Much Needed Immigration Reform – Reviving 245(i)

Comment: Back To 245i – from ILRC
In the House of Representatives, its back to the future all over again. RollCall reports: “Last year, the Obama administration proposed granting waivers from the three- and 10-year bars to some undocumented immigrants. The proposal in the House would completely lift the restrictions for undocumented people currently in the country…On Wednesday, House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., suggested he could support that idea. ‘If you address some kind of reform of that aspect of it, you can avail people of an opportunity that they don’t have now,’ Goodlatte said. ‘Maybe you have to still go home and don’t have the bar, or maybe you adjust here.'” Removing the 3 and 10 year bars is exactly what 245i is and why it’s needed, and if the Republican Chair of the House Judiciary committee says he could support the idea, the earth has officially shaken and moved (in the proper direction!). A bi-partisan group in the House expects to unveil legislative language, possibly this month, which will have the effect of reviving 245i. As to why both political parties might support a 245i-like provision as a compromise position, the RollCall report continues: “Overall, the citizenship proposal could appeal to both parties. To Democrats, it could offer a relatively straightforward way for people here illegally to become citizens. Republicans, on the other hand, would be able to claim that the proposal does not grant anybody a ‘special’ pathway to citizenship. Rather, undocumented immigrants would go through a process similar to, yet separate from, the one legal immigrants undergo to get green cards. At the same time, it would not take visas away from people applying for them through the existing legal process.” For years, inside-the-beltway folks have told us that 245i was political poison, yet here it is, rising phoenix-like from the ashes.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate is where the real action is. TheHill reports that Senate Judiciary committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is pressuring the bi-partisan immigration group to deliver language for markup this month. The betting is that if the Senate does act first, then the political pressure on the House will be enormous, and that comprehensive legislation will become law before the summer. We would not take that bet, here’s why. The tricky secret behind the Senate’s reasoning is that before language is produced for the law-making process, the AFL-CIO, and the US Chamber of Commerce have to first agree to terms on hundreds of thousands of temporary visas for thousands of occupations. The Senate’s position assumes that AFL-CIO and USCoC will have the luxury of time to negotiate a compromise, a luxury that does not look politically feasible. House Republican leaders could put immigration reformers in the Senate and the White House on the strategic defensive if they were to introduce a DREAM bill on the House floor, and then proceed to pass it while encouraging their Senate colleagues to amend the bill in a comprehensive direction. Such a move would take the political thunder out of the Democratic Party’s hands and turn immigration into a winning issue for the GOP. Inside-the-beltway folks are still thinking in terms of a CIR signing ceremony in the fall. We believe they are mistaken. The political atmosphere is ripe now, and one must strike the iron while its hot. We suggest that those who really want a CIR statute (as opposed to those who want to talk about CIR whilst hoping in-the-heart-of-their-hearts that nothing really happens so they can keep their cushy jobs) should plan for a CIR signing ceremony before the summer starts.

The fiscal crises of the last couple of months are behind us, the Democrats won one, the Republicans the other. There is no major issue with genuine bi-partisan support immediately before Congress but immigration. Time is ticking…the only question is who will move first – the House GOP or the Senate bi-partisan group? Share your thoughts by writing to [email protected].