Let’s Be Honest
by Gabe Camacho
Clarity and directness is the best way to communicate, so let’s give it a try.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform is dead.
Many left wing immigrant activists and analysts have been putting this view out for a while, but for political, ideological, and racists reasons these perspectives have been ignored in the mainstream immigrant advocacy movement.
This conclusion is justified when we take an overview of possible legislative scenarios. Each scenario has its proponents and detractors, but what is important for our work is their likelihood to materialize.
Scenario A. Discharge Petition on Senate bill 744
Much has been written on S. 744 by CHIP including conducting a webinar, so I will not go over the good, the bad, the ugly, the awful, the horrible, the disgusting, and the terrible aspects of that bill. The likelihood of S. 744 going to a vote in the House is nil. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said as much many times over.
Some Washington DC insiders have floated the idea of the “discharge petition”. Simply this means that when the congressional leadership refuses to bring a bill to the floor, a majority of Congress can petition to bring that bill to the floor. Besides the fact that a discharge petition is a rare maneuver, there are two major problems with the discharge scenario.
1. There is a majority Republicans in the House. The GOP support for S. 744 in Congress does not exist, at least not publicly.
2. A discharge petition would require the full support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and her office has not said a word about it. It would also require collective political will, and that would mean that the Democrats would have to grow a backbone soon. I don’t believe the evolutionary process works that fast.
Scenario B. Piecemeal Legislation
The leading proponent of this strategy is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte. This strategy would offer individual pieces of legislation that would separately address such issues as border militarization, guest worker programs, and interior enforcement, without a pathway to citizenship.
This is exactly what happened with four bills that made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. These would include a new Bracero program, a Border militarization bill, a horrendous interior enforcement bill called the SAFE Act, and a universal mandatory E-Verify bill. The CHIP team has developed factsheets<https://afsc.org/document/afsc-summaries-house-bills> on each.
Recently the Virginian Republican Goodlatte has said that he would like a vote on these bills in October. Furthermore he has floated the idea of providing legal status for the so-called Dreamers without a “special path” to citizenship under the “Kids Act”. Additionally Chair Goodlatte has indicated support for a non-agricultural “low-skilled” guest worker program.
With a plate full of contentious issues such as the Federal Budget, the Debt Ceiling, the defunding of Obama Care, and perhaps another geopolitical flare up it is unlikely that Congress will get to these items in October.
However if the Democrats are able to get some type of AgJobs, DREAM Act, and STEM bills in a deal that would string the Republican E-Verify and Border militarization bills together, a package may be ready before the Thanksgiving recess. We should be ready for this one.
Scenario C. A House Comprehensive bill
Since April much has been reported on the “Group of 8 or 7” (Republican R. Labrador of Idaho left the group) in the House. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has dropped hints that there are continuous bipartisan negotiations, and that a deal is being finalized. The few details that we do know about the House CIR bill is that undocumented immigrants would have to admit to “breaking the law” and be on a 15 year probationary period.
If this were to come to pass, the House bill would have to be reconciled with the Senate bill in Conference. In Conference anything that was decent in S. 744 would be stripped away, including the POWER Act provisions, the “Hoffman fix”, and due process under E-Verify, as well as the labor protections in the guest worker programs.
In “breaking news” on Friday the Washington Post reported that the House Comprehensive bill is dead for the year. According to Gutierrez, the GOP leadership will not be supporting the efforts of the Republicans in the Group of 7.
In yet more “top of the hour news,” Roll Call reported yesterday that two Texas Republicans, Sam Johnson and John Carter, have left the Group of 7 because of lack of confidence that President Obama has not enforced current law, and that the President would not enforce new immigration law.
That only leaves the cold warrior Mario Diaz-Balart as the lone Republican in the now Group of 5. There is no hope for a House Comprehensive bill.
Scenario D. Executive Action
Prior to an interview President Obama gave to Telemundo this week, many advocates were advancing a strategy that would have the President issue an executive order that would be similar to DACA or TPS, which would extend legal status to 11 million undocumented people. Legally such executive action would be complicated to say the least but possible, however it would certainly not cover all 11 million.
That strategy was dashed when Present Obama told Telemundo that such executive action was not an option. The second term president said that he does not have the authority to grant deferred action, nor to stop the deportations. This is the same president who miraculously discovered that he had the authority to grant temporary legal status to undocumented youth under DACA during his re-election campaign.
President Obama will continue to blame Congress and the Republicans – a strategy that will help his party in next year’s midterm elections, as well as the presidential elections of 2016.
We must proceed by providing a realistic panorama of what is legislatively possible and not. As long as legislative advocacy is framed on one end, how to get Republican votes, and on the other end, how do we curry favor with the Democratic party, humane immigration reform will never be achieved.
As in every successful social movement, the most affected must lead the struggle not the Beltway experts and strategists. As long as we employ this failed legislative strategy for CIR, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes that have been made since 2006.
Honest conversation must happen with our community partners, constituents, and allies in order to chart a short term, midterm, and long term course. Using this timeline, we can advocate for drivers licenses for undocumented motorists, campaign for a Trust Act, and advocate for labor rights that protect undocumented workers such as anti-wage theft ordinances, and the POWER Act at the federal level.
At the same time we must fight to defeat mandatory E-Verify, new Bracero programs, border militarization, and every other anti-immigrant bill at the state and local level.
In the final analysis, the “movement” must be led from outside of Washington DC.