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Under the Radar in the Immigration Debate

May
5
2006

Six weeks ago, when I wrote that, “the nuances of Senate deliberations and Conference Committees with the house are hard to put on a 3′ x 5′ placard…” I had no idea how right I was. But this week, in meetings with Administration officials and Members of Congress in Washington D.C., I learned that two major proposals – English-language requirements and Liberalization of Greencards and Visas – are considered so non-controversial they’re not even being debated.
On this day, the Cinco de Mayo, that we celebrate an Americanized version of a Mexican Holiday, many Mexicans (and other immigrants) stand poised to be assimilated into American culture under several elements of immigration reform legislation which are going under the radar screen in Washington.
Monday afternoon, as members of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (disclosure: VICA a client of mine) met with Reuben Barrales, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, our eyes slipped past Karl Rove’s advisor and to the television set, where hundreds of thousands of immigrants were protesting around the country. Someone went “off-script” of the meeting and asked whether English-language skills would be required on the “path to citizenship” proposed in Immigration Reform on the Hill.
Of course, Barrales said, “assimilation,” will be a part of any bill.
My jaw dropped at the nonchalance over the issue of English-immersion and how the Administration was talking about it – not only because in any other political climate such an idea would generate a firestorm of public outcry, but also because it was the second time that day I had heard something about immigration described as such.
Early Monday morning, I got a tour of the new offices of the Tribune Company in Washington, D.C. and had a discussion with Los Angeles Times Bureau Chief Doyle MacManus and several reporters. I asked why no one was discussing the liberalization of legal means to immigration – such as more Green Cards or H1-B visas. It’s something I’ve written passionately about for awhile now.
We’re not hearing about it, I was told by one of the mainstream media’s gatekeepers, because it’s so non-controversial that no one is debating it.
Really?
No, really?
You’re telling me that no one is debating a grand expansion of legal means to enter the country because they all agree on it?!?
Surely the debate over H1-B visas – which allow guestworker status for educated foreigners like nurses and engineers – is not as “sexy” (outside of Silicon Valley, anwyay) as the images of gardeners, maids and busboys marching in the street, but I’d have to imagine someone’s against it.
In fact, one Democratic Congressman I spoke to was against expanding these legal means to immigration, especially for high-skilled workers. “Why give away good American jobs when we can train people to take them?,” he asked. But he would not let his opposition stand in the way of his support for a “path to citizenship” for many of the residents of his downtown Los Angeles district.
But, as with “assimilation,” no one is screaming and yelling over plans to expand Green Cards and Visas, so the media doesn’t report it. If that practice holds true, immigration reform could look like the kind of “Christmas Tree” legislation usually reserved for the Appropriations process.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 4:58 PM | Permalink

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