Finally, Real Immigration Reform That Isn't Amnesty

Posted: May 12, 2014 3:00 PM
Finally, Real Immigration Reform That Isn't Amnesty

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) has floated an immigration compromise that House Republicans should strongly consider voting on. But before I go over the details of Labrodor's possible plan, here is what I wrote about all immigration reform plans back in January before Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) unveiled his plan:

Amy immigration plan that provides special privileges to those who are in the country illegally today, but does not extend those same privileges to illegal immigrants who enter the country tomorrow, can fairly and accurately be called amnesty.

Unfortunately Boehner's immigration principles released this past January did exactly that. It granted special "probationary" status to illegal immigrants who are in the country now, provided they "admit their culpability" and jump through a myriad of other worthless hoops. The principles then promised, "Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."

And that is the problem with Boehner's plan. You can't credibly promise to enforce the law tomorrow if you are not willing to enforce that same law today.

Labrador's new deal is fundamentally different. The Washington Times reports:

Mr. Labrador suggested dropping the penalty period that bars illegal immigrants from reapplying to enter the U.S. legally after being deported, a period that now lasts for between three and 10 years, depending on how long they had first remained in the country illegally.

“I think most Republicans agree that the 3- and 10-year bars have to go away because right now the people that are here illegally, they have to go home to become legal, but then they have to remain home for ten years,” the Idaho Republican said. “We remove those bars from them, you could fix the status of about 25 percent of the people that are here illegally right now if they return to their home country and then they come back legally.”

Under current law, those that leave the U.S. after living here illegally for six months or more cannot return for three years. Those who lived here illegally for at least a year cannot return for ten years. That has served as an incentive for many illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. rather than return home and face yearslong bans.
He said in return for dropping the bars, Democrats should agree to boost legal immigration by granting green cards to foreigners who graduate from American universities with advanced degrees in the fields of science, engineering, math or technology.

You can disagree about the merits of ending the reentry bans or boosting high-tech visas, but at least both of these measures are honest immigration reform. They are both forward looking and would apply equally to everyone, regardless of whether or not they were already in the country today.

This is exactly the kind of piece-by-piece immigration reform Republicans should pursue.