Next year, Congress should give undocumented workers a path to citizenship

WASHINGTON — You might not have heard much about it, but immigration supporters held a huge rally on the National Mall two weeks ago. Though overshadowed by the spectacle surrounding the health care debate, they were out in large numbers: Tens of thousands gathered to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already here.

President Obama’s critics frequently claim that he’s too ambitious, taking on too many complex and contentious issues. But the president doesn’t have much choice: There are several complex and contentious issues that have languished too long. Immigration reform is one of those.

It’s a shame that a common-sense bill, supported by the Bush administration, died in 2007 after a backlash from the Republican base. The right continues to denounce what its leaders call “amnesty,” but they haven’t offered a reasonable plan for helping hardworking painters and plumbers, maids and manicurists to come out of the shadows. Some undocumented workers left the country after the economic downturn, but many are still here — some of them parents of children who are American citizens.

What kind of country would deport promising teen-aged Americans just because their parents came from Guatemala or Gambia without permission? What kind of country would exploit the labor of workers but refuse to allow them the chance at legal status?

Just last week, Homeland Security had to tamp down controversy over a memo issued by a high-ranking border enforcement official who set a “quota” for deportations, even if his agents had to round up offenders whose only crime was lying on immigration documents. That approach, later disowned, would have contradicted a promise by the Obama administration to concentrate deportations on violent offenders.

It’s no wonder immigration activists are growing impatient with the president who has courted their support. Obama told the rally that he would start work soon on immigration reform; he has given his blessing to a framework offered by senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y). In a Washington Post essay last month, Graham and Schumer called for a high-tech “biometric” Social Security card; stronger border security; increased temporary access for low-skilled workers; and a “tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”

Despite that pledge of bi-partisanship, few think the process will be anything but long and bloody — just like health care reform. And, in the end, there’s no guarantee of Republican votes.

Georgia’s Republican senators have already backed away from any support for a comprehensive plan. At a 2007 meeting of the state Republican Party, senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were loudly booed for their work on legislation that would have tightened border security while also granting illegal workers a path toward citizenship. Neither man has mentioned anything that could be caricatured as “amnesty” since then.

Isakson told me last month that metropolitan Atlanta’s new status as a major hub for Mexican narco-traffickers demands a focus on border security. “It would be a gargantuan mistake to try to do some comprehensive legislation,” he said. (Isakson’s concerns about security are legitimate, but there’s no reason they couldn’t be addressed in a comprehensive bill.)

GOP presidential nominee John McCain, once an enthusiastic supporter of legislation that would strengthen border security while also legalizing undocumented workers, has similarly backed away — or sprinted away — from a comprehensive approach. Facing a strong primary challenge from a tea-party favorite, rightwing radio talk show host J.D. Hayworth, McCain recently wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and asked her to send the National Guard to patrol the border.

Even if the politics are difficult, Democrats might gain support with their base if they take up the cause of immigration reform. “It divides them (Republicans) worse than us,” Democratic pollster/strategist James Carville told a group of journalists last week. “Politically, I think it is a good issue for Democrats to bring up. It gives them (the GOP) fits, real fits.”

Carville’s blunt remarks underscored a demographic reality that shrewd Republicans also admit: as the nation grows browner, the GOP is increasingly a party of older whites. Vehement anti-immigrant rhetoric in the party’s ranks has alienated Latino voters.

That alone ought to give Republicans the courage to join with Democrats to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. And then there’s this: It’s the right thing to do.

253 comments Add your comment

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
12:32 pm

I consider myself a democrat, and agree on increasing border security. Amnesty on the other hand is a no go. Rewarding those for breaking the law imo is not the right thing to do. What about those who are legally going through the immigration process and have waited years to gain their citizenship? There’s no reward for doing the right thing. By granting amnesty, just imagine how flooded the border would become after this announcement was made. I’m all for immigration reform, but tell the illegals to go back to their home country and do it the right way. We don’t keep felons from going to jail because they have a family. Jus sayin.

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
12:33 pm

Is there anything that does not give the GOP fits anymore?

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
12:34 pm

The Chicago Way

Amnesty?

NO ONE IS CALLING FOR AMNESTY.

Amazon.com has great values on dictionaries.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
12:36 pm

“hardworking painters and plumbers, maids and manicurists”

Why not give all these jobs to AMERICANS that are out of work? Stop hiring all these illegals.

One requirement for citizenship should be the ability to speak ENGLISH for starters.

MikeR

April 5th, 2010
12:41 pm

We don’t need amnesty. The solution is simply, a simple $1 million fine for corporations or 1 yr in jail for private individuals for each illegal alien they hire. We don’t need fences. If there are no jobs they will not come. Amnesty cheats those that come here legally and those of us that were born here.

Dee keith

April 5th, 2010
12:42 pm

When GWB tried unsuccessfully to grant blanket amnesty to mexican immigrants, it’s not like they all said well we might as well leave the country. The GOP southern Nativist who are concerned about allowing Mexicans across the boarder will jeopardize the majority status of the white race is irrational thinking as usual. I think the U.S. should take the same approach that the country took when we built a millitary base in the phillipines. The U.S. struck a deal with the phillipine gov. to allow Fillipinos to serve in the NAVY in order to have a base their. Boarder security, and millitary service are two areas where mexican immigrants can serve. I also think the U.S. should try and work with the Mexican gov. to try and find some way to to have a joint venture in economic developement, just like we do in the middle east.

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
12:43 pm

Granny- Who needs to go to Amazon when Webster’s is online now? A pardon with a small fine is what some are proposing. Lets too many off the hook if you ask me, especially with a large number of citizens out of work.

I don’t agree that the ability to speak English should be a prerequisite to become a citizen. I don’t believe that was required when immigrants landed at Ellis Island, shouldn’t be a requirement now either.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
12:45 pm

The Chicago Way, when someone goes to Europe, do they take a translation book, or expect someone in France to speak English? No!

Try working at a hospital, pharmacy, etc. It’s impossible to try and treat the ones that don’t know any english.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

April 5th, 2010
12:45 pm

Well, I might of knowed it. If they let all these illegals stay here they’re going to up and take my job. Instead of old Redneck hauling your beer, it’ll be Jose.

Besides, these Mexicans work too hard and they come to work every day and stay on the job. They don’t never get drunk on the job or demand a raise, and they don’t even know how to take a day off because of a cold. If they’re made legal a whole bunch of us rednecks will be out of a job, waiting for the unemployment check to come.

So be sure and vote for a Tea Party canadate. We got a right to our jobs and do them they way we’ve always done them. It’s The American Way.

Have a good p.m. everybody.

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
12:47 pm

There maybe a translation gap, but that shouldn’t be the dealbreaker. The French or any other European country don’t outlaw you from becoming a citizen because you don’t know the language. You assimilate, or you get left behind.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
12:49 pm

“You assimilate, or you get left behind.”

Which seems to happen waaaay too much w/ Mexicans once they are legal….they don’t bother learning English.

scrappy

April 5th, 2010
12:49 pm

Peadawg – Would you like to give me pedicure? Assuming you are an American…

I am an American and out of work, doesn’t mean I am going to throw out my 8 (BS/MBA) years of college and professional experience to become a pedicurist. That argument doesn’t hold water.

Also think that requiring English is going to far, but forcing a path toward English is acceptable, similar to how the Dutch require it.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
12:52 pm

“That argument doesn’t hold water.”

My argument that giving illegals the jobs over Americans is totally wrong doesn’t hold water? Really?

ctucker

April 5th, 2010
12:53 pm

Peadawg, Have you done a survey? Most surveys indicate that the younger you are when you enter this country, the more likely you are to learn English. That’s been true since the first wave of immigrants hit these shores.

scrappy

April 5th, 2010
12:58 pm

Arguing that the job problem for Americans is the illegals fault doesn’t.

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
12:58 pm

The Chicago Way

So I am correct – you are not

Betsy

April 5th, 2010
1:00 pm

No way!! And “undocumented workers” are illegal aliens. Which means criminals. I didn’t make them criminals. THEY made themselves criminals when they decided to totally disregard the laws of the country they now expect to kowtow to them. Again, NO WAY!!

And ms tucker, it appears that the less Hispanic you are and the more Middle Eastern, African, Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, etc. you are, the more likely you are to learn English. “More likely” doesn’t seem to apply here. Not that I expect you to care.

David S

April 5th, 2010
1:03 pm

We leave a pile of free money on the table and wonder why everyone lines up to take some. Yes, we definitely need to make all these folks citizens. If we don’t, there may not be enough voters to re-elect the folks who keep voting for putting more and more of everyone else’s money on the table to steal.

Not a surprising commentary from Cynthia.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
1:05 pm

“Arguing that the job problem for Americans is the illegals fault doesn’t.”

It’s not the illegals fault. It’s the people that hire illegals’ fault.

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
1:06 pm

Um, ok Granny.

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
1:11 pm

The Chicago Way

Thanks.

You in Chi-Town?

Kamchak

April 5th, 2010
1:15 pm

Why not give all these jobs to AMERICANS that are out of work? Stop hiring all these illegals.

Thirty years in the construction biz has shown me that builders only care about getting the cheapest labor possible.

It’s not the illegals fault. It’s the people that hire illegals’ fault.

Yep, but the draconian laws necessary to combat employers from doing this wont happen.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 5th, 2010
1:17 pm

Why would you want to reward people who illegally enter this country? Rewarding them will just encourage others to sneak in illegally. This nonsense was tried in the 1980s, with ugly results. Of course, if your objective to just gain more voters for your party, then selling out America in favor of illegal mexicans and other third world losers should not bother you much. A coup d’état by any other name will still make America a banana republic in another decade or so.

Van Jones

April 5th, 2010
1:17 pm

Hmmm, let’s take all these folks who have already shown they have no respect for out laws (making them ILLEGAL aliens) and make it easier for them to quickly gain citizenship? The dems must really, really, really needs a future voting block.
I have an idea for all these “hard working” people only looking for a better life… GO HOME AND IMPROVE YOUR OWN COUNTRY!!! Do that and it will show that you are really hard working.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 5th, 2010
1:19 pm

America is now the third most populous country in the world, behind China and India. If you like the squalor of those two third world places, then by all means let the Mexicans and the Central American riff raff in.

Peadawg

April 5th, 2010
1:20 pm

“Yep, but the draconian laws necessary to combat employers from doing this wont happen.”

Which is sad….

I should be working

April 5th, 2010
1:21 pm

Stop allowing children of illegals a claim to citizenship and many of these illegals will stop flooding our borders.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 5th, 2010
1:21 pm

An invasion by any other name is still an invasion. Mexico has declared war on America, sending an army of millions into our country to take over. Ms Tucker and her ilk are collaborators with the enemy.

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
1:24 pm

Born and raised there. Downgraded to Buckhead.

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
1:26 pm

I’m from Logan Square

Bill

April 5th, 2010
1:28 pm

Yea, let’s give ALL of these jobs to legals and listen to the conservatives scream bloody murder when they are paying $10.00 for a head of lettuce. BTW, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t given work. Who’s fault is that?

Chris D.

April 5th, 2010
1:31 pm

Cynthia, If comprehensive illegal immigration refrom is so necessary, why wait until next year to tackle it? Could it because you don’t won’t to take it up before elections in November? Going against the peoples will again would cost more incumbants dearly I suppose?

scrappy

April 5th, 2010
1:31 pm

Ironic that Reagan signed the last amnesty bill into law, and the Reagan loving right is totally against this.

I am not up my history of this, but that bill had a path that illegals could take to become legal. Did this expire? Why is it not in use now?

lmno

April 5th, 2010
1:32 pm

People were really upset about the German and Irish migrations in the 19th century. Did you know that more than half of Ireland’s population moved here?

As far as Amnesty goes, I don’t feel very strongly about it either way.

However, I believe that there should be a clear, easy, and fast way for anyone to gain lawful entry to this country for work. Make it so that if you want to work here and pay taxes to the US Government, you can do that with little hassle.

Then, people wouldn’t risk their lives running across the desert at night. They would choose the legal way if the legal way was easy, quick, and safe.

Carson

April 5th, 2010
1:36 pm

Mrs. T, comprehensive immigration reform won’t fly with me, a democrat. The competition in this country is too fierce to add lawbreakers to the mix.

NO AMNESTY FOR THE LAWBREAKERS. ENFORCEMENT!!!!!! Our reps make them and then break them. Enough is enough!

joan

April 5th, 2010
1:39 pm

I figured immigration “reform” would come right after healthcare, so the liberals voting base could be swollen. These illegals should go back to Mexico, get in line for legal immigration. We should secure our borders. We have indeed been invaded by Mexico, and I am sure the defenders of the Alamo would wish they had stayed in bed for all the good it did them. Put our military on the border to protect our country. There are a lot more Mexicans invading than Iraqis.

extremerightwing

April 5th, 2010
1:42 pm

cynthia….by what right do people who came to this country illegally have to claim citizenship status. what if i came to your house uninvited, started working while you paid me and then after a while began to demand that i could live in your house and that you would start paying for my healthcare, education, etc. are you up for that?

dcdude

April 5th, 2010
1:44 pm

I consider myself pretty liberal, but I have to disagree with you on this one. I don’t think Democrats should touch immigration reform with a ten foot pole. It’s a loser for them. Elections are won and lost in the center, not by appealing to the farthest elements of your base. And there simply isn’t any great appetite among swing voters for a large amnesty program, or whatever you want to call it. Even among Hispanics, when you look at the views of Hispanics who are actual registered voters, their views on amnesty are not that different from other registered voters. If we don’t pass it, will liberal advocates be upset? Sure, but where else are they going to go? They didn’t abandon Obama over the public option. They won’t abandon him over this. Swing voters, on the other hand, will abandon him in droves. Stay away from it. Dems have little to gain from it, and everything to lose.

Wahoo

April 5th, 2010
1:45 pm

What kind of country would exploit the labor of workers but refuse to allow them the chance at legal status?

I love this inane thought process…

Refused the chance at legal status. Beg to differ. There is no prohibition against their leaving and then applying for legal status the proper way.

The workers are being explotied. Beg to differ. They choose to come here and work. They choose to break our laws. If they’re feeling as exploited as Cynthia would have us believe, they would have left by now.

I’m all for immigration reform, but it doesn’t start with giving illegal immigrants a free pass. Anyone who’s a parent recognizes you don’t reward your child for doing something wrong, tell the sibling not to do the same thing, and expect the sibling’s adherence.

Beaves

April 5th, 2010
1:46 pm

The problem is we already have a path to citizenship; you need to apply for a visa and wait your turn. This is the LAW, but I know liberals only enforce laws they agree with.
Granny, these law breakers should give any American fits, when will we stop rewarding bad behavior. Aren’t we a nation of laws?

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
1:49 pm

Que pasa! I went to high school on the westside, Whitney Young. Are you on the Trib or Sun-Times as much as you are here?

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
1:50 pm

Sorry, but since I can’t link…..

Zakaria: Reagan’s Lessons for the GOP on Immigration

Four of the Republican nominees once had sensible views on immigration. Apart from McCain, all have now backtracked.

By Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek

May 28, 2007 issue – In 1989, Ronald Reagan made his farewell address to the American people and summed up his view of the United States. “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life,” he said, “but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. [I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.” Today, all the Republican Party can talk about are walls, fences, border guards and attack dogs.

“But that was about legal immigration,” Republicans today will claim. “Our complaints are about illegal aliens.” Actually Reagan addressed the issue of illegals directly and with surprising candor. In a radio address in 1977, he observed that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. “It makes one wonder about the illegal-alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal-alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Reagan asked. “One thing is certain in this hungry world: no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

The facts incidentally confirm Reagan’s view. The six states that get the largest inflow of illegal immigrants—New York, California, Illinois, Texas, Florida and Arizona—have unusually low unemployment rates. With the exception of California and Illinois, they are all lower than the already-low national average of 4.5 percent (last month). As for the argument that immigrants depress the wages of native-born Americans, the best new research on this topic—by economists Giovanni Peri and Chad Sparber—demonstrates that unskilled immigrants complement rather than replace native Americans in the labor force, doing jobs that native Americans will not.

The compromise immigration bill worked out in the Senate by Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kyl is imperfect. But in broad terms it solves many of the problems with the current immigration system and, in Kennedy’s words, “brings millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America.” It does what legislation in a large and diverse country should do—makes trade-offs, compromises and accommodations to actually get something done. The requirements for illegal immigrants are so arduous that many might stay hidden and the guest-worker program is so complicated that it might be unworkable. But these features could be fixed and the proposal does move this important issue forward.

And yet, it faces a barrage of criticism on the right from those who seem to reject any solution to immigration that does not deport 12 million people. Anything else they call amnesty. The term amnesty comes from the 1986 immigration bill, supported and signed by Ronald Reagan, which gave many illegal immigrants in the United States immediate permanent residency—green cards—with few requirements, a tiny fee and a fast-tracked application process. The current proposal would allow illegal immigrants to apply for a green card after a minimum of eight years, the payment of large fines and fees and proof of clean records and good employment history. To call this amnesty is to reveal that no compromise will ever be acceptable.

More startling than the transformation of the Republican Party has been the cowardice of its presidential candidates. Four of the men running for the Republican nomination—John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback—had sensible views on immigration. All supported the original Kennedy-McCain bill, which was a much more intelligent and also more liberal piece of legislation than the current proposal. Apart from McCain, all have now backtracked in various ways. It isn’t just the politicians who are AWOL. The Weekly Standard had been a lone voice for immigration reform on the right. But it has been strangely silent of late, not having run an editorial on the topic for one year, a year during which immigration has been a burning issue. The Republican Party today is filled with what Winston Churchill called “boneless wonders.”

There are legitimate concerns about illegal immigration and about the need for assimilation especially among Mexican immigrants. But it is also true that beneath the current wave of protests lies a familiar fear. In 1996 Rudy Giuliani clearly identified it: “The anti-immigration issue that’s now sweeping the country in my view is no different than the movements that swept the country in the past,” he said. “You look back at the Chinese Exclusionary Act, or the Know-Nothing movement—these were movements that encouraged Americans to fear foreigners, to fear something that is different, and to stop immigration.” He was right then. But the Republican Party he wants to lead is becoming the modern incarnation of the Know-Nothings.

Williebkind

April 5th, 2010
1:56 pm

If it is vile and disgusting, the progressive liberals are for it. Just read their logic. Oh how sympathetic it makes them feel. So cram illegal immigration down our throats if you can. So far you have been successful in destroying what is America and its laws. Yep we need those illegal gangs, drug dealers, murderers, voters for the DNC. What I love is to hear they are here to do those jobs we do not want!
That is such a big lie. I see illegals making middle class wages everyday. But ram it down our throats–you got to be good at something!

Grumpy

April 5th, 2010
1:58 pm

The Graham/Schumer proposal addresses many of the concerns you folks have posted.

The Chicago Way

April 5th, 2010
1:59 pm

WillieB- The last administration was flushing this country down the toilet, while using the Constitution as a wet wipe. Forgive me if I believe what you’re saying is a few years off. Even Bush was for amnesty, although his reasoning was to support businesses that needed illegals.

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
1:59 pm

Wahoo says:

“you don’t reward your child for doing something wrong”

Beaves says:

“when will we stop rewarding bad behavior”

First off, THERE IS NO AMNESTY SO THERE IS NO REWARD.

If your problem is that the punishment is not tough enough for the crime, fine, but at least make an attempt to be accurate.

Now, please apply your “punish wrong doing” across the entire political and socio-economic universe….

Won’t that require you to stop listening to RW radio? Fox News? Dick Cheney?

Won’t that require you to pursue war crimes trials against members of the former administration?

Won’t that require strong and meaningful reform for Wall street?

# 11 was – thou shalt not cherry pick.

Williebkind

April 5th, 2010
2:01 pm

Granny Godzilla

April 5th, 2010
1:50 pm
Yep and we use to go outdoors to use the toilet. Things have changed! We have all the population we need on your new healthcare program. Oh by the way granny did you mail the US Treasury an extra check for the good things you want to do? Besides, only upper class progress liberals want everybody to pay for their ideology.

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

April 5th, 2010
2:01 pm

The Democrats need some new voters now that they have even alienated (no pun intended) a significant portion of their voters. Obviously this must be done rather quickly, prior to November, or whatever the lead time is for voter registration. Unfortunately for the Democrats, many of these folks have skeedaddled back to their homes in search of jobs. Check the significantly lower number of day laborers at any Quik Trip. At any rate, Democrats can always “vote early and often”.

Williebkind

April 5th, 2010
2:05 pm

Are we redefining more words today Granny? If is is is, then amnesty is not a reward? What are our laws to get citizenship? Have you changed those too in smoke filled closed door backrooms?

ctucker

April 5th, 2010
2:09 pm

Yes, grumpy, you’re right. But some of my readers won’t let the facts get in the way of their righteous indignation.