Immigration Reform in 2010? Here’s What’s on The Table Right Now.

By Julianne Hing Mar 10, 2010

President Obama hasn’t abandoned immigration reform, mostly because immigration rights advocates won’t let him forget about the promises he made. We’ve been hearing whispers and murmurs about talks that President Obama has had with lead immigration bill authors Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has been working for nearly a year on crafting a bill with Graham, a South Carolina Republican–and, the lone Republican working on immigration right now–that will pass through the Senate. We’ve heard no word that Rep. Luis Gutierrez from Illinois, who introduced his own bill in December, was there. (Though the unofficial word is that Nancy Pelosi and Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House immigration subcommittee, don’t want to move anything through the House till they know the Senate will pass a bill.) But La Opinion’s been keeping up with the latest developments from Schumer’s office. ColorLines spoke with Bill Hing, an immigration law professor at UC Davis and USF, about what’s on the table right now. So this is what we’re looking at right now, starting with the positive: –The 600,000 people with current deportation orders would get to stay and apply for legalization, unless they have a criminal record. This could include a broad range of people, from folks who’ve overstayed their visas to people who’ve been rounded up in raids. It’s looking like this bill will provide no protection for people with criminal deportation orders. Unfortunately, this is no surprise. –An official registration system for people already in the country. There will likely be an open window for people to come forward and register and begin a legalization process. They would probably have to pay a "penalty," $500 or so. A background check would be conducted. Proof of employment would have to be provided–no deadbeats or burdens on the public allowed, is the implication. Employers would be able to register their workers who are undocumented with no penalty. –The implementation of an "identity verification biometric system" that would function like a national ID card, but with an added eyeprint or fancy fingerprint. Biometrics as an identification device are very broad, but ultimately, it calls for very high-tech, and some would say, highly intrusive, way of tracking people in the country. –More border "security" enforcement.. This likely means more money for border enforcement like that lovely 2,000-mile wall under perpetual construction along the U.S./Mexico border, more support for the electronic surveillance and other militaristic tactics currently in use along the border. The conservative definition of "enforcement" also includes raids and roundups, a tactic meant to terrorize people in the country, so those sorts of methods would likely be bolstered as well. But like the healthcare reform debate has shown, there won’t be any so-called comprehensive reform without some compromises. Advocates are expecting that this will be one of the big ones. How much will be lost by the time we get to the finish line? And when exactly will immigration reform happen? This year, like we are being told to believe, or next year, which seems like the very likely reality? Are these quiet meetings just empty gestures, meant to abate the palpable anger within the immigration rights community? For now, all eyes are on the March 21 "Change Takes Courage" march in right now, where thousands of families, students and immigrants rights activists are expected to turn out in Washington, D.C. to demand comprehensive reform.