Immigration Reform

Good evening everybody and welcome to In the News.  Glad you could be with us again today.  Immigration has been the topic of the week in our nation’s capitol this week.  So we want to talk a little bit about what’s been going and get to some of the details of the developments. 

The President late last week announced that he would be going to Las Vegas to deliver a major policy speech on immigration reform.  And not to be outdone a bipartisan group of 8 Senators announced yesterday that they had agreed to an outline of a major immigration reform plan they had been working on since November.

Now some of you may remember, President Obama promised that he would pursue immigration reform in his first term.  A promise that, as was well documented during last year’s election went unkept.  So it would make sense that he would want to make immigration reform one of the first major initiatives in his second term.

Immigration was a major issue in last year’s election.  A fact that was not lost on Republicans who saw the nation’s fastest growing demographic group, Hispanics, break for President Obama in the election by a wide 71% to 28% margin.  So it would make sense for Republicans to want to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.  So it seems that both parties are highly motivated to see some type of plan put in place over the next several months. 

Now as I’ve mentioned, there has been a group of 8 Senators that have been working on a plan for immigration reform since November.  They announced the outline of the agreement yesterday. 

And the plan tries to be as comprehensive as possible.  It has 4 major goals:

-Creating a tough but fair path to citizenship for undocumented individuals who are already here.

-Reforming the legal immigration system to better attract the best and brightest immigrants from all over the world.

-Creating an effective employment verification system.

-And improving the process by which future workers can be admitted to the US while protecting American workers at the same time.

Under the plan undocumented immigrants will be required to pass a background check, pay a fine, and back taxes, and that will allow them to remain in the US under a probationary legal status.  Those individuals must also learn English and demonstrate a history of work in the US.  Individuals satisfying these requirements will then proceed to the back of the line for a green card, to ensure fairness, and will then be on a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

The President flew to Las Vegas today to push the case for immigration reform.  He reiterated his plan which is very similar to the one the Senators have proposed.  His goal is to spur action and keep pressure on Congress to act.  He said in his speech today: “I’m here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.  The time is now.”  He encouraged Congress to act and promised to send his own plan as a bill to Congress if the Senate plan stalled or was defeated. 

So it seems that there is support on both sides of the hill to get something done on this.  Sen. Schumer, who is part of the gang of 8, seems to have articulated it best when he said that the time to act is now because the politics of this issue has been turned upside down.  That is, there is now more risk in opposing reform than there is in supporting it. 

Sen. McCain who is also part of the group and who has repeatedly tried to push for reform, most recently in 2007, but has continuously seen his initiatives die out in Congress, also echoed the same sentiment.  He articulated the urgency of the situation and we can play that clip for you now in just a second.  Here is Sen. McCain at yesterday’s press conference:

So it seems that all systems are go in this push here and we’ll see how it plays out.  It seems a little bit promising that something will get done here.  Of course it has seemed that way before and we’ve seen the effort fizzle out. 

But one of the main obstacles that has always stood in the way is what to do about the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants that are already here.  Another major obstacle has been the opposition by business to an employee verification system that would make it hard for employers to hire unauthorized workers.  And it seems that those two major aspects are being addressed. 

The plan calls for a tough but fair pathway to citizenship for people who are already here.  We have always will be a nation of immigrants.  That’s what makes us strong.  But we’ve also always been, and have to remain, a nation of laws.  And those laws have to be respected no matter how noble the reasons are for breaking them.

And the plan also calls for a nationwide system of employee verification.  Which has been an aspect of this debate that I don’t think got nearly as much attention paid to as it should have.  For years a national employee verification system was resisted because, to be honest, too many companies preferred having the option of hiring undocumented workers. 

Of course, in all in fairness, there are a lot of businesses out there that wish to comply with employment laws and find it difficult.  And there are also a lot of jobs out there that Americans just haven’t wanted to fill.  And so some companies have no choice.  But nevertheless this was an underlying, root cause of the issue and it’s now being addressed.  So that gives me hope.

So this can be a big deal if it goes thru.  Of course the details still need to be worked out.  The devil is in the details is the operative phrase of the week in DC this week.  But if legislation gets passed that tackles one of the biggest issues facing this country right now, it could set us on a path of progress and productivity.  Terms that have been starkly absent over the last couple of years.  As always we’ll be watching the issue closely, and bringing you the updates as they happen.

That’s our show for tonight.  We thank you very much for tuning in.  Remember to keep your comments coming in to comments@itnshow.com.  That’s comments@itnshow.com.  And remember to keep up with on Facebook and Twitter @itnshow.  That’s itnshow, one work.  Thanks for being with us everyone.  And we’ll see you next time.  Good night.