A group of four Democrat and four Republican senators unveiled a "set of principles" on immigration reform with the hope of having legislation drafted by March. Chuck Schumer, part of the group, called the proposal a "major breakthrough," with the White House signing up to it "in principle" and President Obama calling it "good news." In his own press conference today, Obama said the senate plan was "very much in line with the principles I've proposed and campaigned on for the last few years." Obama also fell on his regular talking point of Congress not working, declaring that "if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist they vote on it right away." Why didn't that happen four years ago, when the president's party held comfortable margins in both chambers of Congress?
Nevertheless, here are the main points of the senate proposal:
Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
The pathway to citizenship, naturally, has already been called an "amnesty" by critics, while making the "path to citizenship" contingent on "securing our borders" and tracking immigrants" could well be a poison pill. The president says he wants a more direct path to citizenship than the senators have offered.
While President Obama now assumes the role of advocate for immigration reform, the last time Washington attempted the endeavor, in 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama did his part to ensure its failure, the kind of partisan play Obama now laments in Congress and says he condemns.