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Vague Immigration Standards put forth by House Republicans

House Republicans unveiled an immigration reform plan outlining the standards they assert must be met for them to be willing to pass immigration reform legislation.  This plan, however, is not actually a plan.  It vaguely outlines points and principles leaving much vagueness and ambiguity around what their standards actually are, and does not set forth an actual plan, or even promise of a bill.

Their outline does embrace the ideals of the DREAM Act, including citizenship opportunities for minors and young undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as children.  It also mentions creating avenues for adults living in the United States illegally to live and work in the country legally without threat of deportation.  They mention that they would support a comprehensive immigration package to provide many of the 11.7 million people living in the United States illegally pathways to stay here without fear of deportation.

However, they also insist that border security “must come first,” and that pathways to legalization cannot “happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented.”  The problem is, like many other terms and principles put forth in the House Republican outline, “specific enforcement triggers” are undefined and may be used to stave off completion of comprehensive immigration reform.  Legislation is defined by the details and the details in this outline are left vague and undefined.

The Republican immigration reform plan is a whole 858 words written on one page.  After rejecting immigration reform legislation negotiated across the isle and passed with bipartisan support, and support from religious, labor and business leaders in the Senate in 2013, House Republicans wrote up negotiated amongst themselves to outline their standards for agreeing to vote on immigration reform legislation.  In the words of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, “These standards are as far as we are willing to go.”

Unfortunately, these hard standards can only be so hard when they are vague.  Another example are the “special pathways,” to citizenship, another term left undefined in the Republican’s outline.  They write, “There will be no special pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrant adults, even though they could be eligible to legally stay in the country to live and work.

The upside to a vague and undefined outline of hard limits is that it leaves wiggle room for bipartisan negotiation.

Source: Benen, Steve.  “House GOP outlines immigration principles,” MSNBC.  January 31, 2014.  http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/house-gop-outlines-immigration-principles

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Pretests Readiness for Widespread Immigration Reform

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, authorized by President Obama in June of 2012 has turned out to be a much-needed testing grounds for what changes need to be made to carry out broader immigration reform.  Political sciences assistant professor of University of California San Diego and researcher of DACA Tom Wong explains, “DACA represents an important trial run for a larger legalization process.”

Since DACA was announced, about 75% of all applicants have been accepted to remain in the United States.  An estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants qualified for this program which is open to immigrants ages 15-30 with high school diplomas, GEDs, or are enrolled in US schools, who have not left the country since June of 2007, and have not committed any serious crimes.  As was to be expected, they came forward and applied in enormous numbers.  What wasn’t expected was where they would all come from.

States like California, Texas, New York, and Illinois have the highest number of Mexican immigrants.  However, these assumptions created hiccups in the DACA process.  While these states had the most Mexican immigrants, serving immigrants from countries besides Mexico–especially immigrants who couldn’t speak English or Spanish–needs a lot more work and a lot more resources and local organizations to support these applicants.  Also, the states with the most applicants turned out to be none of the top states populated with Mexican immigrants.  Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana were the states with the most applicants and underestimations of the traffic they would receive caused many a hiccup.

Another important aspect of DACA that needed some streamlining was specifying which documents were acceptable for proving continuous residence.  Since employers are wary of documenting illegal workers, people were bringing forth hospital bills, social media documentation, and utility bills.  It has since been made clear that utility bills and hospital bills will be accepted.  The school systems in these states have also been flooded with transcript requests.

All of these hold-ups have created bottlenecks in the process that have lead to long turn-around times, during which applicants have gotten deported, visas have run out, and lives have been torn apart.  At the same time, these applicants are educated, responsible members of the United States’ population and loosing them due to lengthy application processing time is not in our best interest.

In the first sixty days since DACA was announced, almost 600,000 people applied.  This has not slowed down.  Hopefully we can learn how to streamline application and turn around, as well as best serving all applicants and supporting the communities that will have to scramble for transcripts and utilities bills, from the challenges, surprises, and hiccups of DACA moving forward into broader immigration reform.

Source: Wides-Munoz, Laura.  “Immigration Reform Gets Broader Lessons from Deferred Action,” Huffington Post.  November 17th, 2013.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/immigration-reform-deferred-action_n_4295563.html