Sunday, February 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Baby steps toward immigration reform

By
From page A6 | December 05, 2012 |

The issue: Eventually, the idea of a path to full citizenship will become acceptable

If immigration reform is to be achieved — and it is pretty clear that it must be — the solution likely will not be a sweeping overhaul but a series of smaller, politically digestible steps.

BY EXECUTIVE ORDER this year, President Barack Obama took the first of those baby steps by halting deportation of young illegal immigrants. Youngsters who were brought to this country before age 16, were in school or had graduated or had served in the military and had clean criminal records and were younger than 30 were eligible for work permits that could be renewed every two years.

Congressional Republicans cried foul, charging that it was a backdoor attempt to revive the DREAM Act rejected by the Senate two years earlier. The DREAM Act would have culminated in full U.S. citizenship, which Obama couldn’t do without congressional approval and which at the time he had no chance of getting.

Republicans also dismissed it as a grandstand play for the Latino vote, coming as it did three months before the November election. If so, the ploy certainly helped, since Obama beat Mitt Romney by 44 percentage points among Latinos. Republicans, generally the most vigorous opponents of changes in the immigration laws other than building longer and higher walls on the border, took notice.

Last week, the House approved a GOP-sponsored measure to make it easier for foreign students who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities to obtain green cards and stay here. Injecting a rare note of common sense into the immigration debate, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said, “We cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the United States and then send them back home to work for our competitors.”

Even though some Democrats voted against the bill because it falls short of the massive immigration overhaul they seek, the measure passed. The Senate likely will run out of time before it can take up the bill.

MEANWHILE, the Senate has a Republican-backed measure of its own that closely tracks Obama’s order but sets up a three-tiered visa process, culminating in a permanent nonimmigrant visa that can be renewed every five years.

The bill was introduced by outgoing GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona. Like the House bill, the Senate is unlikely get around to the measure for lack of time.

But the Senate GOP immigration torch, so to speak, has been passed to Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, meaning that the full Senate will get another crack at it next year.

It is through this kind of incremental change that our immigration laws will be rewritten and eventually the idea of a path to full citizenship will become acceptable.

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