Gutierrez Immigration Bill: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

They always say Hispanics do jobs that other Americans won’t do.

Believe it. You even see it in Congress. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is getting ready to do something that none of his non-Hispanic colleagues are the least bit anxious to do: introduce a bill calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Why the hesitation? Simple: grabbing hold of this thorny issue is a sure way to lose friends and infuriate people.

Here are three things to keep in mind about the legislation:

(1) It will likely be the template for what Gutierrez recently predicted would be a rebooting of the immigration debate in Congress during March and April of 2010. Other reform ideas are sure to follow from all quarters but, for the most part, they’ll all be attempts at addition or subtraction from the starting point of the Gutierrez bill. That’s only fair since no one else has stepped forward with competing legislation, and it makes this bill all the more important.

(2) It represents an admirable shift to the middle of the road by Gutierrez, who, five years ago, was simply talking about unconditional amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants with nary a word about beefed up borders, background checks, or assimilating immigrants -- all necessary parts of reform. Now the Illinois congressman seems to understand that, for many Americans, the borders have to be secured before anything is done about those illegal immigrants who are already here.

(3) It has a little bit of everything -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good -- more effective border enforcement and a conditional path to legalization for illegal immigrants. The bad -- a possible end to workplace raids under the guise of advocating more “humane interior enforcement” and the omission of any plan for additional guest workers. The ugly -- protection for U.S. workers against competition from illegal workers and an emphasis on family reunification as opposed to what should be emphasized: workforce needs.

Other provisions include improving 
employer verification systems, managing future flows of 
workers, ensuring an agricultural 
workforce, instituting a DREAM Act to 
give college and vocational students a shot at earned legal status, and promoting the integration of immigrants into society.