Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators known as the “gang of eight” unveiled the framework for an immigration plan that will put more than 11 million undocumented immigrants on the path to legal status. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is fronting the coalition on the Right, which includes key players such as John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R- SC).
While speaking at Del Sol High School in Nevada, President Barack Obama also revealed his administration’s own principles for immigration reform. Obama’s plan calls for increased border security, a “pathway” to citizenship, and a reform of the immigration legal system so that university educated immigrants may have an expedited legalization process.
The Senators plan revolves around what is described as “Four Basic Legislative Pillars”, the first of which is the most contested. The first pillar of the plan involves creating a path to citizenship that is subject to the enforcement of the nation’s borders.
The other tenets of the plan call for creating an employment verification system that is effective and enforceable, creating a system that will facilitate the immigration process for university educated immigrants, and the creation and establishment of a plan to admit future workers- one that is based on the country’s fluctuating demand for labor.
While Obama’s and the Senators’ plans do not differ on much, there is one major component upon which equal degrees of emphasis have not been placed- an assurance of secured borders before allowing unauthorized immigrants to embark on the path to legal status.
Senator Marco Rubio has repeatedly emphasized that he will only support an immigration reform if it is, “contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required”.
However, President Obama has stated that the border is already secure and that he is not in favor of a two-step process- something that Senator Rubio described as a “terrible mistake”.
The need for stronger borders becomes apparent when taking a look at the mistakes that history has taught us. When the Reagan administration passed the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli act, 2.73 million undocumented immigrants were granted amnesty. However, where the act fell short was in anticipating the future entry of immigrants and in implementing a system that would effectively deal with the situation such as the one the country now finds itself in.
Fast forward to the present day, where there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants within the country. The logistics of any proposed deportation efforts would simply reveal the idea to be impractical, if not impossible. However, in the interest of adhering to the law, they must dealt with a manner that is strict, but ultimately fair. With the prospect of immigration reform in the near future, it is possible that a new influx of unauthorized immigrants will occur if there is no viable means of enforcing a border that is secure- a situation that will ultimately render immigration reform efforts useless and land us right back where we started. The time has come to learn from our mistakes in order to ensure the prosperity of this country and its current and future inhabitants.