Better Path to Citizenship.

Dara Lind responds to my critique of the Schumer-Graham blueprint for immigration reform. Her primary point is that the 800-word-or-so piece published in the Post is bound to exclude the full details of their proposal, especially those that are still being hammered out. However, I don't think I missed the importance of the Schumer-Graham plan to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Here's Dara:

It’s hard to see [legalizing undocumented workers] as the central provision reading over the [Schumer-Graham] framework, at least as it’s drafted in the Post — the framing is cautious, centrist, and security-focused, with flashy but untested proposals such as a national biometric ID. … [But] as Jamelle and other progressives finally turn their attention to immigration reform as a priority, I hope they’ll be smart enough — and honest enough — to look past a frame they wouldn’t have chosen and see a goal they, too, desperately want to achieve.

I should clarify that any plan that would offer a legalization route would be a great achievement, but I don't think the problem with the Schumer-Graham proposal is simply an issue of framing. Their "tough but fair" approach assumes tough is fair -- and puts this into practice. It would levy fines on undocumented immigrants, force them to admit guilt, and pay back taxes. If the goal is really to provide a way for millions of poor immigrants to become citizens, a substantial fine would be the best way to deter them. Paying back taxes is fair, though I ask myself if employers who flouted the rules by not withholding taxes shouldn't be responsible for a portion of the lost revenue. The admission of guilt isn't as problematic as the other two -- it's a rhetorical gesture, a concession to those who demand undocumented immigrants be held "accountable."

On another note, Dara also observes that "comprehensive immigration reform has not been a progressive priority for the last few years, let alone a Democratic priority."

There's a number of reasons I think this is the case. Issues like immigration have taken a back seat to dealing with the financial crisis. But there's also an inherent disincentive to dealing with immigration: As opposed to, say, health care, immigration is a domestic-policy issue in which most current voters do not stand to benefit directly (unless for you "immigration reform" is a synonym for "securing our borders"). Immigrant-rights groups can apply some pressure, but it will take independent political will to get anything passed.

-- Gabriel Arana

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