The United States Senate is at it again with immigration reform legislation, but Republicans are still unwilling to join the effort.
Today, Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country.
DeeDee Blase, founder of Somos Republicans, a Latino Republican organization that supports immigration reform, says Menendez will have to do some serious compromising in order to pass his bill.
"Menendez is going to have to move it to the center," Blase says.
She complains that the bill is missing a guest worker program for employers who need low-skilled workers, something GOPers have been demanding for years.
"Unless [Menendez] includes it, it's dead on arrival," she contends.
The legislation is a mixture of formerly introduced stand-alone bills. For example, part of the package includes the DREAM Act, decade-old legislation that would allow certain illegal immigrants who entered the country when they were children to gain legal status if they continue onto higher education or serve in the military.
Another provision includes a proposal that would allow gay and lesbian U.S. citizens or legal residents to sponsor their same-sex partners just as straight married couples can. The Uniting American Families Act has failed in the past, but Dems hope they can pass it this time around with a more comprehensive proposal.
Daniel Rodriguez, a gay member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, is glad that the bill includes a provision that deals with the gay community. But Rodriguez is wary that Obama, who has not pushed aggressively for the DREAM Act, might be using this bill to get Latino support now that an election year is nearing.
"The last thing I want is for Obama to take credit for this bill to get reelected," he says. "But I am happy that the bill is dealing with the LGBT community."
Even though Republicans keep insisting they only want border enforcement, that's just an excuse to stall comprehensive immigration reform, according to Blase. She says Republicans don't want President Obama scoring political points among Latinos.
"Republicans are going to give us excuses so that President Obama doesn't get credit," she insists. "Because Republicans are afraid of creating young Democrat Latino voters."
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 also proposes: Stricter penalties for people who misuse Social Security numbers, more Border Patrol resources and a standing commission that would report to Congress the number of employer-based visas needed.
As part of the package an employment verification system would be created to make sure employers only hire legal workers. The provision would be mandatory for all states, unlike E-Verify, which is a voluntary program on the federal level.
Blase points out that border enforcement and stricter immigration laws alone won't work. Republicans in Congress are going to have to compromise, assuming they want any form of immigration reform.
Lawmakers who only support stricter laws, will have to realize that "we need to bring [undocumented immigrants] out of the shadows of society," she contends.
If Obama wants to recapture the large Latino support he had in 2008, the president will have to do something to help the 11 million illegal immigrants.
"Obama is going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat," Blase states.
And this could be Obama's chance, if he lobbies for Menendez's bill just like he did with health care reform.
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