The D.C. Sausage Factory is back open for business, and the moment’s featured flavor is Immigration Reform Reprise.
The 113th session of Congress will began the process of tackling the immigration reform President Obama promised America prior to his re-election.
Even as Fiscal Cliff Part Deux and gun control loom large on the near horizon, immigration work has already begun with the second major change (or easing of restrictions) of existing immigration law in the calendar year.
Early Wednesday the president announced that the path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants with immediate family members who are citizens just got a whole lot easier.
Under the immigration reform bill signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, immigrants who have overstayed their visas for more than six months are barred from coming back to the States for three years, and those who have overstayed for more than a years, can’t return for 10 years.
Certainly draconian for men and women who already had legal visas, that restriction has now been greatly eased, allowing for affected immigrants to stay in this country while they get the situation fixed.
The Obama administration sees this as a way to eliminate undue separation of immediate families for long periods of time, an overwhelmingly humane piece of executive action.
Undoubtedly there are immigration hardliners in Washington and among us who are already frothing at the mouth, still angry over the president’s previous move in June to hold off on deporting qualifying young immigrants. Both cases have been referred to as abuse of executive power and privilege because they occurred without legislative intervention.
That is a fair accusation, but for many Americans — including the nearly 9 million Latino registered voters who helped to re-elect President Obama — the humanity of the actions trump what has already been a feeling of outdated and inhumane immigration law that doesn’t work.
Granted, many legal immigrants in this country believe those who are here illegally should not be simply granted amnesty, but there are degrees to that. And despite what many of us are being told, Obama is not attempting blanket amnesty — all compasses point toward easing a restrictive process, incentivizing lawful immigration and removing a healthy dose of the punitive grandstanding that is but a Band-Aid.
The additional problems with existing law affect us right here at home, and that is the difficulty in putting a legal foreign-born workforce in the United States. Local farmers will tell you how difficult it is to find adequate labor for the seasonal harvest.
Unfortunately, what many of us are force fed is the rhetoric about criminal aliens who are crossing the border to do us harm, Mexican moms dropping anchor babies in hospitals and whole families who are a drain on our public resources.
There is some truth in all of that; there is some truth in every nasty nugget if you want to let it be the sole driver of your intellectual makeup.
But the fact is we are a nation of immigrants, and not the Ellis Island immigrants building shanty towns in New York City that most people refer to. We are a nation of immigrants, right here and now, documented and undocumented.
In 2010 it was estimated that there were 43 million legal immigrants living in the United States, or 13.5 percent of the population.
By contrast, it has been estimated there are between 12 million and 15 million undocumented immigrants, and over the last few years that rate has slowed and some have even returned home to better economies in their countries of origin.
Reform is going to happen; the momentum has been building for some time along with the immigrant population, their growing power at the polls and the increasing extinction of the legislative dinosaurs throwing up roadblocks.
Yet compromises and concessions to both sides will be made, alas the gnarly bits and pieces of fat and grizzle hidden among the meaty morsels of the current sausage-making session.
Immigration Reform Reprise, like much of everything that leaves Washington, will be a Franken-food, but it will be an edible one, and at least it will have gotten made. Hopefully.