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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Bob Ritz holds a master's degree in Comparative History (American History, Latin American History and Immigration.
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So if Congress could do just one thing related to immigration, this is it: Allow visa portability, so that guest workers can change employers and thus avoid exploitation. As it turned out, some of the least popular ideas were ones that had been embedded in the Senate's latest failed comprehensive plan. Can you say poison pill? Such rules are politically appealing, but they are more likely to chill guest work opportunities and reduce economic dynamism than to protect jobs.

Research shows that the U. All but one thought U. On balance, our experts thought there would be no effect on unemployment among U. The theory that immigration reform is too controversial and that all of its parts have to be addressed in a mega-bill are myths. That approach lets various special interests hide poison pills in legislation and keep the public bamboozled with endless bickering. We are discovering a series of solutions that are pragmatic, incremental and enjoy an amazing amount of support among immigration experts, no matter their ideology.

Somebody, please, tell the president. Tim Kane is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and editor of its online immigration journal, Peregrine, which conducts and publishes the surveys of its working group of immigration experts. Follow the Opinion section on Twitter latimesopinion. Skip to content.

Want to bet? Most Read. And it might have worsened quake strain.

Now Biggest earthquake in years rattles Southern California. Enter the select commission. From the point of view of Kennedy, Rodino and other leaders, the Select Commission could be helpful in developing the consensus that was needed to make a fundamental approach to immigration reform possible. The Commission was charged with studying and making recommendations with respect to all aspects of immigration and refugee policy in relationship to foreign policy, economic growth, labor conditions, population policy and the environment.

It consisted of four Cabinet members the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services ; four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives appointed by the leaders of those bodies ; and four public members, one of them a Chairman, appointed by the President.

President Carter's approach to the appointment of three of the four public members of the Commission revealed the problem which liberal Democrats had in attempting to balance the interests of their constituents. In deciding who to appoint, the White House sought to represent those interests directly rather than appoint statesmanlike figures whith a broad with a broad view, except in the case of the Chairman, Reuben O'D. Askew, former Governor of Florida, who had already served Carter as chairman of a special committee to choose United States ambassadors, and who was considered one of the shrewdest and ablest of a group of several liberal Democratic governors in the mids.

To represent labor,. With the appointments made, funding authorized, and appropriations scheduled, the Commission had its first meeting on May 22, , when it adopted a rule whereby only Commissioners could vote and make motions at Commission meetings. Almost two years later, on March 1, , following six Commission meetings, many subcommittee meetings and site visits, twelve public hearings held by the Commission, more than twenty consultations, and a review of all existing research and the supervision of new research, the Commission submitted its recommendations in a nine volume report to President Reagan, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, as required by law.

But firm agreement among most Commissioners did not reflect the building of a consensus among the various groups with a strong, urgent interest in immigration, and the main political task of the Commission was to build that consensus, as Senator Kennedy, Attorney General Civile tti, and others had said. The Commission probed the possibilities of compromise among the several interest groups involved in the immigration policy debate, groups whose positions were well staked out when the Commission began its work.

Each of them had a primary goal. As Staff Director for the Commission, I explored the possibilities of compromise for my chairman and the fifteen other Commissioners, eight of whom were Congressmen anxious to see if some king of compromise could be arranged, but I found virtually no give by anyone. When I visited Thomas R. Let us suppose, I queried, legislation that includes strong sanctions on employers, an effective legalization program for illegal aliens, and much better enforcement of labor standards.

What kind of additional protections for United States labor, I asked, would have to be built into a guest worker program? Could he conceive of a program that would be acceptable? One might even dream, I said, of removing second preference from numerical restriction altogether. What, given an otherwise desirable bill from M ALDEF's point of view, could be done to make employer sanctions work to their satisfaction?

I made no headway with the spokesmen for the restrictionists or growers either. The leaders of the major restrictionist organization, Federation for Immigration Reform FAIR were convinced that time and public opinion were on their side. The country was facing high inflation and a stagnating economy.

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Democrats Are Divided on Immigration Reform - The Atlantic

Actually, would see the biggest economic downturn since World War II, combined with an unscheduled influx of refugees from Cuba and Haiti. The restrictionists believed that the American people would become fed up with immigrants and pass a strong restrictionist measure. They were for employer sanctions but absolutely opposed to legalization. The representatives of growers were adamant against reform. After Senator Harrison Schmidt R-New Mexico carefully explained to me that the curtailing of illegal migration through employer sanctions could cripple the growers of perishable fruits and vegetables unless they could legitimize the flow of cheap temporary labor from Mexico through some kind of guest worker program of one half million to a million laborers a year.

I asked if he would be willing to accept an agricultural labor program, not of guest workers, but one which gave workers full resident alien status. The growers already had an effective labor procurement policy of illegal aliens at extremely low cost and had no incentive to make a deal of any kind. The Select Commission was able to put together a comprehensive set of recommendations embodying an expansion of legal immigration combined with changes in the preference system, a comprehensive legalization program, no guest worker program but a slightly expanded agricultural program for temporary workers whose need would continue to be determined by a United States labor market test, and employer sanctions linked to a secure and universal system of employee eligibility.

But the majority within the Commission on key recommendations did not include the three public members representing constituency groups, whose positions never changed from those initially adopted by them. The basis for a deal on immigration policy among key interest groups had not been established. The congress and the white house respond to the recommendations of the select commission. The Select Commission recommendations were immediately put to an intense study by an interagency task force of the Reagan Administration, whose own proposals to Congress reflected the Commission's call for an increase in lawful immigration, but which also complicated legalization, weakened employer sanctions, and included a guest worker program for agriculture, all changes which revealed the substantial influence of employers from the West and Southwest in the new administration.

True to tradition, Congressional leaders did not wait for the White House proposals to begin action on immigration reform. FAIR emerged as the principle restrictionist lobby, coordinating and stimulating the work of population, environmental and other groups interested in cutting back on immigrant and refugee admissions. There were pro-immigration lobbies, too, apart from the Mexican-American leadership cadre.

Voluntary agencies who worked with refugees, older ethnic immigrant groups such as the Jews and the Italians, and humanitarian groups generally kept immigration on their political agenda ; but FAIR not only could point to sympathetic public opinion but also had one major champion in the United States Senate in Walter Huddleston, a Democrat of Kentucky, who spoke on the Senate floor frequently on the need for restriction and proposed legislation for a cap on all immigrants and refugees combined at , a year. The first Simpson-Mazzoli bill.

Simpson was determined to get legislation. Yet, when he looked at his own colleagues from the Select Commission, it was not clear that he would get much help.

Senator Kennedy, under increasing pressure from his national Mexican- American constituency, was sympathetic to employer sanctions based upon a universal employee eligibility system that used the Social Security card as an identifier, but he was in no position as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination for President to support employer sanctions, since opposition to it had become the civil rights litmus test of Mexican-American lobby groups. All of the Mexican-American lobby groups blasted the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. In less than a week, the Senator's office received more than eight thousand letters and dozens of phone calls.

Dennis Di Concini, who had voted along the lines of Simpson in the Select Commission on almost all major issues, was under continuing intense pressure in Arizona from both the employers of illegal aliens and Mexican-American advocacy groups. Senator Mathias, Simpson's Republican colleague on the Select Commission, decided not to serve on the Subcommittee on Immigration, and his substitute, Senator Harold Grassley, a conservative Republican from Iowa, was totally new to the immigration issue.

Don’t Bet on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the New Congress

At least, Simpson could generally count on the support of the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Strom Thurmond, who also served on the subcommittee. Although Thurmond was a conservative, and most conservatives were inclined against amnesty for persons they saw as immigration law breakers, he did not accept the FAIR argument against legalization. Support in the House was even more problematic than in the Senate. Perhaps he was concerned about the political fallout for Democrats generally, so many of whom were whipsawed by pressure groups on the issue and for whom the best politics would be to avoid having to vote on immigration reform altogether.

In any case, he was content to put the legislative agenda in the hands of Romano Mazzoli, who inherited a staff on immigration led by Director Garner J. Cline, who said repeatedly that immigration reform and control legislation was impossible. The Simpson bill that came out of the subcommittee embraced the essential recommendations of the Select Commission with respect to illegal migration. It called for employer sanctions linked to a secure employee eligibility system and a comprehensive legalization program, and resisted strong pressure, some of which found a sympathetic hearing among elements of the Administration, for a guest worker program.

Although Simpson resisted the pressure to combine refugees and immigrants in one admissions system under a strict cap, as proposed by Walter Huddleston, the Senate bill did call for a cap on immigration, including the immediate relatives of United States citizens but not refugees , at ,, thought to be roughly the equivalent of the then current number of lawful immigrant admissions INS statistics were not current but actually about , less than subsequently would be recorded for Fiscal Year The bill also called for a shift away from the heavy reliance on family based immigration.

Yes, 2020 Democrats Are Ready to Fight Trump on Immigration

Like several other members of the Select Commission, Simpson wanted to eliminate or modify the fifth preference, which facilitates the admission of the brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and to increase the proportion of visas available to immi- grants who would come independent of family relationships.

The Senate approved the Simpson bill on August 17, , by a vote of eighty to nineteen, beating off the Huddleston amendment to cap refugees and immigrants combined at ,, which had the support of about a third of the Senate. But the Mazzoli version of Simpson-Mazzoli died on the House floor on December 18, , with nearly three hundred amendments pending as time ran out in the Congressional session. They preferred to wait until the next Congress and start fresh on a new bill. The second Simpson-Mazzoli bill. In January of , Simpson made plans to move again on immigration reform and control.

He worked with Rodino as well as Mazzoli, and on May 6, , in a new Congress, the House Judiciary Committee approved the immigration bill by a vote of twenty to nine. Two weeks later, the Senate again approved Simpson-Mazzoli, this time by a vote of seventy-six to eighteen. Opponents of the bill were made up of liberals such as Kennedy, who accepted the arguments of the Mexican-American leadership group that employer sanctions would lead to discrimination ; conservatives who opposed legalization and wanted a more restrictive bill ; and Senators from the Far West or Southwest, who, like Alan Cranston, were under pressure from both employers American Farm Bureau Federation and Mexican-American groups.

But the overwhelming vote for the bill even Huddleston voted for it raised hopes that the House would act quickly and that differences in the two versions could be ironed out in a conference committee later in the fall. In order to build a majority in the Senate, Simpson accepted a number of amendments from the floor. Although he gave a little on a cluster of liberal issues, he was firm against restrictionist attacks and defeated several amendments that would have gutted liberal support for the bill, including Jesse Helms' R-North Carolina amendment to strike the legalization program and another proposed by Helms to deny benefits to children of illegal aliens.

Simpson also won against an amendment to deny benefits for newly legalized aliens. The issue of benefits was not just ideological. It was a matter of cost, too. Senators from states likely to be heavily affected by the legalization program supported an amendment proposed by Senator Tom Bradley D-New Jersey calling for one hundred percent federal reimbursement for three years to cover the cost of public assistance for newly legalized aliens, and for some educational assistance, too ; but Simpson had enough votes to defeat that proposal since most Senators were increasingly upset about mounting federal deficits.

The only pressure group that gained strongly in the new Senate version was the growers. An amendment proposed by Tom McClure R-Idaho passed, which would make it necessary to obtain a search warrant to apprehend illegal aliens in an open field, a provision which made it all the way to passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of Simpson opposed the amendment, but gave in under pressure to a proposal for a transitional three year period for growers of perishable fruits and vegetables to get used to the new employer sanctions program.

In the summer, Mazzoli worked hard to coax the leadership, the Rules Committee, and others to see if a limited rule could be provided to get a bill to the. But hundreds of amendments were proposed again, and since mail to members of the House tended to come from pressure points opposing one or another feature of the legislation, House Speaker Thomas P.

O'Neill, Jr. Breaking the O'Neill and Reagan logjams. O'Neill was quoted in the New York Times as saying that he did not want to move ahead on the bill because he had irrefutable evidence that President Reagan would veto it in order to gain Hispanic votes, a charge which Simpson found to be unfounded after his check with Attorney General William Franch Smith.

But Simpson himself had cause to be concerned with the less than enthusiastic support emanating from the White House. Officials from the Office of Management and Budget had been taking shots at employer sanctions and legalization for several months without being firmly contradicted by anyone speaking for the President. When the Senator said he expected strong support from the White House, the President asked Meese and Baker if they were working for the bill. After they replied in the affirmative, the Attorney General urged stronger action, and Simpson walked away feeling he had won a victory, at least for a while.

But back in the House, many Representatives were being lobbied heavily by growers and Mexican-American leaders to back away from the bill. Simpson decided that he would speak to O'Neill directly, and a meeting was arranged between them which took place on October 25, O'Neill had many reasons to stall. Amendments supported by Democrats in the Agricultural Committee would gut employer sanctions.

Amendments supported by Democrats in the Education and Labor Committee by Democrats were intended to strengthen employer sanctions. The Hispanic Caucus continued to oppose employer sanctions in any form. A vote on this bill would be something like a minor civil war within the Democratic Party. But O'Neil listened to Simpson and finally agreed that he would try to clear the way for a House vote out of fairness to all those who had worked so hard on the measure.

For his part, Simpson promised that he would not bring a bill back to the Senate for a vote after a conference if the legislation agreed to by the conferees would be vetoed by the President. With O'Neill's blessing, the bill would come to a vote in the House, but it was far from certain that it would pass. This was an election year and no single leading Democratic candidate for President supported immigration legislation. Several of them competed vigorously for the primary endorsements of Mexican-American leaders in the Southwest and California. Walter Mondale, who could not outpace the hyperbolic rhetoric of Jesse Jackson in the California primary campaign, asked.

O'Neill to postpone action on the Mazzoli bill until after the June 5 California Democratic Presidential primary, and the Speaker complied. Later that month, after a week of heated debate, the House narrowly passed its version of Simpson-Mazzoli, to Emerging differences in the house and senate. There were two provisions in the House bill which created tremendous problems for Simpson. The first was the amendment of Representative Barney Frank D-Massachusetts , which had been approved after a few minutes discussion in the House by a vote of to 9, to create a special civil rights unit within the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute alleged job discrimination against newly documented aliens and United States citizens in connection with the implementation of employer sanctions.

The intention of the amendment was to provide protection against national origin discrimination for alien workers who were not covered by the Civil Rights Bill. The White House was alarmed. James Baker, key assistant to the President, said that it was not right to introduce a whole new concept, civil rights, in an immigration bill. Simpson had no objection to workable anti-discrimination provisions, but he was concerned that the creation of an entirely new Office of Special Counsel which would have to investigate any private right of action automatically would be a burdensome bureaucratic nightmare.

He tried to work out some kind of compromise directly with Frank. But in the end, Frank stuck with his proposal just as he had introduced it and as it had passed the house. The second issue presented by the House bill which seemed to Simpson to be insurmountable had to do with reimbursement for legalization. The House bill, calling for one hundred percent reimbursement for the cost of legalization, alarmed the White House, particularly the Office of Management and Budget.

Once again, Simpson asked for a meeting with the President to find out what would be acceptable in the way of costs for Simpson- Mazzoli. Smith had consistently supported Simpson, Baker and Meese, and all thought that some kind of number could be worked out which might be acceptable both to majorities in the Congress and to the White House. In conference with the House, only one member agreed to the cap, and the bill was dead. The increasing power of the growers and the new Simpson-Rodino-Mazzoli bill. It was clear that the employers of agricultural labor were gaining in influence in the Congress, especially in the House of Representatives.

A major difference between the bills passed by the House and those passed by the Senate in the 98th Congress was that the House bill provided for a separate non-immigrant seasonal agricultural labor program limited to perishable commodities. The program was authorized by the passage of a House floor amendment proposed by Representative Leon Panetta D-California which had originally been reported out of the House Agriculture Committee.

Under its terms, it would have been possible to develop a large scale temporary worker program. Although the separate program was dropped in conference Simpson, faithful to the recommendations of the Select Commission, strongly opposed a large scale guest worker program , agreement was provided for an expanded and expedited H-2 program under the existing law by requiring that the test for domestic worker availability be limited to the time and place of need rather than be nationawide and by providing for a statutory role for the Secretary of Agriculture as well as the Secretary of Labor with an expedited seventy-two hour review of denials when qualified domestic workers are not available.

Simpson was still determined to have one last try at immigration reform and control legislation. His new bill was leaner, focusing almost entirely on the big issues of employer sanctions, legalization and agricultural workers. He held fast on agricultural labor, providing only for a three year agricultural worker transition version similar to what had been included in the amended Senate bill in the previous Congress and agreed to by the conferees, a program in which agricultural employers would be allowed to continue to employ illegal aliens under conditions set by the Attorney General for three years on a phase-down basis.

The new Simpson bill, as amended in large measure as a result of the work of the farm employer lobbyists, passed the Senate on September 19, , this time by a reduced margin of sixty-nine to thirty. The powerful farm lobbies gained passage of yet another provision to supply workers to them cheaply on top of the transitional program in which they were given three years in which to stop hiring illegal aliens.

The new amendment, proposed by Senator Pete Wilson R-Califor- nia and opposed strongly by Simpson — the first time he was beaten on a really big issue — provided for the admission of up to , alien workers at any one time to harvest perishable fruits and vegetables for up to nine months a year, a program which resembled the one embodied in the Panetta amendment on the House side in the 98th Congress.

The Attorney General would define agricultural regions within which the workers could be employed. While the support for an agricultural worker program was increasing, support for legalization was definitely on the decline. A Gallup poll in November of showed that only thirty-five percent of the American people would support legalization.