Recently, there has been much talk about the possibilities that this year the nation's immigration laws could finally be reformed thus allowing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to work towards obtaining their lawful permanent residence. It is expected that this coming week a bipartisan group of U.S. senators will present a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. The details of the plan have yet to be revealed. Nevertheless, there is a sense that the Republicans and Democrats may join together and approve the legislation. There have been signs recently that this could happen. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida, has been making the rounds of news shows advocating for immigration reform. President Obama, a Democrat, in his second inaugural address last week, also expressed support for immigration reform and a Super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, was created last November with the express purpose of pushing for immigration reform.
However, the implementation of immigration reform this year is anything but certain. In order to modify the immigration laws, proponents of the change will need to defeat its two main adversaries. One opponent is a group that is well-known. It is comprised of those who believe in "enforcement only". Their position is that the nation's immigration problems can be solved with a three-pronged approach: (1) secure the U.S. southern border to prevent individuals from crossing into the country illegally; (2) increase penalties of employers who hire illegal aliens thereby decreasing the number of illegal aliens working in the country; and (3) greater enforcement of current immigration law, leading to a greater number of individuals being removed from the country. This group led the successful opposition to the last real efforts for immigration reform in 2006 and 2007. Yet, its influence in the political process is much weaker than in years past. More resources than ever before have been applied to secure the southern border. Second, in the past years the federal and state governments have taken a harsher position against business with the implementation of such programs as E-Verify. Finally, the current presidential administration holds the distinction of being the one that has removed or deported the most individuals from the country in a four year period. Yet, there are approximately 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants who continue to reside in the country. Therefore, this group's prescriptions to the immigration problem no longer appear as convincing as before.
Although, the second group has not been as visible or vocal in the past as the "enforcement only" group, it presents as much danger to the approval of comprehensive immigration reform. This group could be termed the "anti-guest worker" group. Any proposal announced this year regarding comprehensive immigration reform would most likely include a guest worker program component, which if approved, would have the applicant in a temporary worker or "guest worker" status that could last between a couple of years to over a decade before the applicant would receive lawful residence, if at all. The "anti-guest worker" group believes that a guest worker program is a non-starter in any proposal and it would lead the opposition to it. The group takes the position that a guest worker program would be tantamount to "second class citizenship", which in its view is an insult to immigrants.
Unfortunately, the "anti-guest worker" group fails to understand the mindset of the typical immigrant. Most individuals who wish to enter the United States do not want to do so to live here permanently, at least not initially. He wants to visit as a tourist, worker or student, and then return his respective home country. There is no sense of permanence in his mind. It is only after the visitor is in the country and has accomplish his task, does the person consider stability in his life in the United States in the form of U.S. permanent residence. Finally, after acquiring residence will many of these immigrants wish a true sense of "belonging" in this country in the form of U.S. citizenship. Most individuals who would benefit from comprehensive immigration reform are in the first level--they wish to work or study in the United States without hindrance. Therefore, the vast majority would welcome a guest worker program that would help make their dreams to come true. Yet, if the "anti-guest worker" have its way, they remain just dreams.
It is only after our leaders, influential groups, and the public in general understand the levels of "temporary", "stability", and "belonging", will comprehensive immigration reform have a chance of being approved. One of the primary reasons that the push for immigration reform failed in 2006 and 2007 was bad marketing. It was presented at the time as a "pathway to citizenship", which gave the wrong impression that those that would benefit would skip the "temporary" and "stability" level and automatically reach "belonging" i.e., U.S. citizenship. This was understandably repulsive to the rest of the U.S. population, along with former immigrants who had gone through the levels themselves. The truth was that it was a "pathway to permanent residence", which would have taken the applicant to the "temporary" level first and then "stability". While the person could have continued on to apply for U.S. citizenship, this would have been beyond the process being outlined.
Finally, comprehensive immigration reform needs to be true immigration reform. In a September 5, 2012 post, entitled The Future of Immigration Reform, this blog stated that, "Immigration reform would transform people's lives forever. Immigration reform would strengthen our nation's economy and put it in a better position to compete globally." The proposal expected to be announced this week in the U.S. Senate must be aimed to achieve these goals in order to be considered real reform.
If so, comprehensive immigration reform can be implemented if it can withstand the opposition of its two main adversaries, the "enforcement only" and "anti-guest worker" groups. This can be done with a proper understanding and adequate marketing of the legislation.
The above information is provided for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal
advice or the formation of an attorney/client relationship.