Tonight, President Obama will announce a set of executive actions meant to remove the threat of immediate deportation for close to half of the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The reaction, particularly from Obama’s critics, will be large and loud, with claims that the President is trying to unilaterally restructure the federal immigration system and disregard the Constitution.
Whether you agree with what Obama announces tonight or not, it’s instructive to compare his expected executive order with a real effort at immigration reform – like the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 which passed the Senate last year. When you put them side-by-side, it’s clear that the President’s effort to temporarily shield some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation hardly addresses any of the serious problems facing the U.S. immigration system.
Here’s how to compare what we know about the President’s plan with the Senate plan passed last year:
|2013 Senate Plan||Obama Plan|
|Border Security Provisions Provides thousands of new Border Patrol officers and billions of dollars in new resources to the effort to secure the Southern U.S. border with Mexico.||Some resources may be added to border security.|
|Provides a Pathway to Citizenship A “Registered Provisional Immigrant” classification that imposes fines and penalties on illegal immigrants while offering a 10-year path to “lawful permanent resident” status.||Shields parents of U.S. citizens from deportation by making them legal permanent residents.|
|Makes DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) permanent||Expands DACA, which allows illegal minors to be temporarily protected from deportation.|
|Overhauls H1B Visas||Hi-tech workers may be protected.|
|Agricultural Worker Program||None|
|S.T.E.M. Foreign Worker Program||None|
|Mandates E-Verify for Employers||None|
|Urges Foreign Business Start-Ups||None|
|Fixes Immigration Court System||Detention rules may be modified|
|Combats Human Trafficking||None|
The Modernization Act passed by the Senate last year and, well, it doesn’t look like much of an achievement.
Hammered out over months of negotiation, the Senate bill addressed a much wider array of problems:
The list could actually go on for quite a while. The Modernization Act ran to 1,198 pages.
That bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan majority of 68-32 in 2013, but never got a hearing in the House. The fact that nearly a third of the Senate voted against the bill indicates that there was far from full agreement on all the measures it proposed. In the more conservative House, the bill had no chance of surviving as written, but that’s why Congress has conference committees.
If nothing else, the sheer volume of issues the Modernization Act strove to address should be an obvious signal of the importance, both economic and humanitarian, of significant immigration reform. What we’ll be getting from the White House tonight won’t even be close to that kind of solution.
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