Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Blog

The "Gang of Eight", eight senators taking the lead on immigration reform, released a document of principles today agreed-upon by the bipartisan group. “We have basic agreement on many of the core principles,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) last week. Other members among the Gang of Eight include Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The proposal released by the group comes a day before the President is expected to release details of his own immigration proposal in Las Vegas. 

The proposal agreed-to by the eight senators outlines a reform of the current immigration system that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The proposal says that undocumented immigrants are compelled to register with the government and undergo a number of background checks, in addition to paying an unspecified fine and back taxes, before earning probationary legal status allowing them to live and work legally in the U.S. Multiple provisions currently in the proposal appear overburdensome and redundant, including numerous background checks, a requirement to learn English and civics, and a demonstration of work history and current employment. The proposal, however, makes an exception for agricultural workers and children who unknowingly entered the country illegally, which is similar to the DREAM Act that was initially proposed in the U.S. Senate in 2001. In attempts to secure some of the brightest minds, the proposal also includes a section on awarding green cards to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master's degree in science, technology, engineering, or math.         

The Arab American Institute led a meeting of Arab American community leaders at the White House last week to discuss the priorities of immigration reform for the Arab American community. Among some of the concerns discussed with the domestic policy staff at the White House, AAI specifically called for the strengthening of prohibitions against racial profiling and the prohibition against a disproportionate use of force by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which are included in the bipartisan framework released today. 

As the discussion on immigration reform unfolds during the 113th Congress, there are bound to be fights on and off Capitol Hill, and we have yet to see what the final legislation will look like. One thing is certain though; after their dismal showing with ethnic voters during the 2012 elections, Republicans have shifted their stance on immigration reform. Opposition to immigration reform by the GOP certainly hurt them at the polls with ethnic voters, but according to recent exit polls, 51 percent of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship. While the Republican-led House will be a huge part of the discussion on immigration reform and a likely impediment to discussions on a pathway to citizenship, House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman, Trey Gowdy (R-SC), known to be a hawk on immigration reform, recently made statements showing a much lighter and humanistic stance on the debate: "You want them [immigration officials] knocking on your front door?" he said. "You want them going to elementary schools and rounding up the kids?"

It's unclear what the President's immigration proposal will look like, but House leadership has already indicated that they will take a back seat and will wait until immigration reform moves through the Senate before taking it up in their chamber.   

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