Editor's Note: This is the Field Notes column, written by editor Vicky Boyd and published in the March 2013 issue of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.
Eight Republican and Democratic senators have quit their bickering and name-calling long enough to sit down and draft a bipartisan immigration reform proposal. Whether they can maintain this civility as the proposal winds its way through the full Senate and House remains to be seen.
The eight authors are Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
At least it’s a good start to an issue that has arisen more times than I can remember.
Many of the past attempts to reform this country’s broken immigration system were initially met with praise, only to fall apart as each party dissected the details.
The latest attempt may have a better chance of passing since each party views immigration reform as a hot issue with Hispanic voters, who were game-changers in some parts of the country during the last election.
The five-page proposal contains several recommendations, including beefing up security along the U.S.-Mexican border, developing a new electronic employment verification system to ensure workers have legal work status, reforming the H2-A visiting guest-worker program and providing a pathway for agricultural workers to obtain citizenship.
Currently about 11 million illegal immigrants are in this country, according to the proposal.
No sooner had the senators unveiled it in mid-January than the political wrangling began.
Immigration reform, gun safety and the nation’s dire financial outlook are three of President Obama’s top issues during his second term. Whether the other issues overshadow immigration is unknown.
The Senate proposal ties border security to citizenship. Illegal immigrants could not seek citizenship until the leaky border was secured and a new employment verification system was in place.
Obama and many fellow Democrats have come out against tying the two together and instead favor a quicker path to citizenship independent of border security and employment verification.
And just because an effort has presidential support doesn’t mean it will succeed. In 2007, a bill backed by then-President George W. Bush died in the Senate after failing to win the necessary support of 60 members. At the time, many Republicans and some Democrats opposed the measure because it offered a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The current measure offers a similar pathway, so will it meet the same fate? We’ll see.
The latest immigration proposal is a good start, but Congress still has a long way before a proposed bill is even introduced, most likely in March. Then the bill has even a longer way to go to make it through both houses.
As they say, the devil will be in the detail.