The sticking point in Obama’s immigration-reform pitch

President Obama went to El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday to make another pitch for immigration reform. And, as Allahpundit notes at Hot Air, you’ve heard it all before.

To the degree that one could find in Obama’s remarks even the rough outlines of a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, it was in this section:

First, we know that government has a threshold responsibility to secure the borders and enforce the law. Second, businesses have to be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers. Third, those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well. They have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.

And fourth, stopping illegal immigration also depends on reforming our outdated system of legal immigration. We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only study here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here. In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants, leading to more than 200,000 jobs in America. I’m glad those jobs are here. And I want to see more of them created in this country.

Actually, we can distill it even further. Few people dispute that the feds need to enforce the border; we only argue about how effectively it’s being enforced. Likewise, few would argue that anyone — but it always seems to be “businesses” with our supposedly business-friendly president — should “exploit” anyone else, including illegal immigrants; the human-trafficking bill that was passed and signed into law in Georgia this spring, for example, explicitly extended protections to people unlawfully present in the state. And few believe we shouldn’t allow more of the “best and brightest” enter the country to study, start companies and create jobs here; at issue is whether to let illegal immigrants already here “cut in front of the line,” as Obama put it (Obama’s answer, in spite of himself: yes, through the DREAM Act).

Where the discussion really breaks down is on point No. 3: Obama’s contention that “those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well. They have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.”

And the question is how close that comes to “amnesty.”

What does it mean to “get in line”? Do they have to get behind the people who have been waiting in line and trying to do things the legal way all along? How lengthy is “lengthy”?

And what does “legalization” mean? It is a work visa that runs out at some point, and would such an expiration be enforced any better than it is today? Or would we let the line-jumpers eventually become citizens — citizens whose future votes might be courted by today’s politicians?

There is an answer somewhere between the “deport ‘em all” and “legalize ‘em all” camps. And I think the starting point for it looks something like this:

1. No citizenship for someone illegally present today. We don’t need to further cloud the political process by turning immigration reform into a potential new-voter bonanza for elected officials.

2. Any work permits granted to today’s illegals should be temporary, and they should not last as long as those work permits we grant to newcomers who come here the lawful way. There needs to be a strong incentive for people to come here legally rather than illegally.

3. Any fines we levy on today’s illegals should account for past taxes unpaid and might also be levied in proportion to their future time here (i.e., it would cost more to gain legal status here for five more years than for one more year). Again, the incentives we offer people for coming/staying here illegally, versus going through the lawful process, are of the utmost importance. (If politicians really want to gain support for an immigration deal, they could stipulate that the fine revenues go to paying down the national debt.)

4. The window for accepting the above terms, and any others, should be short and finite. I don’t know what the ideal time would be, but let’s say it’s two years. Come forward and take the deal — legality, but no citizenship, no permanent residency, must pay back taxes/fines, etc. — within two years. Otherwise, you’ll face certain deportation, no mitigating circumstances accepted. If we’re going to offer them a chance to come out of the shadows, as Obama put it, we need to give them every incentive to take it, and quickly. And then comply with the terms of the deal.

In case my frequent references to incentives didn’t make it clear enough: The key here is to discourage future illegal immigration, and end the seemingly perpetual cycle we find ourselves in. We could probably find a way to absorb the current illegal population. But, like so many of the issues we face, we have to ensure that today’s solution doesn’t lead to a bigger problem tomorrow.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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43 comments Add your comment

arnold

May 11th, 2011
5:59 am

Wake up. No Republican will promote amnesty. Obama just solidified more Hispanic votes in 2012.

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JP

May 11th, 2011
6:40 am

Kyle – I don’t agree with you on most things, but I think your #1 – 4 are pretty reasonable. Unfortunately, probably not liberal enough for some and not conservative enough for others. Is there room in there to make sure employers play by the rules too?

DeborahinAthens

May 11th, 2011
6:50 am

The illegal immigration problem will never be resolved until the employers who knowingly hire illegals are punished. Not slapped on the wrist, but put in jail for breaking the law. IF there was no financial reason for these people to come here, they wouldn’t. Our own Senator Saxby Chambliss is so indebted to the businesses that bought him and paid for him that he justifies having these people here. The Republicans are such hypocrites. You deride Obama for every word he says, yet none of you ever, ever have an alternative plan for anything. This not only true about fixing the immigration problem but every other problem that plagues this country.

Will

May 11th, 2011
6:58 am

Kyle:

Although I don’t agree with you that there should be no path to citizenship for those already here (other than leaving and getting “in line” to return through the government’s hopelessly inadequate processing procedure), I do think your proposal is more realistic than that of the majority of republican voters.

I also believe that any republican running for president that would adopt your proposal “as is” would be doomed to certain defeat and defined as no more than an amnesty loving big government liberal.

The republican base that will control the primary voting is a mean spirited base believes all illegal immigrants are law breaking drains on our society. You will never get them to think otherwise. They truly believe that all 11 million of these people (including the children), should be “sent back” (at least all of the brown skinned ones). Illegal Canadians, Germans, Dutch? No so much.

So, doesn’t the democrat base hold views similar to this on other issues? Of course it does but what’s your point, that its okay for republicans to do this because democrats do the same thing? Is that the standard to which you adhere? To be no better than democrats?

For example, the democrat base could never be convinced that any concern with any matter related to gay marriage is nothing more than homophobia. Concerns regarding the influence of NEA and its opposition to public school reform? Not legitimate, just anti-public school bashing.

Del

May 11th, 2011
7:06 am

Government has proven itself incapable of managing the immigration process anyone who says otherwise knows little about the process. Illegal immigration has and is costing this country far more than we can afford and we must gain control. A massive undertaking to turn illegals into legals and effectively implement as well as manage it would fail based on the sheer size of the undertaking and incapability of government, not to mention the politics surrounding this issue. We can’t deport all of them and we can’t detain them because we’ve allowed it to continue and grow for too long. The only solution is to pass legislation that makes it extremely unfriendly and difficult for illegals who’re here or who come here illegally. We also need to come down hard on those so called sanctuary cities and on those who facilitate illegal immigration the politicians and business owners who hire them. After we’ve gained significant control of this issue, then and only then can we explore guest worker programs and other solutions.

JohnnyReb

May 11th, 2011
7:09 am

I take exception with Obama and other talking heads who want to “make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only study here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here.” In effect, they are “giving up” on the 51% who are not successful enough to pay their share of federal taxes. It is my understanding that specific tax breaks are given to immigrants who start businesses where those same tax breaks are not given native Americans who start businesses. In other words, the federal government helps immigrants become successful while having written off the 51%, apparently accepting they will always be on the public dole. If a family with many children were constantly facing financial challenge, they would be unlikely to knowingly seek another birth.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 11th, 2011
7:38 am

You deride Obama for every word he says, yet none of you ever, ever have an alternative plan for anything.
———-

Lie.

That you don’t like the GOP plan doesn’t mean their isn’t one. Educate yourself, woman.

Ret

May 11th, 2011
8:17 am

Would like to see a requirement of military service for amnesty/citizenship for illegals AND a provision in any amnesty law that requires that this would be the LAST amensty unless there is a SUPER MAJORITY house and senate vote in favor of putting it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment and then allowed ONLY if it passes in a SUPER MAJORITY of the states.

Buzz G

May 11th, 2011
8:18 am

And when they are done with amnesty for illegal aliens, Obama and the Dems will promote amnesty for rapists, child molesters and drug users. They will likely vote Democratic too.

GaPatriot

May 11th, 2011
8:28 am

With our unemployment rate, illegal immigration should only be considered to have increased enforcement.

that's goofy

May 11th, 2011
8:30 am

we’ve had Amnesty for illegals since GA’s very own Jimmy Carter was President. Any Cuban that reaches a Florida beach gets to stay. It has been continued and championed by both parties ever since. Haitians and others are deported. It is a money thing.

Reagan did the amnesty thing. Bush v2.0 suggested a plan along the same line as Obama (proving once again O i no more a liberal than W was a conservative)

gm

May 11th, 2011
8:51 am

This President is not scared to take on hard issues, Bush ran from this issue for 8 years, this is why this President will go down as the the greatest of our life time, is everthing perfect? no, you can not be mad at the effort this guy gives.
I have never seen a President thats all ways working, this man is the right person for the right time all the Obama haters let it go, class, morles and family values will win in 2012, and the right does not have any one with that.

BW

May 11th, 2011
8:59 am

Kyle

You want hand to mouth immigrants paying back taxes and fines? Why? We both know that they don’t have it.

BW

May 11th, 2011
9:01 am

Lil Barry Bailout

Can you explain the Republican plan? I get all twisted up by the mainstream media because it sounds like deport em all. But that is me listening to the mainstream media.

BW

May 11th, 2011
9:01 am

Johnny Reb

That is a tax code issue that rewards people who have children and can otherwise get exemptions and credits. That is not something Obama started. It’s something that needs to be addressed in a bipartisan fashion….kinda like immigration reform…oh well so much for that

Ernesto

May 11th, 2011
9:03 am

Finally we are seeing compromise. This issue has to be taken seriously by both parties.

Don't Tread

May 11th, 2011
9:09 am

“You deride Obama for every word he says, yet none of you ever, ever have an alternative plan for anything.”

Umm, I think there’s one alternative plan in Kyle’s article…but I guess that one didn’t sink in.

Illegals already here should not be allowed to “cut in line” just because they managed to evade capture (or ignored instructions to “turn back south”) in the process of illegally crossing the border. They need to apply and wait their turn like everyone else.

And let’s get rid of the “anchor baby” loophole of the 14th Amendment.

carlosgvv

May 11th, 2011
9:12 am

People who are here illegally definitely have a responsibility. They need to go back to where they came from as soon as possible. Of course, if they had any sense of responisbility, they would never have come here in the frist place. So, asking them to do anything responsible is foolish and simply insults the intelligence of the American people. Maybe Obama just thinks we don’t have much intelligence.

BW

May 11th, 2011
9:17 am

Carlosgvv

LOL…that’s was a good one…they are here because someone is employing them. It really is that simple. Money talks and BS walks…always been true. If you want to bash these people who are coming from nothing to try to improve their lives, that’s not a problem…you have the right to do that in America…but let’s not pretend that this conversation begins and ends with money

joe

May 11th, 2011
9:20 am

Everytime Obama opens his mouth, a little more of the American public shakes their collective heads at his anti-American stance on anything. With unemployment continuing to go up, record setting levels of entitlements, out of control spending and failure to do anything on rising gas prices which could be slowed if he would drill here at home, he is resigned to being a one-termer.

Road Scholar

May 11th, 2011
9:29 am

So you anti immigration/earn your citizenship folks want to deport them. Good! You pay the monies to do it. Otherwise let the ones who learn English, have jobs sorry Americans find too hard (whine), those that join the military, etc have visas for one year to prove they have moved/are moving toward citizenship. Then renew the visa for one more year until they earn citizenship. If they do not move towards citizenship, arrest them and deport. The deportation bill will shrink!

Businesses should be fined and management incarcerated if they hire illegals. Period. Why do you think they are here? To work, get schooling, and to lead a safer life.

Has anyone watch the Sunday morning talk shows and seen the weekly list of soldiers killed in action postd? Many of those deaths have hispanic surnames. Also just because someone has a hispanic surname, they may not be from Mexico. Many “illegals” are from other Central American or South American countries.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 11th, 2011
9:36 am

gm: This President is not scared to take on hard issues
———

Correction–Obozo likes to TALK about hard issues, and Obozo likes to TALK about solving difficult problems. What Obozo doesn’t like to do is actually solve them. Reading a speech from a TelePrompTer never accomplished anything.

The next hard issue your Idiot Messiah Obozo fixes will be his first.

Road Scholar

May 11th, 2011
9:39 am

Don’t tread: And what political office was Kyle voted into?

Carlosgvv: Don’t they have reponsibilities also to support their families?

Joe: Bless your heart. How is President Obama anti American? The deficit increased substantially under Bush. Is he also anti American? Remember what he did for immigration…nothing!

Road Scholar

May 11th, 2011
9:41 am

Lil Barry: Killing OBL. That wasn’t a significant issue?????

BW

May 11th, 2011
9:41 am

Joe

I guess that why his approval ratings are so terrible right now. And if gas prices start to drop along with continued re-employment…man I don’t know what you haters are going to do then

John

May 11th, 2011
9:50 am

Love how Republicans like to throw the word amnesty around in respect to Obama and the Democrats’ plan. Do ya’ll even know the definition of the word? As Merriam-Webster defines it…”the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals ” and the word pardon is defined as…”the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty”.

As Kyle points out about the plan, illegals for “have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization” Wouldn’t paying a fine constitute a penalty? Doesn’t sound like amnesty to me.

Aloha

May 11th, 2011
9:52 am

Who is a better authority to speak on the topic of illegal immigration than our incumbent Illegal-Immigrant-in-Chief in the White House himself?

John

May 11th, 2011
9:59 am

Joe…let’s see, the “anti-American” President Obama brought to justice the man responsible for 9/11 and what did the “American” President Bush do? hmmm…6 months after 9/11 he said he’s not concerned about Bin Laden….yeah, very American of him.

jconservative

May 11th, 2011
10:01 am

Kyle, I have no problem with your 4 point solution.

I do have a problem with everyone looking to the President to resolve the issue. George W tried to resolve the issue and failed miserably. So, so much for presidential influence.

This is a congressional issue to be resolved by Congress. No one else can solve the problem.
Praising or damning Bush or Obama is just a distraction from the task at hand.

The final solution will be a compromise of both Republican and Democratic ideas.

Until we are adult enough to admit that, we will keep the immigration policies we now have in place. And, to be honest, most of the business community that controls Congress are perfectly happy with today’s policies. If they want any changes to the present policies it would be to relax some of the hiring restrictions.

Republicans might look to the solution signed into law by their past savior, Ronald Reagan, and his Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. A reworking of that bill might be the basis for a compromise.

But my guess is that we will keep our current immigration policies at least through the 2014 election cycle.

joe

May 11th, 2011
10:13 am

@ BM…BHO did a good job sending in our US Navy Seals to take out Bin Laden…Obama didn’t take out Bin laden, he watched it go down to tv. OK, he did one good thing that got him a temporary bump in the approval ratings, but those will go back down soon enough…just like Bush Sr…approval rating near 90% after the first gulf war…18 months later, below 50% and he lost the election. History will repeat itself here as we cannot afford 4 more years of the marxist-in-chief.

Southern Comfort

May 11th, 2011
10:18 am

Where the discussion really breaks down is on point No. 3: Obama’s contention that “those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well. They have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.”

And the question is how close that comes to “amnesty.”

It doesn’t come to amnesty. Your points sound logical, but current laws and policy render them moot. If someone’s here illegally, they face a 10 year ban from entering the US when deported. If they have a USC relative that can petition for them, they can obtain a waiver for their immigration violations and come back as an immigrant before that 10 years is up. It all hinges on obtaining that waiver. As is the same with most anything else in America, if you have the money to pay for the waiver, you can almost guarantee you’ll get it.

All the huffing and angst over illegal immigration is understood, but from my viewpoint it’s more hot air than it’s worth. No politician is going to put policies in effect to do anything about it. If additional laws are passed, nobody’s going to suggest the necessary funding to enforce the new laws. Illegal immigration is and will always be nothing more than political fodder for campaign trails.

Not Blind

May 11th, 2011
10:18 am

They can institute reforms all they want but until the 14th Amendment is abolished we cannot control immigration.

And saying the border is secure is just plain stupid.

Road Scholar

May 11th, 2011
10:26 am

Joe: Who formulated the plan, insisted on a comando raid, made sure they had the resources, and gave the go ahead? OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF, President Obama! You wouldn’t know leadership if it hit you in the face!

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 11th, 2011
10:33 am

Republicans see them as cheap labor and Democrats see them as future votes, so nothing will be done. Fining the employers would solve the problem but that isn’t going to happen. They’ll just do, basically, the same thing they did in 1986 and 15-20 years from now, we’ll be back having the same discussion.

Not Blind

May 11th, 2011
11:09 am

Except it will be another order of magnitude greater just like this time is when compared to Reagan’s sellout.

joe

May 11th, 2011
11:09 am

Thats the difference b/t sissy libs and tough conservatives…I’d never let any leader hit me in the face. Re-read my post, I gave him kudos to Obama for doing one good thing, so he is now officially not the worst US president ever…that goes to Jimmy C.

However, that does not do anything to negate that fact that his domestic policies are a second-term killer. Enjoy that 60 rating now, it will be below 45 within six months.

Halftrack

May 11th, 2011
11:46 am

Kyle, The sticking point of this is that the President and his administration need to secure the border. You have to not abandon and cafeteria choose what you want to enforce and what you will not. Obummer disses the American people with statements like, moats & alligators. He needs to get real, serious and offer some leadership that encompasses all citizens, not illegal aliens.

landaddy001

May 11th, 2011
12:30 pm

While I am sympathetic to the plight of illegal aliens, the cause of this issue boils down to one thing, the desire for cheap labor by American businesses. That same desire for cheap labor once brought people to this country in chains and was a large reason for the War Between the States. Unfortunately what is good for the bottom line of business is not always the moral or right thing to do. This is not a case of dealing with out dated immigration laws. The countries immigration laws were not out dated when they were knowingly violated by businesses and illegal aliens. They simply were not enforced by the government. This brings us to the trust problem. How can the American people trust their government to fully enforce any change in immigration law, when the government has failed and continues to fail to fully enforce the current immigration laws? No changes in the law will work to stop illegal immigration if the government does not enforce the law. So, here we are today. The right thing to do is to enforce the immigration laws as written. The laws must apply to everyone equally, or they have no meaning.

Cobb Woman of Color

May 11th, 2011
5:07 pm

If illegal immigrants won’t follow the process in place, what makes us think they will follow a new process if they are given amnesty? Do you think they will pay a fine. admit they broke the law, learn English and get a background check? They have shown they don’t think they have done anything wrong with their marches for their “rights” in a country they illegally entered.

Cobb Woman of Color

May 11th, 2011
5:09 pm

Americans need to march in the streets for “our rights” to have America’s immigration laws enforced and for border protection.

Curly

May 12th, 2011
5:43 pm

Mr. Wingfield’s suggestions are the most sensible I have seen to date. But yet, he still doesn’t cover all the bases. When Regan accomplished his amnesty, the promise was made to the American people that it would absolutely be the LAST amnesty, and NO MORE would ever follow. How do we enforce that? How do we know that if we adopt even a stringent amnesty with lots of strings attached, that this country will never, ever again cave in to the interests of foreign nations and foreign nationals and grant another amnesty? And another, ad infinitum?

Another issue very often overlooked is the issue of dual citizenship, which Mexicans can have via multiple avenues? Why isn’t a revocation of dual citizenship included in any of these proposals? We should bend over backwards to allow people who violated our laws, our border, our national security and our sovereignty so they can be American citizens IN ADDITION to remaining Mexican citizens, or that their US born offspring who are US citizens will be able to keep their US citizenship when they ADDITIONALLY acquire Mexican citizenship?

And then there is that issue of “learning English.” Has anyone actually investigated why interpreters and translated documents are still necessary for so many naturalized citizens? I have, and I have learned that the “test” of English is an egregious host. Some civil servant untrained in English and untrained in evaluations talks to the naturalization candidate, to judge whether that person understands what the civil servant is saying and responds appropriately. Just a sentence or two, and lousy grammar and thick accents don’t count against the candidate. Then the civil servant reads a paragraph or so to the candidate. The civil servant reads multiple choice answers to the candidate, and the candidate points to the answer s/he thinks is the correct one. What a joke! If Obama and everyone else is serious about aliens learning English, how about administering standardized tests or oral and written English, for both comprehension and expression, and setting the lowest passing score at fifth grade level? What is unreasonable about expecting those who want to live here to have learned English at the level of the average ten year old? If we are going to say they have to “learn English,” then it is only rational that they demonstrate that they can understand spoken English, speak English themselves, understand written English and write English, themselves, at the level of an American ten year old.

And then there is the problem of what to do with people who will not obey the rules, particularly when they are members of a family, some of whom do obey the rules and/or are US citizens. There is an entire host of “what ifs” that need to be dealt with. If amnesty is to be granted ONE LAST TIME, then not only do we have to genuinely secure our borders, but we have to be committed to working out all the details IN ADVANCE as well as be committed to imposing harsh and stringent monitoring and enforcement measures.

Mr. Wingfield is right that the devil is in the details. It’s also in the commitments.

Kelly

May 15th, 2011
7:55 pm

People don’t understand that the Mexicans are coming here because US policies such as NAFTA and the War on Drugs are pushing them off of their land. Mexico is now just a big plantation for US corporations and the rich who like to party there. The Mexicans are caught in the middle.