Too Steep A Path

Yesterday I read the Senate Gang of Eight’s proposal on immigration reform. (Since when was Marco Rubio in this group, which first formed before he was elected to the Senate?) It promises a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for an undocumented worker presently in the United States. I suppose that in order to pass political muster from some very, very loudly-shouting people, the path must of necessity be “tough.” And it also apparently will need lots of ineffectual toys and par for the course in the Senate, the guys who agreed on the package yesterday can’t agree today on what they agreed on yesterday.

President Obama promises to announce his own preferred constellation of policies later today, which he says will be more liberal in nature, for instance by way of including provisions for same-sex bi-national couples. This does not seem calculated to appeal to Republicans for support should a reform proposal be sent to the House of Representatives, so I’m not entirely sure of the strategy here.

The proposal already gave rise to shouts of “Oh noes its amnesty!” from the usual suspects, some of whom will not be satisfied with anything short of issuing licenses to shoot illegal immigrants for sport. It hardly seems that demanding that a fine and back taxes be paid before getting to the back of the line constitutes amnesty. Indeed, I suspect that demanding this payment and submitting to a background check that creates a danger of deportation, before even beginning the process of getting a work permit and later citizenship, will deter a large number of undocumented people from stepping in to the process and incorporating themselves into the legal system.

We’re talking about people who very likely do not have a lot of money readily at hand — they’re working at low-wage jobs and probably not doing much better than living hand to mouth in most cases. They likely do not have a lot of knowledge about, much less trust in, the U.S.A.’s legal system. I’d be surprised if even one-tenth of the people purportedly covered by this program step forward to take advantage of it under these conditions.

And maybe that’s the political point. This can be called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” but in fact it won’t be a whole lot of help to a whole lot of people. It would shift the blame to the individual workers here without documentation, for not stepping forward and taking advantage of a “path to citizenship” so steep effectively no one it aims at will be able to follow it. And then everyone in Congress can say, “Hey, we Did Something” and it isn’t their fault it didn’t work.

I suppose I should be happy that the reform proposal is more enlightened than “self-deportation,” although that isn’t saying much. Maybe if there could be payment plans set up for the fine and back taxes? Maybe if green card applications could be processed in a reasonably expedient fashion so the line wasn’t so long? The “tough but fair” path to citizenship looks like there’s a lot more emphasis on the “tough” part than the “fair” part to me — and as Will argues in the immediately previous post here, America’s policies should be tailored to meet America’s actual needs, and this looks more like something cobbled together to meld something less than half a loaf of actual reform along with heap of mollifying a variety of inchoate anxieties.

Of such raw materials good policies are at best only rarely made.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Well, let’s see.

    What ARE America’s real needs? I’d submit that it’s for more rich successful, educated wealthy folks to come to the US and establish business, do research, teach, etc. rather than a bunch of less educated, less rich, folks, on balance.

    Rest assured that La Razza and others will set up locations to guide these poor down trodden “undocumented workers” through the process, perhaps even to help them with fines, etc. And hey, if we offer you a citizen deal and you decline it for whatever reason, I’m really not all that sympathetic to complaints. You got at least two bites at the apple.

    As was clearly explained in the various press conferences about this, this is a POLITICAL solution. You expected a REAL solution?

    • You’re saying we need more Job Creators?

      I agree. The ones we have ain’t doing shit.

      • Maybe Job Creators from the third world will create jobs here.

        • Hark, I hear the dulcet strains of the theme song from Team America World Police !

    • You mean like George Romney? The guy what saved Detroit?
      The man who arrived from Mexico with nothing much more than the shirt on his back??!?

      THOSE job creators ARE our immigrants!

  2. Having looked at this for a while, it seems to me we’ve opened the door to a two-tier citizenship structure, Reg’lar Citizens and Gang of 8 Citizens. Notice when they’ll become citizens: when the border is truly secure.

    As Bugs Bunny would say “Really and truly?”

    We are told the US-Mexico border is 1,969 miles long. This is a mathematical myth: the border assumes a fractal dimension, the shorter your measure, the longer the resulting sum will be. It is also a strategic myth, a Maginot Myth, if you will: the border can never be Truly Secured and everyone involved understands this, not while all our other borders remain less than Truly Secured. The Snake Head Chinese gangs routinely import illegal immigrants in shipping containers. People sneak across from Canada. People overstay their visas.

    It’s the best of both worlds for the politicians. The Democrats get to say they’ve done something about the millions of undocumented workers and the Republicans get to say (albeit quietly and with a smirk on their faces as they say so, knowing these Gang of 8 beneficiaries will never get the vote) they’ve actually compromised on the issue.

  3. As an Indian, there is some Indian food I get here which is too spicy for me. About the worst Indian food I’ve tasted was in the UK. Everything tasted like chalk

      • I don’t know. But my wife and I very much enjoyed the Indian food we had in London. Somewhere around the Vauxhall Tube station, because we walked across Vauxhall Bridge on the way back to our hotel near Victoria Station. I couldn’t find the place again if you held a gun to my head, though.

  4. I don’t see a path to citizenship as very meaningful.
    The people didn’t come here for the citizenship anyway.

    A way for people to stay in the country and work & go to school legally is much more important than some promise of citizenship.
    You don’t need to be a citizen to do those things.

    This is what I call standard politics:
    Neither side really addresses the issue. The one side offers overkill, and the other is reactionary.

    Hardly what I would consider moving the matter forward.

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