Immigration Reform

Hypothetically Speaking: Immigration Reform and the Threat to Citizenship

Photo: Wong Kim Ark, via Wikimedia

Photo: Wong Kim Ark, via Wikimedia

President Obama once again asked for immigration reform in last night’s State of the Union address:

… Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. …

Compare last night’s words to those on immigration reform in last year’s State of the Union address:

… I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.

But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away. …

Right away then, right away now. Don’t hold your breath.

The truth is no real traction on immigration reform has been made over the last year at federal level, even after an election. The far right, however, has been steadily working for the last three years at state level toward the denial of U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants, using Arizona SB 1070 as its initial stake in the sand. In theory, SB 1070 is the baseline model legislation from which this nationwide effort start. The long-term implications are far more complicated than they appear.

Here’s a quasi-hypothetical question, a thought experiment about U.S. citizenship by birth. Let’s assume these conditions in this case:

•  Antecedant immigrates from China to Hawaii in 1898, marries a Hawaiian citizen, acquires Hawaiian property–during the same year in which the sovereign nation of Hawaii is annexed without the consent of Hawaiians.

•  Antecedant has multiple children; the youngest is born in early 1930s while Hawaii is still a territory.

•  Youngest child goes to school on mainland while Hawaii is still a territory. Meets and marries a U.S. citizen only months after Hawaii became a state.

•  They have several children while living on the mainland after marriage.

If the far right manages to undermine United States v. Wong Kim Ark–the 1898 decision under which U.S. citizenship by birth was acknowledged–which of the people in the above scenario remain U.S. citizens? Continue reading

A Smart Obama Immigration Policy In The Face Of Political Cowardice

Clearly comprehensive immigration reform is not achievable in light of the refusal of either party to meaningfully address the subject, especially in an election year consumed with the rabid doings of the Arizona State Legislature (memo to everyone: the Arizona Legislature has always been the province of loony nutjobs). Against that backdrop, would be refreshing to see the Obama Administration actually thinking creatively about affirmative policy steps that could be taken to improve the situation and reduce racial tension. Believe it or not, that is exactly what is being done. From Dan Nowicki at the Arizona Republic:

The Obama administration is exploring a broad range of options that potentially could let thousands of illegal immigrants remain in the United States legally or apply for permanent residency if Congress continues to stall on passage of comprehensive immigration reform, according to an internal government memo obtained by The Arizona Republic.

The draft memo, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency in charge of processing immigration benefits, outlines administrative options that would “promote family unity, foster economic growth and achieve significant process improvements and reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization.”

Perhaps the most controversial part of the memo suggests increasing the use of deferred action, which the government uses to let certain illegal immigrants who haven’t committed crimes to remain in the United States without fear of being deported. Once an illegal immigrant is granted deferred action, they are eligible for work permits. Currently, deferred action is rarely granted.

Here is the actual memo from DHS Citizen and Immigration Services.

What a refreshing thought.

In the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform,

……

USSIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear (NTA), and adopting significant process improvements.

Now this is the type of intelligent thought and leadership that Barack Obama ran and got elected on. Is it perfect or ideal? No. But it is positive action in the face of an intractable problem Congress is too cowardly to address.

On the other hand, floating this out with little fanfare, almost in a stand off treatment, does not bode well for the confidence of the Administration or its willingness to invest any effort or perceived capital oh so precious to them.

Prediction: The brown haters and conservative shriekers will let fly causing the White House and Administration to run away and disavow their own department and officials who put their necks out on the line to try to make a difference in such a critically important area of domestic policy. Oh, and John “the Maverick” McCain will rhetorically inflate like cynical nihilistic puffer fish furious about even the thought of such intelligent administration of government.

George Will Goes Bipolar Over Brown

What can brown do for you? If you are George Will, apparently only mow the yard or fill the water glass at the local stick in your butt snob steakhouse. In the latest condescending pile of rancid, rambling garbage by Will, set for tomorrow’s Washington Post, Will defecates on about everybody he can find over the immigration law fiasco in Arizona:

“Misguided and irresponsible” is how Arizona’s new law pertaining to illegal immigration is characterized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She represents San Francisco, which calls itself a “sanctuary city,” an exercise in exhibitionism that means it will be essentially uncooperative regarding enforcement of immigration laws. Yet as many states go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate to buy health insurance, scandalized liberals invoke 19th-century specters of “nullification” and “interposition,” anarchy and disunion. Strange.

Uh, hey George, in the first place Pelosi is right, and your discreetly veiled misogynistic demeaning of her, and offensive put down of her hometown of San Francisco, are intellectually impertinent and scurrilous. The rest of the paragraph is such a non-sequitur you have to wonder about the stability of the mind authoring it.

Arizona’s law makes what is already a federal offense — being in the country illegally — a state offense. Some critics seem not to understand Arizona’s right to assert concurrent jurisdiction. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund attacks Gov. Jan Brewer’s character and motives, saying she “caved to the radical fringe.” This poses a semantic puzzle: Can the large majority of Arizonans who support the law be a “fringe” of their state?

“Some critics”, namely George Fucking Will (that is what the “F” stands for, right?) do not seem to understand the concept of Federal preemption. Maybe Will is one of those conservative headcases who consider the Tenth Amendment the most supreme law of the land; but it is not, and there is a reason serious minds term such morons “Tenthers” in the same vein as the nutjob Birthers. Clearly George Will would not know a proper legal argument of “concurrent jurisdiction” if it hit him in the ass. The rest of that paragraph is gibberish unworthy of a grade school response.

Popularity makes no law invulnerable to invalidation. Americans accept judicial supervision of their democracy — judicial review of popular but possibly unconstitutional statutes — because they know that if the Constitution is truly to constitute the nation, it must trump some majority preferences. The Constitution, the Supreme Court has said, puts certain things “beyond the reach of majorities.”

What? This paragraph makes Charles Cheswick and Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest look sane. You have got to be kidding me. The link is to the Cliff’s Notes, because it appears George Will Is not familiar with the great American novel.

But Arizona’s statute is not presumptively unconstitutional merely because it says that police officers are required to try to make “a reasonable attempt” to determine the status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists” that the person is here illegally. The fact that the meaning of “reasonable” will not be obvious in many contexts does not make the law obviously Continue reading

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emptywheel @NaheedMustafa Agree, but they're using current unjustified fearmongering to do things they haven't tried before (citizen stripping, eg)
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