Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Immigration compromise reached - Family reunification falls through the cracks

Crap. We have a new compromise but family reunification is going to get gutted:

The point system is one element of a comprehensive bill that calls for the biggest changes in immigration law and policy in more than 20 years. The full Senate plans to take up the legislation next week.

Although Democrats now control the Senate, the bill incorporates many ideas advanced in some form by President Bush. A draft of the legislation says that Congress intends to “increase American competitiveness through a merit-based evaluation system for immigrants.”

Moreover, it says, Congress will “reduce chain migration” by limiting the number of visas issued exclusively on account of kinship.

Democrats insisted, and Republicans agreed, that some points be awarded to people who had close relatives in the United States or could perform low-skill jobs for which there was a high demand.

...Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University, said: “The legislation taking shape in the Senate represents a major philosophical shift. It tells the world that we are emphasizing characteristics that will enhance our global competitiveness, like education and job skills. We would not rely as much on family background as we have in the past.”

Under the proposal, Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “foreign-born spouses and minor children of United States citizens could still get green cards, but foreign-born siblings and adult children of citizens would be hurt.”

This drastically changes things for Asian Americans who want to be reunited with their parents and siblings. This doesn't even begin to address the current family backlog. Sigh...here's what IS in the new bill, which is a mixed bag, but one that Bush is willing to sign:

The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a ''Z visa'' and -- after paying fees and a $5,000 fine -- ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.

They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.

A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called ''triggers'' had been activated.

Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.

Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the U.S.

Very mixed, with touchdown provisions. Actually, I don't see any huge benefits or improvements for immigration advocates - there's a guest worker program, which is what Republicans wanted, a touchdown provision, which the GOP wanted, and they're gutting family reunification. Plus there's a significant fine of $5,000. AAAArgh!!!! I just hope this doesn't wind up being the immigration version of No Chil Left Behind.

The only thing we get is a path to citizenship. Plus this is a compromise which is only going to get worse as the House and Senate committees try to find a compromise (the House bill is worse.)

The new proposal would augment that system with a merit-based program that would award points based on education levels, work experience and English proficiency, as well as family ties. Automatic family unifications would remain but would be limited to spouses and children under 21. The adult children and siblings of U.S. residents would probably need other credentials, such as skills and education, to qualify for an immigrant visa. A number of unskilled parents would be allowed in, but that flow would be capped.

English proficiency is only going to benefit those from English speaking countries - think increased European immigration. I need more details, but based upon this, I don't think this is a bill I can get behind. And I'm going to be watching our presidential candidates very closely on this issue.

Update: I just threw up a little, and I cannot support this version of immigration reform. The Senate version would make English the official language.

I would rather wait until we have a Democrat in the White House in 2008 to pass legislation that is more welcoming to immigrants than to settle for what is a reversal of the gains made in 1965.

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