Key Players and Plans in Immigration Reform

U.S. Capitol

Will the storm clouds part for CIR?

Trying to keep pace with the news on immigration reform is not easy. It's tough enough reading all of the articles and reports, not to mention following Twitter feeds and of course consulting the blogosphere. And let's not forget actually watching the news or listening to the radio. While the information is invaluable, the process can get overwhelming (albeit, addicting) very quickly. With this post, I have tried to provide a reliable launching point for learning about the key players and plans in immigration reform discussions; a veritable who's who of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Inevitably, there are some noteworthy people making headlines who are not found below. However, by clicking on the links provided, you are certain to find those other movers and shakers.

Ready, begin.

The Gang of 8

  • Bipartisan Senate group comprised of 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans
    • Democrats
      • Michael Bennet (CO): chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
      • Dick Durbin (IL): author of original DREAM Act, which failed to pass; Senate Majority Whip
      • Robert Menendez (NJ): member of Congressional Hispanic Caucus; history as CIR advocate; introduced his own bill in 2010
      • Chuck Schumer (NY): chairman of the Refugees and Border Security subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee; recently stated that the Gang will have a bill drafted by the end of this month
    • Republicans
      • Jeff Flake (AZ): believes CIR is "doable"; history of pro-immigration stance, having worked with Luis Gutierrez (R-IL) on a guest worker program; however, since he hails from Arizona, border security a primary component for CIR
      • Lindsey Graham (SC): has pushed for immigration reform in the past, facing heat from anti-reform groups and those opposing expanding immigration; criticized Jeb Bush for leaving pathway to citizenship off the books in his book detailing his proposed immigration plan, Immigration Wars
      • John McCain (AZ): once a staunch advocate of immigration reform, flipped in 2008 election, flopped back over to lead charge in crafting bill with the Gang; now facing anti-immigrant constituents in his own backyard
      • Marco Rubio (FL): a rising star and popular pick for a presidential run in 2016; has criticized at least one aspect of Obama plan; stated he disfavors a special pathway to a green card or citizenship, but believes there should be a means for undocumented immigrants to receive legal status and perhaps more if no special treatment
    • Plan Details: not officially released yet, but sources have disclosed details; expected by the end of March, but prior deadlines have not been met
      • Believed will include: 13-year plan
        • 1) a probationary status that allows to live and work legally in the U.S.
        • 2) after 10 years in probationary status, eligible to apply for green card
        • 3) after 3 years of green card status, eligible to apply for citizenship
      • Requirements: background check, pay a penalty, file back taxes, learn English
      • Also: the Gang is expected to address employment-based visas – making more visas available to foreign high-tech workers, as well as creating a guest worker program focused on blue-collar employment in which worker visas would be released in accordance with demand (e.g., increase visa numbers when American industries’ demand is high and unemployment low, and decrease numbers when unemployment is high)

The Secretive 8

The Commander & Chief

  • The White House
  • Barack Obama: supports the Gang’s effort to create a bill, but has pledged to push his own CIR bill through Congress this year if the senators' efforts stall
  • Plan Details: 13-year plan
    • Released earlier this year, the CIR Plan grants:
      • 1) probationary immigration status to live and work legally in the U.S. (sound familiar? psst, see Gang of 8, Step 1)
      • 2) after 8 years of probationary status, eligible for green card (compare to Gang’s 10-year probationary period)
      • 3) after five years of green card status, eligible for citizenship in 5 years (compare to Gang’s 3-year wait for citizenship)
  • Requirements: background check, pay a penalty, file back taxes, learn English (yes I know, see Gang above)
Capitol with child

The People have spoken

The People:

  • Obama received 71% of the Latino vote to win reelection
  • Romney's "self-deportation" debacle in the 2012 presidential election caused the Republican party to regroup and rethink
  • Majority of Americans support CIR, including those of religious faith

U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO

  • The Chamber and the AFL-CIO reached an important understanding in February, recognizing the need for reform
  • Stumbling block: cannot agree on the number of temporary worker visas available under the new program
    • The Chamber wants a high number (mid-six figures) that is driven by need of its members (Businesses/Employers)
    • AFL-CIO wants a lower number (low-five figures) to protect U.S. workers from the potential influx of foreign workers flooding the market

Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

  • Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is…remember? (It’s the panel that oversees immigration issues and has the power to kill immigration legislation. Good job.)
  • Has worn two hats: Was an immigration attorney for 13 years before entering Congress; he opposed 1986 immigration reform (legalization) legislation, but handled some such cases as an attorney
  • Initially viewed as anti-immigrant by immigration reform lobbyists, but has shown a willingness to receive balanced testimony on CIR at judiciary committee hearings
  • Remains non-committal on issue of pathway to citizenship, one way or the other; but said will not refuse to support legislation that provides for one

Jeb Bush

  • Former governor of Florida; popular opinion says he’s a potential 2016 presidential candidate, just don’t ask him!
  • His stance on CIR, in particular a pathway to citizenship, depends on which source you consult
  • Flip Flop March 2013:
    • His book Immigration Wars: against a path to citizenship; proposed only a path to permanent legal status
    • Interviews now: open to concept of path to citizenship
    • How to reconcile?: Bush explains now that his book was written at a time when the immigration debate was drastically different, when supporters of CIR could not openly voice support. (Unfortunately for Jeb the Rubios of the Republican party didn’t publish an outdated book and instead learned lessons from November 2012 about what the voters want.)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

  • Another potential 2016 presidential candidate, tea party favorite
  • Said recently he would allow a probationary status similar to Obama's Step 1, but would not provide a special pathway for citizenship; but unlike Jeb’s book, would not necessarily bar citizenship

Representative John Boehner (R-OH)

  • Speaker of the House
  • Hinted that the Secretive 8 have reached an agreement in principle
  • Has reiterated the importance of bipartisan cooperation in crafting a reform bill
  • As House Speaker, has the power to stop a bill from reaching a vote
  • Much to the dismay of anti-reform groups, Boehner refuses to say that he would stop a CIR bill that GOP members oppose

If you made it all the way through, congratulations. Now go read all those tweets you just missed!