There Still is Hope for Positive Immigration Reform

May 25th, 2007

The following comments from the editor of http://www.ilw.com/ from May 25, 2007, are welcoming and I hope that immigration reform turns in a more positive direction: 

“Some in the bar are misreading the Senate’s debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The Senate is not engaged in idle debate, it is determined to pass a bill.  This should not be news. The Senate was determined to act last year also, and despite setbacks the Senate did pass S. 2611, the McCain-Kennedy bill (some of the setbacks were severe, remember the Martinez-Hagel compromise which cut the legalization beneficiaries in half?). What has changed from last year to this year, is political control in Congress. And this affects CIR’s language, and its legislative twists and turns, decisively. Last year, the Republicans were in control of the House, and chose the path of confrontation rather than compromise. This was a political decision, and one which backfired on the Republican Party, being responsible in part for the GOP’s losing both Chambers of Congress. This year the Democrats are in charge of both Chambers – with consequences to CIR’s language which we spell out below.

In 2006, Senate Republicans could be certain that in passing a liberal bill like S. 2611, loaded with benefits (SKIL, AgJOBS, DREAM, etc), these benefits would be significantly watered down in a two step process. First, the House’s bill would have none of the generous benefits – as indeed, the Sensenbrenner bill H.R.3347, which the House had already passed, clearly showed. Second, the Conference to reconcile these widely different bills would be controlled by Republicans from both chambers. The likely result would be a middle ground with fewer benefits, and harsher language all around, than the Senate’s bill.

In 2007, the reality could not be more different than last year. This time, Senate Republicans can be certain that no matter how harsh a bill they craft, the bill will be significantly liberalized in a two step process. First, the House’s bill will likely be STRIVE, or something even more generous (and bear in mind that STRIVE is more liberal than McCain-Kennedy in the number of its beneficiaries, in addition to having SKIL, AgJOBS, DREAM, and other goodies). Second, the Conference to reconcile the Senate’s tough bill with the House’s liberal bill will be controlled by Democrats from both chambers, probably Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Conyers. The likely result will be something far more generous than anything the Senate will pass.

That is why Sen. Kyl has to get all the concessions from Sen. Kennedy in the bank now, while the issue is still in the Senate. This way, Sen. Kyl is assured that the final Act will be slightly tougher on enforcement than otherwise. And that is why Sen. Kennedy continues to make concession after concession necessary to move the bill along, knowing full well that during Conference, the CIR bill will become more generous.

To the great credit of the politicians of both parties, they are moving the legislative process forward in the Senate despite strong opposition from both ends of the political spectrum. And the House is doing more than waiting in the wings. As Rep. Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, has already let slip, http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/reid-gives-immigration-deal-more-time-2007-05-16.html the House is determined to act on immigration regardless of what the Senate does. The House’s bill, the first glimpse of which should be available during markup in the week of June 4th (the same week that the Senate will finalize its bill), will likely have so much good news that the bar will likely drop its collective jaw! A Conference is, therefore, very likely on this bill even if the Senate bill fails.

The bar should face up to the undeniable fact that our immigration law is broken, and badly in need of a total re-write.  That is the process that the Senate has so courageously begun. Those who cannot see the trees of the Senate bill’s language for the wood of the legislative process would be well counselled to heed Bismarck’s admonition that Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. Lets make improvements to the extent that is possible as the process unfolds, and prepare for a feast at the end. Bon Appetit!”