Immigration Reform 2013: Slowed Down By IRS, AP, Benghazi Scandals?


It seems like Americans will have to wait a bit longer for the much-anticipated immigration reform bill. 

The Senate Gang of Eight — and its seemingly luckless proposal to reconstruct the nation’s messy and contentious immigration policies — face an uphill political battle that now lingers in Senate committee review. Meanwhile, proponents of the bill worry that recent national attention surrounding Obama administration scandals could overshadow — or even destroy — efforts to achieve what could be the most significant legislation of the year. 

Monday, as the White House continues to navigate a maze of wrath involving scandals with the IRS, AP, and Benghazi, the Senate Judiciary Committee will presume its review of more than 300 proposed amendments to the immigration proposal drafted by the bipartisan Gang of Eight. 

“We hope there’s a fourth scandal,” Frank Sharry — executive director of America’s Voice and a leader on immigration-reform efforts — told the Daily Beast, “While all of this goes on, we’re just plugging along on this under the radar.”

But the 844-page long proposal  — further buried in the Senate by a mass of more than three hundred amendments last week — indicates a long-road ahead despite diverted national attention. The Judiciary Committee will tackle some of the bill's more controversial topics this week including the legal status of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and the distribution of work visas to laborers of varying skill set. Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) might also ignite tension with an amendment that would offer green cards to foreign-born partners of gay citizens. 

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing titled “S. 744 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Lessons Learned or Mistakes Repeated?” The hearing draws from a partisan fault-line of immigration reform as the panel plans to determine if the new proposal too closely resembles the 1986 immigration bill that a number of Republicans believe gravely failed the country. 

In April, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he favors a “step-by-step” approach to immigration instead of a comprehensive set of proposals. The incremental approach is unlikely to include a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants, one of the most contentious points of the immigration debate. 

"I prefer not to see a special pathway to citizenship, but a status that we're to give them, some kind of legal status, that is certainly something that we should consider," Goodlatte told reporters.

Wednesday’s hearing in the House will spark further debate and criticism about the Senate process.

The Gang of Eight’s proposal has found its fair share of critics both in-and-out of politics. A union comprised of 12,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers plan to publicly condemn the proposed bill. The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council — a union that represents workers who handle immigration documents — has joined the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council in opposition to the proposed legislation. 

“The culture at USCIS encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications,” National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council President Kenneth Palinkas wrote in a press release. “USCIS has been turned into an ‘approval machine.’”

Together, the two unions represent 20,000 Department of Homeland Security employees responsible for enforcing the nation’s immigration statutes, an important bolster to the critics in the Senate.

Palinkas joins a slew of dissatisfied Americans and argues that the proposed reform would fail to repair the agency’s shortcomings and leave in place an “insurmountable bureaucracy.”