Well, if you were only to listen to Beltway media Villagers like Suzanne Gamboa at the AP, you'd think that President Obama had magically swept immigration reform off the national agenda by simply pointing out that getting it passed would be tough -- one day before Democrats unveiled their "framework" for comprehensive immigration reform.
As Bob Menendez explains to John King in the video above, the proposal includes lots of Republican ideas, mostly as a standing invitation to Republicans to actually participate in the process rather than resorting to the reflexive opposition that's come to characterize their behavior in the past year. Whether they will or not is going to be up to them -- though Democrats will be capable of at least proceeding with the debate without them.
And at this point -- considering that it took over a year to pass health-care reform -- that's probably the best Dems can hope for. But there's no doubt it's past time to begin the national discussion. Immigration reform is far from dead.
Here's a PDF of the Democrats' framework. And as you can see, it has a lot of good ideas in it -- and one amazingly, gobsmackingly bad one.
Adam Luna at America's Voice offers a preview of the pros and cons of the framework provided so far:
1. The framework describes a plan to immediately register undocumented immigrants and establishes a temporary immigration status so that they can work legally, pay taxes, travel abroad, and no longer live in fear of deportation. Eligible immigrants and temporary protected status (TPS) holders will be considered for the first step of the legalization program, an interim “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” (LPI) status, as soon as the program is up and running. After eight years, these immigrants can apply for green cards and get on a path to full U.S. citizenship.
2. DREAM Act is included.
3. AgJOBS is included.
4. Permanent partners immigration provisions included.
5. On family-based immigration: family immigration backlog would be cleared in eight years. Spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents are moved to “immediate relative” immigration category, reducing their waiting period to enter the U.S. now and in the future
6. Increased labor protections and remedies, as well as a commission to determine future employment-based visa numbers based on labor market needs.
On the other hand, the framework also includes some provisions that many advocates for comprehensive immigration reform are not going to like, particularly in the enforcement sections. Senator Menendez said as much at yesterday’s press conference. Some of the “zero tolerance” language governing future deportation rules raises red flags, given our past experience with immigration laws like those passed in 1996. Legal experts are dissecting the outline now, and we look forward to their review of the detention and deportation provisions in the coming days.
But without question the worst idea in the plan is the proposal to create a biometric National ID system in which everyone in the country would be required to carry a card containing their personal histories embedded inside:
Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.
The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.
It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.
“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil liberties defender often aligned with the Democratic Party, wasted no time in blasting the plan.
“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.
“America’s broken immigration system needs real, workable reform, but it cannot come at the expense of privacy and individual freedoms,” Calabrese added.
As John Cole says, besides being a profoundly bad idea, it's incredibly tone deaf: Republicans have just branded themselves the Police State "Show Us Your Papers" party, and now Democrats want to not only join them, but amp up the system by expanding it to everyone in the nation?
Democrats like Chuck Schumer -- the main proponent of this misbegotten idea -- need to ask themselves how they'd like to have this kind of system in the hands of the next Dick Cheney, which is probably an inevitability should it pass. [Shudder.]
The framework is an excellent start in many ways, but the biometric-ID proposal is so noxious and unacceptable that any version containing it should be targeted for defeat.