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View from the Hill

Breaking down the GOP's Immigration plan

Last week, Republicans in U.S. House of Representatives released a brief overview of their new “Standards for Immigration Reform” — a nod to their newfound desire for more compromise and less gridlock.

Taking a stance on the side of immigrants could help the GOP appeal to Hispanic and Asian voters, who make up two-thirds of legal immigrants in the U.S.

A recent Gallup poll saw a 23-point decrease in Hispanics’ job approval of Obama between Dec. 2012 and Nov. 2013.

Seizing the opportunity to appeal to Hispanics who are disillusioned with the Obama administration, the GOP stated in their list of standards:

“It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.”

The inclusion of a possible path for people brought to the U.S. as children could be considered a point of compromise as compared to the 2012 platform:

“We oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it…we will create humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

The language of this new policy at least implies that there will be some wiggle room for undocumented immigrants who were taken into the United States by their parents to receive legal residence and eventual citizenship, rather than being immediately deported.

Still, there is nothing mentioned in the new list of standards to contradict what was stated in the 2012 platform:

“Federal funding should be denied to universities that provide in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens.”

This contrasts North Carolina’s recent debate regarding giving in-state tuition for immigrants without documentation.

A bill in the N.C. General Assembly would allow immigrants without documentation to pay in-state tuition rates rather than international rates, has been in committee since April 2013, and is not sponsored by a single Republican.

As for the rest of the standards, most correlate with the 2012 platform, and some even emphasize the same policies.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First – Confirmed

It’s pretty straightforward. The document said borders have to be secured so nobody can enter illegally. There is also a zero tolerance policy for those who either enter illegally or over stay their visas and the document also calls for more consistent enforcement of immigration law.

2012 platform – “Our highest priority, therefore, is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry.”

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System – Confirmed

This section calls for a biometric system to “verify identity and prevent fraud”.

2012 platform – does not mention biometric systems by name, but encourages the use of “an internet-based system that verifies the lawful presence of (job) applicants.”

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement – Confirmed

The document advocates switching from a paper-based work eligibility form to electronic and employing a “workable electronic employment verification system.”

The United States already employs a system called E-Verify, which is required for federal contractors and government institutions.

Certain states restrict or require use of E-Verify for employers. Arizona was the first state to have a statewide mandate on E-Verify use.

2012 – “Use of the E-verify program – an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees – must be made mandatory nationwide.”

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System – Altered

Republicans express distress over a system that rewards “extended family members” of U.S. citizens and “pure luck” over “employment-based immigration”, especially in high skilled fields.

Temporary workers are also mentioned in the following section:

“It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.”

This seems to reference the talking point that immigrants tend to take American jobs and weigh down the economy.

According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, while the impact of immigration on average wages of all workers is small, immigration does negatively affect some workers, especially foreign-born workers who recieve competition from new immigrants.

Still, the study says that the “impact of immigration remains small” because immigrants tend to not be competitive in many types of jobs. Immigrants also increase the demand for labor when consuming goods and services, contributing to “labour market efficiency and long-term economic growth”.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law – Altered

Undocumented immigrants should be held culpable for their actions, and there will be no “special path to citizenship”. However, rather than being deported, as the 2012 platform suggested, undocumented immigrants can live legally in the U.S. if they do the following:

  • Admit culpability
  • Pass rigorous background checks
  • Pay significant fines and back taxes
  • Develop proficiency in English and American civics
  • Be able to support themselves and their families without access to public benefits
  • Sex offenders, criminals, and gang members would be ineligible for the program.

And, this program cannot be implemented until all the above listed reforms are.

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