In a new Bloomberg poll, just 23 percent of Americans say they oppose giving illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. That finding is echoed by a newly released Pew poll, which reports that just 25 percent of Americans back the enforcement-only, no-citizenship option.
A handful of Senate Republicans, led by John McCain and Marco Rubio, is trying to move legislation that would respond to that clear expression of public opinion without also giving a legislative victory to President Obama. That is proving to be a difficult needle to thread. At some point, McCain and Rubio will probably have to decide which of those goals is more important.
And unfortunately, even if comprehensive immigration reform makes it through the Senate, the odds of passage through the GOP-run House look extremely low. That bill would have to go through the House Judiciary Committee, and in a new report by NPR, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia expressed strong opposition to citizenship.
“People have a pathway to citizenship right now,” Goodlatte told NPR. “It’s to abide by the immigration laws, and if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship.”
Goodlatte also made it clear that he would extract a price for merely agreeing to give those illegal immigrants legal work status, without the option of citizenship.
“You’re going to have to have a program that assures those farms and those processing plants that there will be workers,” he said. “Because if you give them legal status, they can work anywhere in the United States — they’re not going to necessarily work at the hardest, toughest, dirtiest jobs.”
That’s a pretty damning statement. According to Goodlatte, employers need a class of people with little or no legal option except to work at the “hardest, toughest, dirtiest jobs.” For now, that niche is served by illegal immigrants, but if they are given a path out of that predicament — if they are given permits that allow them to work legally wherever they can find employment — the nation would have to import a lot more “guest workers” to replace them in doing that dirty work.
That’s strikes a powerful chord for me. At one time in our history, we did have a class of people with no option but the hardest, dirtiest jobs, people who were trapped by law in that role. One hundred and fifty years ago, we fought a war to end that system. Then as now, there’s something fundamentally wrong with systematically wringing the sweat out of people while denying them the hope of bettering themselves.
One other quote in the story also should be noted:
“We use Mexicans in our work,” Ed Toomey, a building contractor in Goodlatte’s Virginia congressional district, told NPR, “and, you know, they’re fine people. But there has to be a law. They have to abide by the rules, like everybody else.”
Those rules of course include rules against the hiring of illegal immigrants.
– Jay Bookman