Immigration Reform

More from this show

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have proposed a blueprint for immigration reform that they hope to pass this summer. ASU political science professor Rudy Espino comments on the politics of getting comprehensive immigration reform through Congress.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome for "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators today announced a framework for comprehensive immigration reform. Arizona Senator John McCain is one of the key lawmakers pushing the effort, McCain and Senator Charles Schumer of New York made the announcement on immigration reform this morning.

Sen. Charles Schumer: For the first, for the first time ever, there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in supporting it. We believe that we have a window of opportunity to act. But we will only succeed if the effort is bipartisan. The key to our compromise is to recognize that Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. To this end, our framework contains four basic pillars. First, we create a tough, but fair path to citizenship. For illegal immigrants, currently living in the United States, and that is contingent upon securing our borders. Second, we reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen the American families. And third, we create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers and lastly, we establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Sen. John McCain: We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, and serve our food, and clean our homes, and even watch our children while not affording them the benefits that make our country so great. I think everyone agrees that it's not beneficial for our country, to have these people here hidden in the shadows. Let's create a system to bring them forward, allow them to settle their debt to society, and to fulfill the necessary requirements to become law-abiding citizens of this country. This is consistent with our country's tradition of being a nation of laws and nation of immigrants.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about today's announcement and the corresponding politics involved, is Rudy Espino the professor of ASU's -- a professor at ASU School of Politics and Global Studies. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Rudy Espino: Thank you

Ted Simons: That framework, those pillars. Talk about the viability.

Rudy Espino: Right now, they are presented in really vague terms. And in its current state, it seems like, they have created vague to create buy-in, especially from fellow Senate Republicans, but especially on the house side, which we have to keep in mind, is controlled by the Republican party. So, right now, it seems very viable, but it only takes one Senator, one member of the house to insert what we might call a poison pill amendment. That just makes it unacceptable to, to the majority of the, of the body of the Senate and a majority of the body of the house. And so that's one thing that we have to keep in mind is, is Congress is slow, it's inefficient, it's designed to be -- it's designed to be a deliberative body, and again, multiple veto points and access points for any legislator to, to influence or stop the legislation in its tracks.

Ted Simons: Is the tough but fair path to citizenship one of those four pillars? Is that the one you think that might have the biggest sticking point?

Rudy Espino: I think so because, because this is what, what, some people would call amnesty. And once -- you did not hear the Senators using that term. It's a politically charged term. Once you start using that term, you start getting a lot of opposition. created. Especially among conservative Republicans. And so, this gang, they try to avoid that, and I mentioned there will be a lot of back room wheeling and dealing, especially with, with Republican leadership in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate, has indicated right now that he's not too, too happy about what's being proposed, and then we still have to hear what's, what's being indicated on the house side, particularly, by the speaker Boehner and Eric Cantor.

Ted Simons: The idea of the border having to be secured, before, before this immigration reform, the comprehensive nature of it goes forward. Who decides that the border is finally secure?

Rudy Espino: Well, that's something that right now, they might talk about creating a commission in charge of, of setting standards, and determining whether throws standards have been met, but, this has been the sticking pointed in the past. That has prevent comprehensive immigration reform to get past, most recently in 2007, with McCain. It fell apart because the Republicans said we have to talk about a secure border first. But, we have to recognize, too, that that, having a 100% secure border will be 100% impossible to do, and every border will have that opportunity for one person to get through it. And so that's just an impossible standard to meet, and if that's the standard that this commission and Congress sets, then we can, you know, we won't see, see this immigration reform proposal get passed.

Ted Simons: And indeed, if this commission will consist, apparently, of border Governors, attorney generals, attorneys general from border states and other leaders, sheriffs and such, you are talking about in Arizona, a whole host of people that are very strong on immigration enforcement. And that does not sound like it will be an easy thing to accomplish.

Rudy Espino: No, it's not, and again, there is -- so we talked about just takes one legislator within Congress to stop something, on this commission, it could just take one person, that's on this commission, particularly some key person here in Arizona, that stops, that, you know, a path to citizenship, in its tracks.

Ted Simons: And the idea of, of passing background checks. You have to pay fines. You have to pay back taxes, and back taxes, half these folks, have, you know, the wrong social security card numbers, and they have been paying taxes. How do we figure out how much they paid, and how much they would have to owe? That seems like that's going to be difficult to overcome.

Rudy Espino: Not just difficult but it will be costly. And, and for those people seeking a pathway to citizenship, but also, too, I think what we're going to see is, is should this move forward, and get pass, we're going to see another economy spring up. A lot of middlemen trying to advise individuals to, to help them to navigate, and so not only will immigrants be having to pay these taxes but they are going to have to pay some, some middleman tax, to help them to, to negotiate, navigate that, the byzantine process that Congress has created.

Ted Simons: They will also have to learn English, which means someone will have to determine if they have learned English.

Rudy Espino: Right, and that's where another economy sprouts up, too. The ESL classes.

Ted Simons: Now, the dreamers and farm workers are exempt, correct? Why is that?

Rudy Espino: They would be, be -- well, they meet different guidelines, the dreamers, and there is also -- there's been talk about the Dream Act so, this is largely going to be affecting the people that came here at an adult age, who are anticipating it will affect 11 million undocumented immigrants here, and there is a process by which, you know, their entry into the United States, is worked out with their employers and, and sent back after a certain amount of time. So again, this is going to hit a certain segment of the illegal immigrants here in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Ok. As far as a timetable is concerned, s there any indication of how long it would take to adopt these kinds of principles?

Rudy Espino: No, there is not. But, if we use, use, let's say, past major legislation, and Congress as a guideline, we can expect, if it gets done, it would take a look at least a year if not year and a half before we see it get pass out. And you know, just look at health care reform legislation. It took year and a half from the time that it was introduced and started, initiated by the President, to, to getting out of Congress. So, we may be talking about 20, you know, 2014, yeah, heading into the next mid-term election brings we see there being a realization.

Ted Simons: So, let's stay with politics here and take a look at the big picture. Why this announcement, why now?

Rudy Espino: I think in part because Republicans, or Democrats have always been pushing for it, but certain Republicans in the Senate have been looking past the general election results from 2012, and recognize this is always going to be front and center. If they are going to, to push in the back burner it could be another, another electoral thorn. It could cost them more elections in 2014 like we saw in 2012. But, put this behind you as soon as you can because it might alienate the base, but we know that voters if we get quickly, and so, don't alienate the base immediately. And hopefully, get this passed so that they forget, forgive and forget come 2014.

Ted Simons: But, from the Republican perspective, are Republicans in the Senate and in general, do they think that this is the right thing to do? Or, as we heard Senator McCain, basically, say, it's politically necessary. That's the thing. And with that in mind, how much goodwill will they get from the Latino community if all we're saying is, we have got to do this because we need to keep people in the party, as opposed to it's the right thing to do.

Rudy Espino: Right. And so, McCain's statement there, it shows that, that there is political, pragmatic reasons, and it has nothing to do with the moral and ethical reasons why we should be doing this. And, but to your question as to how much goodwill will there engender among the voters, maybe not whole lot, and Latino voters were disaffect by the Republican party, brand name in the last few years but there's been some interesting survey research conducted by the Latino decisions, polling group that have asked voters, Latino voters across the country, if, if the Republicans, in Congress, took a leadership role, on, on pushing for comprehensive immigration reform would in that make you more or less likely to vote for the Republican party? The majority of voters said it would make them more likely, and in fact, here in Arizona, 80% of voters indicated that that would make them more likely to vote for the Republican party even though right now they are voting for Democrats. So, this shows that the, that, that the Latino electoral base is amenable to change their party affiliation and start listening to the candidates and start voting for them.

Ted Simons: So speaker Boehner, does he take the lead? Who fakes the lead in the house. The house is, is -- that's the crux of all of this.

Rudy Espino: Right. Speaker Boehner, will probably be a little scared how he's going to have to proceed in taking this up in the house. We have seen him struggle with his raucous Tea Party colleagues, and that's something in that he has to figure out how to navigate so he's probably going to lean on some key Hispanic Republicans, perhaps some of your Cuban representatives, Cuban Republican representatives from Florida, who have in the past indicated the need for comprehensive immigration reform. So, he probably would lean on them to be the spokesperson for the Republican party in the house.

Ted Simons: And as far as the Senate is concerned, will there be one person to take the lead on this? The McCain, Schumer?

Rudy Espino: And that's probably what we're going to be calling this legislation. Just like we were calling it McCain-Kennedy in 2007.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Rudy Espino: Thank you.

Rudy Espino:Political Science Professor, ASU;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

The four men of Il Divo
airs June 2

Il Divo XX: Live from Taipei

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: