Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Citizens, Eventually, Maybe

It's Tuesday and, as a day that ends in a "y," time for a new position from Marco Rubio on immigration reform.  Editorializing online, the invarably right and generally wrong National Review has Rubio pegged:

It is painful to watch Marco Rubio’s maneuverings on immigration. He is refusing to say whether he will vote “yes” on his own Gang of Eight bill after spending months drafting, defending, and helping shepherd it to the floor. He has supposedly discovered that the enforcement provisions are inadequate, although he has done countless interviews touting that the bill contains the “toughest immigration-enforcement measures in the history of United States” (which is what his website still says). At the same time, Rubio declares the bill 95–96 percent perfect.

Immigration reform is for Marco Rubio all about Marco Rubio, not unlike everything else to Marco Rubio, the man about whom it may be said "there is no there there."   Noticing the NR item, the invariably correct Joan Walsh recognizes "In the end, Rubio’s worst sin may not be backing immigration reform, but angling around it so blatantly that he winds up looking wishy-washy, not resolute – an image that won’t go away even if the bill does."  Few tears will be shed by the likes of Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush.

But for a few other Republicans, immigration reform is about getting as many individuals as possible, working for as little as possible, into the workforce.   David Nakamura and Sandhya Somashekhar of The Washington Post report

This month, Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho) blamed a standoff over health-care benefits for his decision to drop out of bipartisan talks with seven colleagues who were negotiating a House alternative to the Senate immigration proposal. That has forced House leaders to proceed with a series of smaller-scale proposals next week in lieu of a sweeping agreement.

“When I joined the group, I was told that the aliens would have to pay for their own health care,” Labrador told Fox News. “Now that has changed. And I can’t agree to all of the exceptions.”

Someone forgot to give this dog of a congressman, Raul Labrador, the memo reading "As we manipulate our message to entice Hispanics to vote for us, it would be wise not to refer to immigrants as 'aliens.'  Especially, legal aliens- uh, er, immigrants."  (And just to emphasize the otherness of Hispanics, it's a nice touch for Labrador to add "the" aliens.)  But as Bloomberg View editors editorialized

legalizing immigrants without providing access to health care will give employers an incentive to hire immigrants over American citizens. The Affordable Care Act requires employers with 50 or more employees either to provide health insurance or pay a penalty as high as $3,000 per uninsured worker. Employers could avoid doing either by hiring immigrants that are excluded from the program.

For the Repub donor class, however, that feature is no bug, but asset.  So, too, is the effort of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, whose

most prominent measure would eliminate a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while lifting a cap on guest workers, Senate aides familiar with the proposals told The Hill. Under that amendment, to be introduced this week, employers who demonstrate need would be provided with immigrant workers while the workers themselves would have to apply for permanent residency and citizenship according to the policies of their native countries.

This being the Age of Obama, however, establishment Democrats are scurrying on to the me-too bandwagon.  Amid GOP concerns that illegal immigrants might be able to get health care without overloading hospital emergency rooms, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi- a "San Francisco Democrat," no less- last month adamantly declared "We have said since Day One . . . that undocumented people will not have access to subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. Any thought that we want to do something different than that is simply not true. It is a bottom line. No need to even discuss it.”

Besides encouraging employers to hire immigrants at low wages and without benefits, the Bloomberg View people note

excluding immigrants will weaken the new health-care system, which is predicated on bringing healthy young people into the insurance market, both to balance the risk pool and to reduce expensive (and publicly funded) emergency care. If that economic logic holds for citizens and legal residents, it should also apply to undocumented immigrants. (Actuarial tables don’t care about your immigration status.)

To Republicans, having voted in the House of Representatives 737 (minus 700) times to repeal Obamacare, undermining the Affordable Care Act in a comprehensive immigration bill would reap serious benefits.  Though to Barack Obama (and some congressional Democrats), it probably would not be mush of a positive, neither would it be a negative.President Obama can lay claim- as his acolytes remind us- to having been the first Democrat to pass ("achieve" may prove a stretch) health care reform.   Now, his legacy may be enhanced by having enacted immigration reform, whatever its impact on the American labor market or on the ostensible goals of the health care reform his supporters cite as a component of that wondrous legacy.  

The Post reporters write "Republicans are now attempting to use President Obama’s landmark health-care law to derail his top second-term initiative — a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system."   If the Republicans prove able to put a dent in the Affordable Care Act, flood the labor market with additional entrants, and give their nod to something called "immigration reform," Obama would benefit with a legacy featuring an undermined "landmark health-care" law and "a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system" pleasing to the corporate class.  Champagne all around.

Priscilla Huang, policy director for the nonpartisan Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, says “If we want them to become citizens and fully integrated into their communities and our country, we should really treat them as such."   But even under terms of the bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, forged by the Gang of Eight, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and on alternate days by Marco Rubio, immigrants must wait 13 years to become citizens, during which period a GOP Congress and/or President could enact legislation invalidating the citizenship provision.

What a novel, quaint idea- having immigrants expeditiously become fully integrated into their communities and our country!  It is, though, one which evidently has escaped the interest of congressional Republicans, Speaker Pelosi, or President Obamination.

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