Immigration Reform in the Public's Interest, Pt. 1: A Proposal

By Stanley Renshon on January 17, 2014

In spite of the seeming lull in the effort to enact a new immigration bill because the House has not yet publically acted, there is a great deal of movement behind the scenes. Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), have said "they want to overhaul the immigration system in 2014." And to further that effort, "The House Speaker, John A. Boehner, and his Republican leadership team are preparing to release their principles for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws later this month." (What those principles are and how, exactly, they correspond to any legislation the House produces is unclear, though there have been some leaks.)

The Democrats, trying to speed up House deliberations, have argued repeatedly that "Immigration reform 'cannot wait."' Not to be outdone, the Chamber of Commerce has declared 2014 to be the "year of immigration reform". And the Chamber's president, Thomas Donohue, is quoted as saying, "The chamber will pull out all the stops — through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with our friends in the union, and faith-based organizations, and law enforcement groups, and others to get this job done."

In the meantime, political drama queens warn there is only a "narrow window" for immigration reform. Another report says that reform will take place after the Republican primaries in late spring. And the head of Heritage Action, Michael Needham, doubtlessly thinking of the president's many actions to narrow and reduce immigration enforcement efforts says, "any attempt at fixing the country's immigration laws should be put off not just for this legislative session, but until President Barack Obama is no longer in the White House."

When, if ever, any of these efforts will come to some kind of fruition is unclear. What, if anything, will come out of the House legislative process is also unclear.

In the meantime, various compromises have been put forward to try and find an alternative to the Senate's massive, complex, and problematic "comprehensive" bill. In 2012, Mark Krikorian, as well versed as anyone in the country on immigration policy, put forward a plausible compromise. He wrote: "[W]hat this does suggest is that we could see a miniature 'comprehensive immigration reform', along these lines: A narrower version of the DREAM Act in exchange for universal E-Verify, plus green cards for top foreign STEM graduates in exchange for ending the visa lottery. That's actually a deal that could make sense."

In 2013 the president and his allies were saying they would accept the House "step-by-step approach" as long as it contained a pathway to citizenship. That made it a little difficult to see just where the compromise was. Obama then backtracked to again support the Senate's bill.

Also last year, immigration scholar Peter Skerry suggested splitting the difference on illegal immigration, with "legalization for as many undocumented immigrants as possible, but citizenship for none of them."

Those ideas brought some indications from Democrats and their allies that such a solution might be acceptable or at least worth discussing.

The Republican House's refusal to panic or be rushed into supporting the Senate immigration bill has opened up the possibility of real immigration reform in the public interest.

Following blogs, in rather brief outline form, will discuss some proposals for genuine immigration reform. They will be developed more fully in a forthcoming CIS publication.

Next: Immigration Reform in the Public's Interest, Part 2: Purposes and Processes