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Back to drawing board on immigration

POSTED: May 31, 2007 5:02 a.m.
Good news for immigration advocates: This year’s May Day rallies were yawners.
In last year’s huge marches, the involvement of radical-left groups like Communist Party USA and the Korea Truth Commission derailed the sputtering moves Washington was taking toward comprehensive immigration reform.
This year, the much-smaller marches are a nonissue. But Congress and the president are still figuring where to go.
The bill labeled as the latest compromise has been dubbed STRIVE, for Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act. It is sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a liberal Democrat from Illinois, and Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Republican from Arizona. It’s a bipartisan, ideologically diverse combo, but STRIVE is encountering opposition from both ends of the political spectrum — usually a sign something is worth supporting.
The bill has enforcement components, like tougher border security and an electronic employment-verification system. It also offers illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Exorcised anti-immigrant conservatives have been flinging the dreaded A-word. But there is no amnesty. To be considered for permanent residency, the bill requires illegal immigrants to pay a fine and back taxes, take English-language and U.S.-history classes and pass a criminal and security background check. It can take 11 years just to become eligible for citizenship. So nobody is being forgiven and told to pass Go.
While the hard right blasts STRIVE for being soft, the left thinks it’s overly tough on poor little Latinos. Paying a fine and back taxes is supposedly unaffordable. Waiting a decade is too long. The Socialist Worker Online calls it “an attempt to corral immigrant rights supporters into backing a corporate drive to gain a vulnerable group of low-wage workers who have — at best — limited rights.”
Please. The left doesn’t want illegal immigrants to pay any cost for staying here. The right doesn’t want them here, period. They should remember people who violate a law, any law, can pay penalties and eventually get square with the justice system.
A poll by the Democratic Lake Research Partners and the Republican The Tarrance Group on behalf of the pro-immigrant National Immigration Forum and the Manhattan Institute found 75 percent of respondents favor comprehensive reform similar to the Gutierrez-Flake legislation.
STRIVE has one fatal flaw — the provision that makes illegal immigrants briefly return to their native countries and apply for re-entry at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Proponents of the bill should reconsider this provision for eminently practical reasons: Anybody who thinks a lot of illegal immigrants are going to risk all they have to “touch back” is delusional.
The touch-back provision would mean several million illegal immigrants would continue to be illegal immigrants. Reform like that is worthless.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
 

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