Friday, March 26, 2010

Immigration Reform After Health Care?

After healthcare, immigration reform

Immigration will be the Democrats' next big battle, as they try to please Latino voters, business and blue collar workers

Michael Paarlberg, Friday 26 March 2010 18.00 GMT

Protesters at an immigration reform demonstration in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty

If you didn't notice the 200,000 protesters who came to Washington last weekend demanding immigration reform, blame Nancy Pelosi. Sunday's massive rally had the bad luck of coinciding with the final House vote on healthcare reform, thus relegating the otherwise momentous gathering to page A3. Yet the timing was appropriate, for it marks the beginning of the next big legislative battle in Congress. Wednesday saw thousands march in San Francisco for the same cause. The coming storm over immigration could be even more contentious than all the "ObamaCare" town hall meetings combined. It will also be a perilous challenge for Democrats trying to balance the conflicting interests of the Latino voters they wish to court, the businesses they promise to bolster, and the blue collar workers they need to turn out to vote in November.

Democratic senator Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham entered the melee early with a bipartisan proposal for immigration reform. Like the doomed McCain-Kennedy bill that preceded it, Schumer-Graham is a hodgepodge of proposals designed to appeal to as many constituent groups as possible, even if their interests are diametrically opposed. In other words, there is something for everyone to hate. Nativists fearful that a "path to citizenship" amounts to amnesty are promised beefed-up border patrols, which in turn upset immigrant rights advocates wary of the militarisation of enforcement. The bill's most novel idea, a fingerprint-embedded biometric ID card that all workers would be required to carry, is a political non-starter: businesses balk at the system's cost (and impact on their ability to evade taxes by hiring under the table), while civil libertarians sound privacy to complete article

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