Late last week, the Republican Party finally released their much-anticipated list of principles regarding immigration reform, which the GOP was reluctant to grapple with last year. It is a one page document entitled “Standards for Immigration Reform” and arguably signifies a more open and willing attitude to address legalization for the eleven million undocumented aliens in this country-something which it was adamantly opposed to in 2013.
Before anyone gets too excited, the statement does reiterate that fixing our broken system involves step-by-step measures, not a single, sweeping mass piece of legislation. Moreover, the first steps-before any legalization talk can take place-is further securing our borders by implementing measures and systems that improve our entry-exit tracking systems and employment verification process. The statement also seems to hint at measures designed to curb the President’s unilateral power to address some problems through executive orders, as President Obama did last year by providing deferred action protection to Dreamers. The statement says ominously, “We must enact reform that ensures that a President cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.”
On the positive side, though, the statement does confirm even the Republican Party may be amenable to some sort of program that provides an opportunity for permanent residence and citizenship for the Dreamers, those that were brought to the country at a young age and who through no fault of their own may be without legal immigration status. The paper goes so far as to say: “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents.” So, if all goes well, there may indeed be path to permanent residence for Dreamers beyond that of just deferred status, and maybe even an accelerated one if one wants to be hopeful.
The big sticking point, of course, will always be what to do with the millions of undocumented and illegal individuals here in the US, which is estimated to be eleven million (but probably much more). Unlike last year in which the Republicans would not even entertain the idea, the Party now seems to be taking a slightly less hawkish stance. It says, “these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). ” For many undocumented aliens, this is all they were looking for in the first place! The Republicans seem to be very adamant, however, that there will be no “special path to citizenship” and that none of this can happen without the enforcement measures being passed and implemented first.
Whether the path to citizenship and delayed implementation of a legalization program will be deal-breakers remains to be seen. Things are already very delicate as they are, and there are factions within both parties. The New York Times reported that many Republicans, in fact, rejected the standards piece and arguments behind the closed door discussions seem to have been passionate and heated. So while we should all remain cautiously optimistic, nobody should be holding their breath.
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