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.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Where our candidates stand on immigration, aka "do no harm"

Here's where the major Dem candidates stand so far:

On gutting family reunification
The Hill - This provision is among the most controversial for civil rights and religious groups, and it has also prompted criticism from Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Menendez said his office had “given some of our amendments” to other offices, including Clinton and a second presidential hopeful, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), whom Menendez said is working with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on another amendment.

Hillary offered a bill to reduce the impact of the gutting of family reunification:

On the other side, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., plans to offer an amendment that would exempt the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents from the measure’s visa caps, guaranteeing that families receive a higher priority.

This is a SMART move by the Clinton camp to win support from ethnic communities. But you also have to take the long term view and remember that Hillary and Barack voted to build a wall between the US and Mexico last year.

On guest workers:

Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina objected to the guest- worker provisions, which are opposed by some unions as a pipeline for providing cheap immigrant labor to U.S. business.

Edwards, 53, called the guest-worker plan ``poorly conceived.'' Obama, 45, noted ``some good elements'' in the compromise and said he's reserving final judgment until the legislation emerges in its final form.

New Mexico Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic, may be squeezed between Hispanic groups' objections and his need to attract Anglo votes. Richardson, 59, welcomed the agreement, while listing reservations.

The candidate called a requirement that a head of household leave the country and re-enter legally ``problematic.'' He also said a provision for a $5,000 fine for undocumented immigrants seeking permanent status was ``so unrealistic that immigrants simply stay in the shadows rather than earn legal status.''

(By the way, in the midst of the immigration debate Richardson decided to formally announce his presidential candidacy.)

The good news on this bill is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is not fond of reducing the importance of family reunification:

Mr. Reid criticized the measure on several grounds.

“The bill impacts families in a number of ways that I believe are unwise,” he said. “The bill also allows 400,000 low-skilled workers to come to America for three two-year terms, but requires them to go home for a year in between.

This is impractical both for the workers and for the American employers who need a stable, reliable work force.”

Best reason to oppose the bill as-is:

In writing the measure, senators bypassed the Judiciary Committee, where immigration bills normally originate.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said, “The bill we have before us is a product of closed-door meetings between the administration and Republican senators, which was then put to Democratic senators as a framework for further negotiations.”

Overall, I don't think that there is enough support from the left or the hard right to get this bill passed the way immigrant rights advocates want, but I fear that somehow the bill will get through regardless and we'll have a huge mess on our hands.

The idea here is to at a minimum, do no harm.

If the bill is this punitive as is, I cannot support it in its present form. I would love to see some REAL progressive immigration reform but until then I would even be happy with our Congress passing something that does no harm. And this bill in its current state does not fulfill that minimum requirement. If improvements are made this week, I will have to re-assess.

If I have more time, I will do a comb-through of the details of the bill and add more analysis, but it's crunch time for my proyecto and I'm not quite sane, so it may only come next week. Until then, sweet dreams.

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