive debate.”

It was good that Mr. Bush made these points, as he periodically does. But there was a dissonance in his speech, because it came only two weeks after he and a group of Senate Republicans circulated a list of “first principles” about immigration that amounted to a huge step backward for efforts to fix a broken system in a reasonable, humane way.

It proposed new conditions on immigrant labor so punitive and extreme that they amounted to a radical rethinking of immigration — not as an expression of the nation’s ideals and an integral source of its vitality and character, but as a strictly contractual phenomenon designed to extract cheap labor from an unwelcome underclass.

New immigrant workers and those already here would all be treated as itinerant laborers. They could renew their visas, but only by paying extortionate fees and fines. There would be a path to legal status, but one so costly and long that it is essentially a mirage: by some estimates, a family of five could pay more than $64,000 and wait up to 25 years before any member could even apply for a green card. Other families would be torn apart; new workers and those who legalize themselves would have no right to sponsor relatives to join them.

In a country that views immigrants as its lifeblood and cherishes the unity of families, the Republican talking points were remarkable for their chill of nativism and exploitation. They were also unrealistic. The hurdles would create huge impediments to hiring and keeping a stable work force, while pushing the illegal economy deeper underground.

The thrust of Mr. Bush’s speech leaves little room for a vision as crabbed and inhumane as the one he and his party have circulated. It’s hard to tell whether his plainspoken eloquence in Yuma was meant to distance himself from those earlier and benighted talking points, or whether he has simply been talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Mr. Bush should clear up the confusion. He should reaffirm the importance of family-based immigration and of an achievable path to citizenship for those willing, as he put it, “to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.”

Clarity and forcefulness from Mr. Bush are important because the prospects for a good immigration bill this year are so uncertain. The Senate plans to take up the issue next month, but there is no bill yet, and the talking-points memo shows the debate drifting to the hard right.

Edward Kennedy, the Senate’s most stalwart advocate of comprehensive reform, has been left in the lurch as the Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Sam Brownback have run away from sensible positions to court hard-line voters. A decent bipartisan House bill, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, may not get the hearing it deserves.

Mr. Bush made a strong case for comprehensive reform on Monday. He should keep it up — publicly and forthrightly, as he did this week, and forget about backroom negotiations that produce harsh political manifestoes to appease hard-liners.


Anonymous said...

The immigration dance continues

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TIME IS running out for President Bush and Congress to reach some agreement on how to fix an immigration system desperately in need of repair.

The outlines of an agreement would have to be nailed down before Congress goes home for its summer recess in August. Reaching a consensus on this issue in 2008 will be a political impossibility -- conceivably as difficult as finding a resolution on what to do about Iraq.

The president continues to insist he wants comprehensive legislation reform, but if he does, he is going about it in a most peculiar way.

From out of left field, the White House last month concocted an immigration proposal -- contained in a 23-page PowerPoint presentation -- that has no chance of being approved by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the influential chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, told us Tuesday, that "much of it is a nonstarter."

Among its most egregious features are the exclusive fees that applicants would have to pay at every step of their path toward permanent residence. Under the Bush plan, a new temporary "Z" visa would be valid for only three years. By Lofgren's calculations, it would cost a couple with three children some $64,000 just to become permanent residents. The heads of household would have to return to their home country to apply for the permanent resident visa.

These fees would disqualify all but the most highly educated or affluent visa applicants from permanent residence. "We are definitely going to need more post-docs," said Lofgren, referring to Silicon Valley's insatiable demand for highly educated overseas talent. "But who is going to pick the oranges?"

Remarkably, though, Lofgren is still hopeful that immigration reform can be achieved over the next few months. For one thing, she said, White House officials have assured her that its March 30 plan is "not a line in the stand, not even a proposal; it is just a starting point for discussion."

For another, Lofgren says that she is not against the idea embedded in the White House's proposal (OK, presentation) that calls for increasing the numbers of visas issued based on the economic needs of the United States. (Most visas are issued for "family reunification.")

Even if it is a bad idea, she is not going to reject it out of hand, Lofgren said. "Just because it is a bad idea, or one I don't like, that doesn't mean I can reject it, if it will lead to a bipartisan agreement."

It's also a hopeful sign that both Lofgren and the White House are using the word "workable" to describe the plan they both are looking for. "My job is to get a bill that works, that is practical and that solves the practical challenges of 11 million people who are here without documents."

As for President Bush's declaration against "amnesty," she said "no one approves of rule breaking." Yet, she says, the "atonement for breaking the rules has to match."

She also noted that Bush in his speech on the Mexico-U.S. border in Yuma, Ariz., on Monday did not endorse specific aspects of his plan, such as its controversial fee proposals -- suggesting that he is keeping the door open to further negotiations.

At this point, both sides need to hold onto even slivers of a chance that they'll be able to forge a deal on immigration reform in the months ahead.

It is in their interests -- and the nation's -- to keep hope alive on achieving the ultimate American project: the integration of millions of foreign workers into the national fabric.

Anonymous said...

I disagree.more hopeful for the immigration cause than it is now, especially with the ones confirmed to run.

Even if things sometimes seem impossible, keep fighting. Someone will notice, even if it takes awhile.

Never give up.