The immigration distraction: IRS, AP, Benghazi scandals dominate news, but advocates remain optimistic


This just in–well, not really, but you may not have heard it in the news since it has nothing to do with the IRS, the AP, Benghazi, or Angelina Jolie’s voluntary double mastectomy.

A bipartisan group in the House revealed late on May 16 that it has reached an immigration deal in principle. Aides told reporters the on-again, off-again deal is definitely on, but would be more conservative than the Senate proposal and likely require a longer 15-year pathway to citizenship.

The House bill might even require undocumented immigrants to sign an admission that they violated U.S. immigration laws–which sounds like a written confession, but without the “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys.”

The details will be introduced in June, unless any congressional staffers involved are faithful members of Leakers Anonymous.

And how precisely can anything in Washington be totally leak-free?

I’ll bet we see actual details of the House deal before another executive of the IRS resigns.

Maybe the idea of the gargantuan battle of dueling immigration bills will be enough to overcome the three-headed scandals plaguing the Obama Administration and dominating the news.

Let’s hope so.

This week, after all the coverage of congressional hearings and discussion on everything other than immigration, the president reportedly said he didn’t think he had such a bad week at all.

So I guess the bad week really belongs to the 11 million undocumented and the tens of millions more in this country who really had hopes for meaningful immigration reform, right?

Not so fast green-card breath.

I just got off a conference call with immigration advocates and heard nothing but optimism.

Apparently, all those White House scandals aren’t bad news for immigration reform at all. They might even be distracting the people who would be derailing immigration reform (Tea Party folks know who you are. They’re the ones who think all the White House scandals add up to Christmas in May. Now they don’t have to be appallingly xenophobic. Besides, the GOP needs immigration to avoid oblivion.)

So while the natural opponents of immigration make hay somewhere else, work is actually getting done.

“The process is moving smoothly; the Senators are doing their jobs,” said Patty Kupfer, managing director of America’s Voice Education Fund, about the work by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee this week.

Angela Kelley of Center for American Progress called it “stunning progress” with the “integrity of the deal holding strong.”

She even referred to the House deal as a “head-snapping moment.”

Said Kelly: “It really feels like this is a commitment by Congress to get this done, and less of a White House priority …It’s not being driven in the same way that you’ve seen the White House drive other legislative efforts…it’s owned by Congress.”

Discount any talk of immigration reform being derailed. The most ardent supporters appear to be thrilled.

Still, without scandal, the week would have started with some real momentum, celebrating the weekend resignation of the author of that much-ballyhooed Heritage Foundation report—the one that said the Senate immigration bill would cost the U.S. a whopping $6.3 trillion. (Pretty damaging, had it not come from an author who once wrote that Hispanic immigrants with low-IQs would mean future generations of low-IQs.)

We may even finally get the broad conservative embrace of immigration as a true free-marketer’s dream.

But weren’t you wondering when any mention of the immigration markup might actually surface in the news?

It was barely covered in the mainstream media.

With hundreds of amendments, there was one bellwether-type amendment that failed.

It was the one proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that would have crippled the plan by limiting the flow of immigrants and foreign workers to 33 million over ten years, and the total number of green cards to 1.2 million a year.

That it failed resoundingly by 17-1, with only Sessions voting for it, showed there really was some sanity in the room. (To prove it, amendments to speed up the use of the onerous E-Verify and a biometric tracking device were also defeated.)

Let’s hope the tone remains steady in the coming week. On Monday, the Senate subcommittee is scheduled to conduct a marathon session on what remains of more than 300 amendments.

Of significance to Asian Americans are the family unification amendments offered by Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono.

There’s “Hirono 5,” which authorizes U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor up to two members of their extended family to immigrate to the U.S. if they have not previously sponsored any other family members.

But the key Hirono amendments (6, 7, 8) are the ones that seek to retain visa categories for older married sons and daughters, as well as siblings.

A letter signed by groups that support Hirono’s efforts has been circulated.

And this is where I’ve said the whole immigration compromise really cuts to the bone. If Hirono’s amendments fail, then we’re definitely moving from a family-oriented immigration system to a merit-based one that really focuses on corporate and employer concerns and makes applying for citizenship akin to applying to an Ivy League America.

I’ll say this, if the family values aren’t restored and reform continues without Hirono’s changes, they might as well begin sandblasting the Statue of Liberty.

There was nothing wrong with my father’s or your father’s immigration. Huddled masses? This is the New America. We don’t want your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Not even if you’ve got blood ties. Only huddled engineers and STEM workers need apply.

Is that really the kind of immigration reform we want?

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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