Unlearned Immigration Lessons

By Miguel Perez

December 3, 2012 7 min read

Just when we think Republicans finally have learned their immigration lesson, when a landslide of Latino voters kept them out of the White House and threated to wipe the GOP out of contention in future presidential elections, out they come with proposals so ridiculously short of expectations that you feel they are insulting your intelligence — once again!

Now they are acting as if they are forced to give alms, not because of newfound compassion for immigrants but because they lost the election and they are worried about saving their own hide.

Take the new ACHIEVE Act, the first Republican bill proposed in the Senate following the elections. It's the DREAM Act that Democrats have been proposing for years but without a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came here as children.

Introduced by Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas — two politicians who always have catered to anti-immigrant, xenophobic extremists — the ACHIEVE Act would clearly limit their potential achievements. Although it would offer visas to undocumented immigrants who came here before they turned 14 and are either in the military or pursuing a college degree, it gives them no opportunity to become legal permanent residents and eventually citizens.

They would be relegated to a new status of second-class of citizens, forever unable to fully realize the American dream.

"The problem with the ACHIEVE Act is it does not achieve the dream," said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey at a news conference last week.

It's true. This is not what Latinos voted for on Nov. 6.

We also didn't vote to extend the number green cards to high-tech immigrants — not if it means we have to eliminate the diversity lottery visa program for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Yet that's what another Republican-sponsored bill would do. Passed (245 to 139) Friday by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, the so-called STEM Act would give permanent resident status to 55,000 foreign students who obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math from U.S. universities. However, it would eliminate the lottery program that, while created in 1990 to increase visas for Ireland, has shifted to benefit more immigrants from Africa in recent years. Many (134) Democrats who want to retain foreign high-tech students by giving them green cards were forced to vote against this twisted measure.

Since it favors some immigrants over others, it is yet another clear sign that Republicans have not learned their immigration lesson.

"We will only increase visas for immigrants we like if we can eliminate immigration for immigrants we don't like," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois as he mocked the Republican approach in a House floor debate last week.

These two bills, introduced by Republicans without consulting Democrats or seeking bipartisan support, are in sharp contrast to the approach taken by Democrats after the election. While the Republicans are taking the lead in introducing immigration measures — ridiculous as they may be — the Democrats are only offering "policy priorities" and still looking with "common ground" with Republicans.

As if they also haven't learned their immigration lesson, you hear Democrats making concessions to the same Republicans who have traditionally accepted those concessions and refused concede anything in return.

You hear Democrats endorsing conservative immigration priorities, such as securing the U.S.-Mexico border, conducting worker verification and criminal background checks, and requiring immigrants to learn English and pay taxes before they can obtain legal status and eventual citizenship. You hear Democrats still trying to appease Republicans who cannot be appeased.

But why are Republicans the ones taking the lead in presenting any kind of immigration legislation? Why are they able to claim — hypocritical as it may be — that Democrats are the ones blocking their efforts to address immigration? Why are the Democrats enjoying their Latino voter mandate and sitting on their hands?

If the Republicans are introducing and passing immigration bills now, why are the Democrats telling us we have to wait until sometime next year? Now that anti-immigrant forces seem to be retreating, why aren't they introducing their own legislation and challenging Republicans to dare reject them and commit political suicide with Latino voters?

And why are some of them only talking about the DREAM Act, and the youth who would benefit from it, instead of insisting on comprehensive immigration reform that would put all 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship?

With the mandate they got from Latinos on Nov. 6, do Democrats intend to repay us with crumbs? Or do they have higher priorities than immigration?

This is what happened after President Barack Obama was first elected four years ago. There was always something more important that needed to be done before the Democrats got to immigration. Four years ago, it was series of other priorities headed health care reform. Now it's the fiscal cliff and other problems. They want us to believe that they can only deal with one issue at a time.

But the time has come for Democrats to really lead on this issue. If they don't strike now while the iron is hot and the immigrant bashers are retreating, they will prove once and for all that they are only using Latinos — taking their vote for granted and ignoring them after elections.

Latinos can't expect anything from Republicans. After all, most of us didn't vote for them. The burden to fix our broken immigration system is on Democrats.

And if they don't deliver, they will pay for it in future elections.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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