Anticipating Failure

Christopher Jerrolds

As the Gang of Eight prepares their immigration reform bill, the President and state legislatures have also taken measures to address the U.S. immigration issue. Sen. McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Graham (R-SC), Sen. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Flake (R-AZ), and Sen. Bennet (D-CO) came together to form the group and create legislation for bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. [1] At the end of January the group of senators held a press conference to introduce their outline and priorities for reform, including stronger boarder security, new pathways to future citizenship for undocumented U.S. residents, retaining and attracting skilled workers, and working to improve immigrant employment issues. [2]

Last week, USA Today leaked a White House immigration proposal, which differed from the Gang of Eight’s plan. [3] The key part of President Obama’s plan is that undocumented immigrants would have a pathway to gain citizenship within eight years. In addition, security funding would be increased, immigrant workplace reform would be set in place, and a new “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa would be created for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. This bill resembles late-Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. McCain‘s bill that failed in 2007. However, the White House has received a lot of criticism from their opponents for the bill’s lack of input from Congressional Republicans. If the bill was to be proposed in Congress, Sen. Rubio said it would be “dead on arrival.” Yet, the White House argued that their proposal was a backup to the bipartisan plan, which they strongly supported.

State legislatures are also jumping ahead of Congress to press their immigration agendas. The Democratic-controlled Colorado Senate just passed a bill, which is focused on the same population as the failed DREAM Act, to provide more higher education opportunities to Dreamers—undocumented children who have spent the majority of their life in the United States. This bill, SB33 would allow all students, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible for the in-state tuition rate at Colorado colleges and universities if they have attended a Colorado school for at least three years and graduated. [4] The bill is the first of its kind to receive support from Republican senators, and Democratic Gov. Hickenlooper said he would sign the bill into law once it is on his desk.

However, the Tennessee General Assembly has introduced a bill that would limit the opportunities for Dreamers. At the end of January, the bill, HB125/SB209 was introduced in the house and in the senate. [5] The bill would prohibit Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from having or obtaining a driver license. DACA, announced by President Obama in June 2012, halted the deportations of DREAM Act eligible youth by giving them lawful presence, which included eligibility for temporary driver licenses. [6] The bill is still in its preliminary stages and is currently headed to subcommittees.

Still, the spotlight is on the Gang of Eight and their bill.  Sen. Schumer stated that he believes the Gang of Eight will have their bill finished by the end of March. While passing any legislation has shown to be an uphill battle in this Congress, recent support from Republican Leadership in the House is promising. But if the Gang of Eight is unable to provide answers for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, the President and state legislatures have shown that they are ready to tackle the issue.









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