THe Daily News - NY Local
What's the chance for immigration reform with a Barack Obama or John McCain presidency? My quick answer: The post-election Congress will pass the DREAM Act for undocumented students and the AgJobs agricultural worker bill.
I see those bills passing no matter who wins the presidency, though immigrants will likely do better under Obama. Broader reform with a path to citizenship for our 12 million undocumented workers is years away.
Recent efforts to reform immigration law have been disappointing. What American author Mark Twain once said about the weather is true about immigration reform: Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. A new administration in Washington may change that.
But don't expect a big "path to citizenship" bill passing in the first few years of an Obama or McCain administration. Expecting the American public to accept the legalization of 12 million undocumented workers during a major economic downturn is unreasonable.
Immigrants and U.S. natives would benefit from a broad legalization program - how else to address the fact that millions live here isolated from the mainstream of U.S. society? I just think that's impossible to achieve anytime soon.
Eventually Congress will legalize most undocumented immigrants. Outsourcing and the growth of the global economy mean that if we don't allow foreigners to work here, jobs will just move abroad. But that's a hard argument to make to workers facing lower real wages, layoffs and foreclosures.
Still, the election of Obama or McCain should bring some small improvements in immigration. To see why, let's take a brief look at the candidates' position on immigration reform.
McCain has been a visionary on immigration policy, but he has proven to be a fair-weather friend of immigrants' rights. He says now that we can't have legalization until we first seal our borders. That's the position of someone opposed to legalization who is afraid to say so.
Obama, unlike McCain, remains a supporter of comprehensive reform, but I sense that he thinks fighting for reform now will divide the country without achieving the desired result.
Despite some reluctance to support legalization for undocumented workers, a President McCain will want to do something for his agribusiness friends in the Southwest. He'll need to include the DREAM Act to get support for congressional Democrats. Obama will need to support the DREAM Act to reward his Latino supporters. He'll want to throw in the AgJobs bill to insure bipartisan support.
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