Yesterday, Senate Democrats officially released a 26-page framework outlining the major components that a Democratic comprehensive immigration reform bill would contain. The framework, which has a strong emphasis on border security, was meant as a serious open invitation to Republicans that is meant to address several of the concerns expressed by members of the GOP. Nonetheless, Republican leaders scoffed at the effort. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said in a statement that the plan is “nothing more than an attempt to score political points.” “A conceptual paper that promises everything to everyone is not the same as responsible legislation that compiles the best ideas from both sides of the aisle,” read the statement.
However, several components of the framework directly address most of the concerns that are most often articulated by Republican lawmakers arguing against the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform:
CLAIM: “First thing we better do is enforce our borders and know who is here and who comes and who leaves.”
– Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
FACT: The proposal states that the border must be secured “before any action can be taken to change the status of people in the U.S. illegally.” The proposal reads, “benchmarks must be met before action can be taken to adjust the status of people.”
CLAIM: “One in ten Americans are unemployed. Wages are stagnant. The pace of job creation is too slow. In this context, there is little enthusiasm in Congress to pass legislation that would legalize millions of unlawful residents to compete with out-of-work Americans for needed jobs.”
– Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL)
FACT: The proposal explicitly states it will “reform America’s lower-skilled worker programs to ensure that businesses only obtain foreign workers when American workers are unavailable.” The framework also contains a provision that will allow for any qualified American worker who is “displaced” by an immigrant worker to have “redress.” By setting up a “commission” that “recommend[s] policies that promote economic growth and competitiveness while minimizing job displacement, wage depression and unauthorized employment,” the proposal suggests that the number of employment-based visas will be flexible and respond to economic changes.
CLAIM: “E-Verify is a successful and important program and is the key to the moderate position for immigration reform.”
– Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
FACT: The Schumer-Menendez-Reid proposal takes the notion of the idea of a mandatory electronic verification system (e-verify) one step further by instituting a biometric ID system. “Employers hiring workers in the future will be required to use the newly created Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System as a means of verification,” says the framework.
CLAIM: “Instead of supporting a bill that rewards illegal behavior, I am committed to working toward a solution to the current situation that increases border security, improves the naturalization processes, and does not involve amnesty in any form.”
– Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
FACT: Far from proposing an “amnesty” measure that simply pardons undocumented immigrants who have broken the law by entering the U.S., the draft includes a “broad-based registration program that requires all illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes.” Others have also discussed requiring undocumented immigrants to pay a fine.
While the Democrats’ plan was written with winning the support of Republicans in mind, it has come at a cost. While the GOP has pretty much rejected the proposal, even some immigration advocates are skeptical of some of its harsher provisions. The ACLU outright condemned the framework and its biometric ID proposal and the Service Employees International Union appears tempered in its support. Meanwhile, chances are if Republicans do jump on board (which seems unlikely), an actual bill would bring the centrist framework much farther to the right.