New York Times
The Bipartisan Policy Center’s immigration task force released a set of recommendations on Thursday for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and called on members of Congress to participate in a civil discussion aimed at finding areas of consensus.
“We should refrain from demonizing individuals or organizations for positions that may not align directly with either our views or our opinions on the best method for resolving these important matters,” the center wrote in a statement Thursday. “Instead, we encourage a respectful dialogue that acknowledges these concerns and moves forward to find common ground.”
In an op-ed article in Politico written by the task force’s four co-chairmen — Haley Barbour, the former Republican governor of Mississippi; Henry Cisneros, a housing secretary under President Bill Clinton; Edward G. Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania; and Condoleezza Rice, a secretary of state under President George W. Bush — they said they saw “real progress” on the issue of repairing the nation’s immigration system, in an otherwise “seemingly gridlocked” Congress.
“We have been encouraged by the constructive debate that has occurred around immigration reform,” the task force wrote. “As the debate continues, we must avoid making the perfect the enemy of the good: Our current system is fundamentally flawed and broken. If we can focus on where there is agreement and then work conscientiously to narrow our differences, then real and durable reform is possible.”
The task force also outlined four guiding principles: controlling the flow of unauthorized immigration, offering a pathway for legalization and citizenship, creating a strong system to encourage and promote legal immigration, and recognizing the positive economic impacts of overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
“Traditionally, August is a period where members go home and have discussions with constituents, and it’s a time for reflection and debate all across the country,” Michael Chertoff, a Homeland Security secretary under Mr. Bush and a task force member, said on a conference call Thursday. The group’s goal, he added, is to “frame the issues, demonstrate that there is a path forward that should address the major concerns raised and can do it in a way that appeals to a broad spectrum of people.”
Though the immigration bill that recently passed the Senate devotes billions of dollars to border security, the task force called for a “scientifically valid set of measures that are audited by an independent commission,” in order to help stanch the flow of illegal immigrants and ensure that the government is held accountable for the security of the nation’s borders.
On the question of legalization and a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, the task force recommended an earned path to citizenship for immigrants willing to pay all fines and penalties and pass a criminal background check. The task force also said that “undocumented immigrants should not be forced to choose between a green card and leaving the country,” but added, “Automatic citizenship should not be the default position.”
Though the group’s recommendations largely align with the immigration legislation that already passed the Senate, which includes a 13-year path to citizenship, they seem to go a bit further than some of the alternatives being considered in the Republican-controlled House, where many conservative members are hesitant to offer any path to legalization.
After noting that he was probably the “most conservative” voice on the conference call, Mr. Barbour said, “I believe if there is a rigorous path to citizenship, that does have rigorous requirements, I am comfortable with it.”
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