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Immigration trapped in the vortex of politics as it stalls in the House

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2013 | Uncategorized

“. . . all men might be free, if they had but virtue enough to be so.”[1]

One of my influences while I was in college was the writing of Gordon S. Wood and his instruction on the intellectual might that fueled the American Revolution. What struck me and led me to pursue my vocation as a lawyer was the concept of virtue or as our nation’s Founding Fathers often referred to it as, “virtus.” Before Ancient Rome fell into decline, Mr. Wood reflected that “[w]hile the Romans, for example, maintained their love of virtue, their simplicity of manners, their recognition of true merit, they raised their state to the heights of glory.”[2] It was the ideal of public virtue on which our nation was founded: Putting the public good before private interest. Mr. Wood explains that the United States was framed as a republic because “in theory no state was more beautiful than a republic, whose whole objective by definition was the good of the people.” It seems that the concept of virtue has been lost in the politics that have ensnared immigration reform.

Let me be clear, we are very confident that immigration reform, in one form or another will be a reality in the near future. Indeed, those that may benefit from immigration reform, the so called “provisional immigrants,”[3] should do everything they can now to prepare for the reform registration, such as making sure taxes have been paid,[4]

[1] The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, Gordon S. Wood, p. 34, quoting Joseph Perry, A Sermon, Preached before the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut, at Hartford on the Day of Their Anniversary Election, May 11, 1775 (Hartford 1775)(other citations omitted)(Copyright 1969 By the University of North Carolina Press).

[2] Id. at 35.

[3] Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (2013), BSEOIMA, Immigrant Visas, §2101(b).

[4] The New York Times reported that:

Under the Senate bill, the I.R.S. would impose back-tax assessments based on a review of the information provided by undocumented immigrants applying for registered provisional status to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that will handle those applications. The immigrants would have to pay all taxes they owe, but they would not be subject to prosecution for failing to pay them.

There are no good estimates of how many immigrants applying for provisional status would owe unpaid taxes or how much they would owe. Even though most undocumented immigrants do not have valid Social Security numbers, many file tax returns using individual taxpayer identification numbers they can obtain from the I.R.S., “Q. And A.: The Senate Immigration Bill,” (NYT April 22, 2013),collect documentation that establishes that they were present in the United State prior to December 31, 2011, obtain their immigration files if they ever had contact with immigration or border security in the United States, make sure that they are not collecting public benefits, such as food stamps, and obtain proof of income. Being prepared now for what will likely occur in the future is the best insurance for success.

Despite our optimism about immigration reform becoming a reality, the House of Representatives has demonstrated that politics as usual, the anathema of public virtue, is delaying what should be an expedient intellectual pursuit. The logic of immigration reform compels that the House act with deliberate speed to meet the goals of the Senate’s BSEOIMA. It is disheartening to learn that Rep. Paul Labrador has dropped out of the House “Gang of Eight” after an impasse on whether provisional immigrants would be eligible for health care. reported that

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) – a key conservative who had been engaged in secret negotiations over immigration reform – said Wednesday that he will drop out of the so-called House Gang of Eight.

The problem, Labrador said, was an impasse over how the pending legislation would address the issue of health care for undocumented immigrants. That issue had recently emerged as a major sticking point between Democrats and Republicans, and the negotiations had teetered on the edge of collapse at least three times in the last several weeks before drawing closer to an agreement again.

“Raul Labrador exiting House immigration group,”

The public good overrides any private interest that would be negatively affected by immigration reform. For instance, The National Pork Producer’s Council supports immigration reform. Its website endorses immigration reform as follows:

NPPC supports immigration reform legislation that secures the country’s borders in a way that is fair and just; allows access to a legal workforce but does not place undo burdens on employers; addresses the labor needs of specific industry sectors, including agriculture; and presents a “common sense” solution for the undocumented workers already in the United States. NPPC supports a temporary worker visa program. .

In addition to the agricultural market place supporting immigration reform, business and faith leaders support common sense immigration reform. Michael O’Connor, director of state government affairs for Eli Lilly has stated that “We are a nation of immigrants . . . Our strength is built on the fact that we brought diverse backgrounds” together and allowed them to work. The bill, he said, could provide a “national solution to a broken system.” “Business, faith leaders call for Senator Joe Donnelly to support immigration reform,”

Those who oppose immigration reform should be reminded of the importance of public virtue. It is self evident that our immigration system is broken. If the United States is to remain competitive in this century it must embrace the fact that we live in a global era. Proponents of protectionism, border security and law and order must confront the reality that the public’s need commands immigration reform. To do nothing in the face of principle does nothing but reduce the Republican Party to the permanent party of opposition that has no direction or leadership to guide the country through the turbulent waters of our era.

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