Now that the Republican Establishment is marching towards an Immigration Reform, two national GOP leaders and possible presidential Contenders, want to put their conservative reputation out in the open with the Hispanic community. Each, therefore, is proposing two fundamentally different legislations to legalize undocumented workers and bring them out of the shadows into mainstream America. Make no mistake, as this is about building inroads with the Hispanic community for a 2016 possible presidential bid.
In this article, I refrain from using the word “to assimilate” or “to incorporate” since 60% of undocumented workers have lived in the U.S for more than 10 years. Additionally, 40% more have been in the U.S. for more than 15 years, according to the Pew Hispanic. Therefore, there is a likelihood that more than half of those here illegally are already “incorporated” or “assimilated,” especially Dreamers, into mainstream American Culture.
If you want to read about actual conservative cost-benefit policy analysis on immigration without so much political jargon, read the CATO Institute Journal here or CBO. Otherwise, please keep reading.
Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed his version of a step by step Immigration Reform. Rubio’s plan would ease the way for skilled engineers and seasonal farm workers, while strengthening border enforcement and immigration laws. As for the undocumented migrants in America today—eight to 12 million or so—he proposes to let them “earn” a working permit and, one day, citizenship.
Additionally, Rubio’s bill favors granting green cars to Ph.D.s and scientists, since the U.S. doesn’t produce enough science, math and engineering graduates to fill the open posts in high-tech. The 1.6 million agricultural laborers in America are Hispanics, according to Sen. Rubio, so he agrees that “American produce couldn’t be picked without them,” yet he is willing to offer only a ‘guest worker” visa. In his view, the goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force while providing protection to these workers.
If the guest-worker and expanded high-tech visa programs are adopted, he says, “you want to protect those folks that are coming here . . . and the value of their visa and the decision they’ve made. You’re not protecting them if you allow their wages and their status to be undermined by further illegal immigration in the future.”
Also, unlike many Republicans, Mr. Rubio doesn’t say that improved enforcement is a precondition for immigration reform.
“Here’s how I envision it,” he says. “They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check.” Anyone who committed a serious crime would be deported. “They would be fingerprinted,” he continues. “They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they’ve been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country….. “Assuming they haven’t violated any of the conditions of that status,” he says, the newly legalized person could apply for permanent residency, possibly leading to citizenship, after some years—but Mr. Rubio doesn’t specify how many years… The waiting time for a green card “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way,” he says. “But it can’t be indefinite either.
However, In the Spanish version, Rubio omits the guest-worker provision for agriculture workers and suggest that those who apply for the temporary work permits can only apply for a green card until federal government can “certified significant advances to control the border”. Along the lines of the Dream Act, he says people who came here unlawfully with their parents should be accommodated “in a more expedited manner than the rest of the population” to gain a way to naturalize. Also, in terms of legislative strategy, Mr. Rubio says he would want to see “a comprehensive package of bills”—maybe four or five as opposed to one omnibus move through Congress, concurrently.
Former Governor of Florida, and possible presidential contenders in 2016, Jeb Bush has a slightly different interpretation about the meaning of “comprehensive,” so he proposed his own bill. Jeb Bush believes that “piecemeal changes—such as issuing visas only for high-skilled workers and investors and Dreamers —is not the realistic viable option, and therefore, “Congress should avoid such “quick fixes” and commit itself instead to comprehensive immigration reform.” Consequently, because our immigration system is broken all aspects, “If one or more pieces are out of whack, the puzzle makes no sense. In order to fix the system, Congress must make sure all of the pieces fit together, logically and snugly”—Comprehensive reform. His main points are:
- Since, 1952, when Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 passed, any subsequent legations have had only “patches; the more bills were passed, the more complex it became.
- The nature of the border-security problem has evolved: Illegal immigration is linked to border security, but an improving Mexican economy, the net immigration from Mexico is now zero. As a result, the drugs cartel should be the main focus of border security while working closely with Mexico and legal framework on immigration.
- The U.S. needs workers of all types. The nation needs energetic young workers to spur the economy and support an ever-increasing social-welfare burden. The only alternatives to increased immigration are mounting debts or reduced social services. A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants—a system that will include a path to citizenship—will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers. Immigrants—a system that will include a path to citizenship—will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers.
- America especially needs high-skill workers: A path to green card for high-skilled workers to bring talented people assures that those who graduated in the U.S. will have access to a path for a green card. If we do not adapt, we will be increasingly unable to compete.
- Amnesty promotes illegal immigration: Crossing the border illegally must have consequences. At the same time, we must recognize that children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country.
- Immigrants replenish the American spirit. Most immigrants come here to secure a better life for themselves and their families. They cherish the values of hard work, faith, family, enterprise and patriotism that have made this country great. Meanwhile, many who were lucky enough to have been born here have grown complacent or even disdainful of these values. America’s immigration system should provide opportunities for people who share the country’s core values to become citizens, thereby strengthening the nation as have countless immigrants have before them.
Evidently, both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush unquestionably want Dreamers to be “in-line” for a green card. Also, both agree that we need an efficient supply of unskilled workers for agriculture. However, obvious differences between Rubio and Jeb Bush are evident in the Guest-worker provisions, borders enforcement, and what type of workers get to be “in-line” for a green card, 3-5 years away from citizenship.
On guest-workers, Rubio suggest that the goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well—the 1.6 million agricultural laborers in America are Hispanics, mostly Mexicans. In essence, keep them as perpetual guest-workers without a path to green cards or citizenship. However, if this is supposed to be an “earned” legalization, then these agricultural workers have already “earned” the legalization by working in the fields of California or Texas for 10 to 15 years.
For example, the official statistics by labor Department in California points out that 80-90% of agricultural workers are undocumented; about 70% in Texas. So for the last 10-15 years, these workers fed the nation, yet they can’t even aspire to get a green card also known as Legal Permanent Residency. Conversely, Sen. Rubio’s plan gives Legal Permanent Residency or a green card to any Indian, Chinese, or German student that came here 3 years ago and received graduate degrees (Masters or Ph.Ds). In other words, if this is a process of “earned” legalization, agricultural workers that Sen. Rubio wants to keep as guest-workers have already “earned” their legalization by working the American field, while the graduate students still need to prove that they will be an asset to the US by accepting the green card and work for years to pay taxes. Yes, we’ll be giving them Legal Permanent Residency, presuming that they want to stay, and through their educated talent, while they help the American economy. However, agricultural workers have already proved that for the last 10-15 years by performing jobs that U.S. citizens simply do not want to do. So who deserves the green card more?
On the other hand, Jeb Bush proposes that since we are in need of both unskilled and high-skilled labor, “a practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants—a system that will include a path to citizenship—will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers.” And he gets it right. An guest-worker program that puts workers in perpetual state of “guest-worker” with not future prospect of Legal Permanent Residency–maybe in the period of 5 years–is a recipe for an underclass of workers without political or legal rights, indenture workers—the type of which Reagan would undoubtedly opposed. If we are going to work on a merit-based “earned” legalization, Jeb Bush’s bill provides a path to Legal Permanent Residency and citizenship from both the 1.6 millions of low-skilled Hispanic agricultural workers—Sen. Rubio’s numbers—and potential “talented” graduate students who may, or may not stay here to pay taxes.
On Border enforcement, Rubio still wants the border to be “secure” and “certified “before anyone could apply for any green card—Spanish version—while in the English version he argues “The waiting time for a green card “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way.” On the other hand, Jeb Bush argues that “the net immigration from Mexico is now zero: As many Mexicans are leaving the U.S. as are entering it.” As a result, border security needs to focus on the drug cartels, but on immigration, we need to work with Mexico and other Central-American nations to develop legal framework to supply the low-skilled workers that are necessary to grow the US economy. In other words, where Sen. Rubio sees fences, Jeb Bush sees opportunity to free trade and to find the future demand of labor force to pay for entitlements into the US. Unfortunately, Rubio’s plan misses this economic aspect about thinking ahead in working with Mexico, a possible partner to supply workers.
Another point that Sen. Rubio’s plan misses and Jeb Bush incorporates, is the fact that we need immigrants to help pay for entitlements that offers services to seniors. Bush argues that “millions of Americans are leaving the workforce and expecting retirement benefits. The nation needs energetic young workers to spur the economy and support an ever-increasing social-welfare burden. The only alternatives to increased immigration are mounting debts or reduced social services.” Rubio’s plan, on the other hand, fails to address these inescapable connections between immigrant and retiring boomers. We have also submitted a plan in Texas that deals with this issue on December of 2011.
Subsequently, Jeb Bush believes that piecemeal legislations need to be avoided and Republicans need commit to a comprehensive solution, “If one or more pieces are out of whack, the puzzle makes no sense. To fix the system, Congress must make sure all of the pieces fit together, logically and snugly.” Conversely, Rubio wants a “comprehensive package of bills”—maybe four or five as opposed to one omnibus—move through Congress concurrently.”
At the nationalist level, it appears that Rubio still sees immigrants as commodities—or inevitable burdens we have to deal with—with no desire to live the American dream, whereas Jeb Bush sees these immigrants an opportunity to rekindle out national character because Immigrants replenish the American spirit.
Most immigrants come here to secure a better life for themselves and their families. They cherish the values of hard work, faith, family, enterprise and patriotism that have made this country great. Meanwhile, many who were lucky enough to have been born here have grown complacent or even disdainful of these values
It is possible that Sen. Rubio still wants to appease the “hard-liners” by insisting on perpetual work permits with no clear path to green card and citizenship, accept high-skilled students and Dreamers. Additionally, he still puts too much emphasis on border security—in Spanish– and punitive mechanisms to make harder for workers to achieve Legal Permanent Status. Perhaps, he believes that, if he runs for President, he can still appeal to “hard-liners” and be able to build a coalition with them in a primary since he was tough while still giving immigrants citizenship.
Jeb Bush, in contrast, is 180 degrees in comparison. He wants to recognize the hard work ethic that immigrants bring to America in a time when our national character is in decline. Bush wants to fix today’s problems and prepare for the future by supplying unskilled and skilled workers to help pay for our debt-entitlements. Moreover, Bush wants build partnership with Mexico to find the workers, while Rubio still focus on border security rather than focusing economic benefits of working with Mexico under a legal framework. Rubio believes that in 3 years if graduate school is enough to make you an American, and therefore be on a path to citizenship. But Jet Bush believe that is not only that; it the years that you have invested by toiling the fields of Texas or California what also makes you and American, and therefore “earned” you path to citizenship.
Perhaps on Immigration, Sen. Rubio got “Out-Rubio-ed” with Latinos by Jeb Bush. And it is time for Americans to think about whether their views on immigration mattered in 2013, will you be a Rubio Republican or a Bush Republican in 2016 primaries?Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics, from San Francisco State University. comments to firstname.lastname@example.org