I remain rather unimpressed with the inability to think outside of the box in this current attempt at comprehensive immigration reform. Michael Shear and Ashley Parker in yesterday's NYT wrote about some of the proposals currently under discussion. The sticking point seems not to be whether there will be a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants, but how long that process will take. Apparently the Gang of 8 Senators crafting the bill are going to put forth a proposal for a 13 year path to citizenship, 10 years before one can get a Green Card, and then 3 years after that to apply for full citizenship. The total of 13 years matches the plan Obama leaked earlier.
My understanding is that one of the principles that everyone does agree on is that the undocumented should not be able to leap frog anyone currently legally in line for a Green Card. The current State Department Visa Bulletin is showing that a Filipino brother or sister of a US citizen petitioner presently has a wait of 24 years, and a current Mexican brother or sister of a US citizen has a wait of 17 years. Of course I have picked the most over-subscribed visa category, brothers and sisters of US citizens, as an example. How long will it take for those backlogs be cleared before the new 11 million can get their Green Cards?
Unless, one eliminates the entire visa category by cutting off entirely the ability of US citizens to petition for their brothers and sisters, I submit that the currently proposed 13 years is not long enough to clear the brothers/sisters of US citizens category. I am NOT suggesting that the fourth preference visa category be eliminated, although there are perennial calls to do so. Another way that no one is discussing, is to just enlarge the pie by raising the overall visa number cap to accommodate everyone. (h/t Dan Kowlaski and Michael Olivas) But, that likely is a political nonstarter given the still sluggish economy. What all the proposals in discussion though essentially are doing that, just not in a forthright way. The Chamber of Commerce's desired 400,000 visas for low skilled visas leaves me wondering what other visa categories the new 400,000 visas numbers will be culled from.
As abstraction slowly gives way to now attempts at legislation, there are still questions. It is not clear from the NYT article or the proposals discussed how these new interim pre-pre-citizenship visas will count toward the overall cap. Also, there seems to be a confusion among when work-eligibility can kick in. One need not have a Green Card to be legally eligible to work in the U.S. There are an array of non-immigrant employment visas that allow immigrants to legally work in the U.S. for a set period of time. As well, all the beneficiaries of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also have work authorization--without a Green Card. A Green Card has not much to do with work eligibility and I'm confused as to what the policy makers think people will be doing in the U.S. for 10 years while ineligible to work.