Politics of Immigration Reform

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A comprehensive immigration reform bill has been introduced after years of talk and delay caused by the politics surrounding the bill. The political landscape now seems favorable for the measure.

Associate Professor Lisa Magana of the Arizona State University School of Transborder Studies will discuss the politics around the immigration bill.

Ted Simons: A comprehensive immigration bill was formally introduced today in the U.S. Senate after years of political wrangling over the issue. Joining us to talk about where the politics of immigration reform go from here is Lisa Magana, associate professor of ASU's School of Transborder Studies. It's good to have you here.

Lisa Magana: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Lisa, are you surprised the bill has made it so far?

Lisa Magana: I'm excited, there's so much going on in terms of immigration and politics it's hard to keep up. I think the reason this all started was the reelection of President Barack Obama, quite honestly. I think that politicians underestimated the Latino vote. I think that's one of the reasons we have a bipartisan approach to this. I think that Republicans are really trying to rebrand themselves, and trying to court more Latinos, because it was such a powerful constituency. We know that 70% of Latinos voted for President Obama.

Ted Simons: Before we get into some more focused questions here, with something like this, let's say the outline of this does wind up passing and becomes law. The Latino vote, does it seismically shift to the Republican Party? What happens?

Lisa Magana: You know, that's a good question. A couple things before actually voting, one of the things we saw was that when a politician's parties were anti-immigrant, it came off as being anti-Latino. So a lot of kind of counterintuitive, that a lot of the anti-immigrant rhetoric actually galvanized people politically. Not just in terms of voting but people organizing. I think in the future we will see a lot of people that will remember what happened with the anti-immigrant stuff. I don't necessarily think that people, if this passes -- and I think it will -- people will automatically unify with one party versus the other, but they will instead think about the issues. I do think this will have a big impact.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about interparty kind of stuff. Impacts on Republicans and Democrats who support the bill within their own party.

Lisa Magana: That's what's so clear right now. I was just reading, for example, Senator Rubio, one of the Gang of Eight, the eight senators, four Democrats and Republicans that put this bill together. He's getting a lot of push-back. There are conservatives within the Republican Party that don't think we should do anything for immigrants until we "secure the border." It's enforcement first and then the sort of servicing aspect of it. It's not so clear-cut how unified the party is, in terms of the Republican side. I think there's a little more solidarity I guess on the side of the Democrats.

Ted Simons: Okay. So for the Republican side, though, does that mean primary opposition? Does that mean trouble down the pike here?

Lisa Magana: I think so. I think before we do any immigration reform, some people believe -- I think it's the most conservative part of the party -- that we have to have enforcement first and secure the border. We shouldn't do anything about these immigrants in the country until the border is secure. There's a lot of talk about what that actually means, securing the border. I have some issues with that myself, because it's not so clear-cut. The other thing about this idea that is in terms of politics you're going to see a group of people on both sides that are really going to think about this issue.

Ted Simons: What about Democrats that might oppose it? Probably not too much, too many out there, but those who do, what kind of repercussions there?

Lisa Magana: In terms of policy and Democratic opposition, it would be in terms of labor. There was a lot of talk, compromise before anything came out of this. Mostly in terms of the temporary worker program or the H.B. workers. And also in terms of what wages would be paid to these immigrant workers. There was a lot of compromise that had to go on before that.

Ted Simons: What about fallout there?

Lisa Magana: They have come to an agreement, and I think that's one of the reasons they were able to come to some sort of proposal.

Ted Simons: Enforcement hawks, what did they get, what did they give up?

Lisa Magana: Enforcement hawks, according to this policy there's a few things. One is more fence, more of the fence at the border. Hiring of more border patrol is the other thing. The other part is there is an assessment where they want to essentially look at a percentage. It's kind of wacky -- a percentage of how many people are apprehended via each border sector. It's a very strange way of trying to assess --

Ted Simons: 90%, isn't it?

Lisa Magana: 90%. There's tons of apprehension data. The problem with that is it's not the best indication of good immigration policy. Somebody could be apprehended more than one time. Lots of people being apprehended means you're doing a good job, or lots of people being apprehended means you're not doing a good job and people are able to circumvent.

Ted Simons: What did business give up?

Lisa Magana: I think business, they have tighter E-verify. There's going to be tighter restrictions on what a businessperson has to do when they hire an employer, particularly an immigrant. In the proposal there are stricter penalties on employers, although Arizona has the toughest, as you know, employer sanctions law in the country. There's going to be a sort of picture looking at your biometric -- yeah. So there's a tougher E-Verify and tougher punishment for employers. Also in the policy is a -- more visas for high skilled labor. That was the other thing.

Ted Simons: Do you see problems with certain aspects of the bill? I'm guessing amendments will come flying here and there and some will stick and some won't. What are you seeing?

Lisa Magana: I think the biggest problem is trying to assess effectiveness or what that means, securing the border. Let me just remind you, or bring this up Half of the 11 million people are people that overstayed their visas, they came in legally, not crossing through the border the way we like to think about this. People come in legally, this policy has nothing that really addresses Visa over stayers. It stresses the idea of secure the border and make it tough.

Ted Simons: Is this likely to pass Congress?

Lisa Magana: I think there will be a lot of fights. I have some problems also with the servicing part I think is going to be criticized. I think ultimately it will be passed.

Ted Simons: Very good. Good speaking with you.

Lisa Magana: Appreciate the opportunity, thank you.

Lisa Magana:Associate Professor, Arizona State University School of Transborder Studies;

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