The Senate’s Race to Perdition

By The News Jun 05, 2007

Democrat and Republican Senators will try and make amendments to the perplexing immigration bill being dissected and voted on this week. The New York Times reported yesterday: "Both Republicans and Democrats are planning to pursue a series of amendments in the next few days aimed at various aspects of the bill, including the guest worker program, the point system that would be applied to applicants for residency and the current backlog of applicants." But so far, the Senate hearings have been a big charade. Because both Democrats and Republicans are forsaking common sense by racing to meet an arbitrary deadline set to reform immigration. The question of why now, why this bill, has gone unanswered as Senators look to take credit for what they hope will be the most sweeping domestic policy passed since the New Deal. Meanwhile, Democrats and activists hope one of the amendments to the bill will change a proposed point system. The system would make legalization based on one’s English proficiency and education, and not so much one’s family ties. This, combined with a rigorous guest-worker program, the building of miles of fencing and also more bureaucratic hurdles to gaining citizenship, has activists calling out the blatant humanitarian blunder that is the immigration bill. Today, the NYTimes wrote about the woes of the bill’s immigration point system.

Ekaterina D. Atanasova, a civil engineer from Bulgaria who lives in southern Maine, wants to bring her husband to the United States. Under the Senate immigration bill, he would get high marks — at least 74 points — because he too is a civil engineer, has a master’s degree and is fluent in English. But Herminia Licona Sandoval, a cleaning woman from Honduras, would have no hope of bringing her 30-year-old son to the United States. He works as a driver at an oil refinery, lacks a high school diploma, speaks little English and would fare poorly under the Senate bill, earning fewer than 15 of a possible 100 points.

Once upon a time, citizenship was based on race and property–you’d get 0 points if you were Black because then you were considered property. If this bill is passed without a complete overhaul, the legalization of an immigrant’s relatives will be based on an equally discriminatory policy that only seeks to reward white privilege.

The bill, written by the White House and a bipartisan group of a dozen senators, would establish “a merit-based system” to evaluate people seeking the green cards, as permanent-residence visas are known. An applicant could receive a maximum of 100 points. Up to 75 points would be allocated for job skills and education, with 15 for English-language proficiency and 10 for family ties. The criteria favor professionals with graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the point system would also reward people who work in 30 “high demand” occupations, like home health care and food service. Spouses and minor children of United States citizens would still be allowed to immigrate without limits. But siblings and adult children of citizens and lawful permanent residents would be subject to the point system. They could get a maximum of 10 points for family ties, provided they had already earned 55 points for job skills, education and English language ability.

In the name of bi-partisanship and political expediency, the Senate is tumbling fast toward passing a bill. Let’s hope they get tired enough to think of a better plan.