Ooh, is this a big, fat issue for our group, even bigger than education reform that we took on last week! Immigration reform is bitterly divisive and the last try at a comprehensive rewrite went down in flames in 2007 fanned by the GOP’s base voters – even though the Bush White House, the Republican congressional leadership, and most Democrats supported it. Could the stars really be aligned just six years later?
Maybe. Everybody knows our immigration system is broken. Republican leaders want reform to start to rebuild their bona fides with Hispanics and the Party’s business wing wants it, too. The Democrats want to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows and under the rule of law so they can contribute to better wages for all workers, and, yeah, for prosaic political reasons, too (like cementing the Latino vote for a generation, including new citizens). A bipartisan Senate “gang of eight” released an 800-page bill on April 13 and the whole town is trying to hammer out a grand compromise that might be acceptable to the Tea Party-dominated House. The White House is letting Congress take the lead, and House Republicans and talk radio types are not yet openly trying to sabotage the whole thing again. We could talk about the politics endlessly.
But, what about the substance? Which immigration reforms might actually “work” to solve the system’s many flaws? Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of consensus among policy types on what the goals of reform have to be and what the major moving parts of a reform law should look like. the Senate plan is based on that consensus, basically.
So, on Monday night, I’ll open by explaining the
- Major flaws in our immigration system, including our broken legal immigration system, which does not get nearly enough attention; and
- Major elements of reform that the gang of eight, et. al., are negotiating over, and how they would fit together in a new system
I’ll skip the politics of the issue, although the politics are fascinating and more than a little weird. Basically, GOP elites want this to happen, and have to try to figure out a way to make it happen without reawakening the sleeping giant of their base voters and the Tea Party-oriented House members that must answer to them. The Democrats have to walk a fine line between compromising to get GOP support and angering their liberal, union, and Latino supporters. And, nobody wants to put all of this effort and political capital into an end product that turns out so watered down and self-contradictory that it fails to solve our immigration problems.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What are major problems of our immigration system that comprehensive reform would have to address? Is there any agreement between right and left on what the problems are and their causes?
- What reforms were nearly passed in 2007 and why did the effort collapse? What principles underlay those ideas?
- What is the basic outline of the current reform effort? What are the major moving parts of reform and how are they supposed to work together as policy to solve (hint: just improve, really) the system’s problems?
- How much room is there – both substantively and politically – to compromise before this whole thing falls apart?
- Conservatives and Liberals: What do you want most out of immigration reform? What are your deal breakers? What would constitute victory and what would be a defeat?
- ABCs of legal and illegal immigration:
- Basic immigration facts. Recommended.
- A portrait of unauthorized immigrents in the United States. How many, where from, where go, etc.?
- How does our legal immigration system work?
- The death of immigration reform in 2007. A must-read to understand the politics.
- Today’s reform effort:
- The basics of the gang of eight’s 800-page plan released April 13.
- How does it address the major immigration problems we face? A must-read.
- Conservatives voice their objections (from National Review).
- The Politics:
- Oh, by the way: What the public thinks of immigration reform,
- Your always optional long read: What’s Wrong with our Immigration System?