Immigration â€˜Reformâ€™: Dead?
It looks like immigration "reform" is dead in this session of Congress, according to the Associated Press. Only 45 votes out of a needed 60 in the Senate could be rounded up to end debate and schedule a final vote on the supposed "grand compromise" between President Bush and Senate leaders.
It has unraveled like a cheap piece of clothing. "You start pulling (a loose thread) and the sleeve comes off," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-S.D.) observed to The Washington Post.
To some immigrant advocates, this is a relief. The bill was not even the proverbial half a loaf of bread for immigrants — more like, "two slabs of bread and a whack on the head," if that.
A consensus on what to do has not developed in either political party — among liberals or conservatives, business, labor, or in the immigrant community. They all remain deeply divided. In the base of the Republican Party, many oppose "amnesty" — letting the 12 million undocumented immigrants here now pay fines, back taxes, and win a path to citizenship, albeit a lengthy one. But as Senator John McCain points out, the status quo is "silent amnesty." To deport 12 million people is unfeasible and impractical.
In the base of the Democratic Party, many oppose guest worker programs that, they believe, drive down wages for American citizens and leave temporary or guest workers with few rights, but as the San Francisco Chronicle has pointed out, "Guest workers have a long history in U.S.: Temporary workers become source of permanent labor force." It is politically unfeasible and impractical to eliminate all guest worker programs in favor of a path to citizenship for all of these workers. A Washington Post piece, "Joined at the Claw: Fates of Maryland Crabbers, Guest Workers Intertwined" described how seasonal workers keep a Maryland crab farmer in business, and how difficult the life is for the seasonal workers. "Be Our Guest," an editorial in the generally liberal New Yorker advocates in favor of guest worker programs.
And yet the Los Angeles Times makes legitimate points in its editorial, "A Raw Deal for Guest Workers: Political Pressures Have Produced a Proposed Guest Worker Program that is Neither Practical Nor Fair." And the Associated Press, focusing on farm workers in Florida, points out that "Temporary Farm Workers Feel Cheated By Contractors Under Guest Worker Program."