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Details On Healthcare Reform and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Yesterday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, changed his vote to a yes on health-care reform, shortly after Obama announced his support for an outline on immigration reform, published in The Washington Post. Rep. Gutierrez explained his decision on an interview on NPR.

He explained his decision to support the bill despite “La Raza,” ostensibly NCLR, still opposing significant parts of the bill. In the interview, he goes to bat for Obama, since he says Obama responded positively to their talk. The sharp interviewer calls Gutierrez on the fact that Press Secretary Gibbs did not mention immigration reform as a post-healthcare step. I love how Gutierrez flat out says that a lot of this is just “fake.” Anyway, the interview is worth a listen.

A week ago, Gutierrez was in town.  I wrote that his speech inspired me, even though the original policy talk that he had given Houston had completely turned me off due to the enforcement aspects of his plan. (Just between you and me, maybe that was just “fake” as well, but I doubt it.)

Anyway, Gutierrez is probably the uncontested Congressional leader when it comes to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). What he says and what he does on the subject are of great significance to the nuts and bolts of whatever will come out of the debate.

I don’t mean to overstate my long-standing ambivalence toward certain forms of a stand-alone DREAM Act, but it is important to discuss at this juncture. Why? Because if CIR goes down the tubes, immigration reform could get passed in a piecemeal format, with the DREAM Act probably being the most agreeable to all law makers. So, framing the details of the DREAM Act now could have serious and even dangerous consequences for the future of our community.

Check it out: Essentially, the DREAM Act recognizes that children who were brought to the country by their parents, essentially had no role in the decision. Thus, these children did not make a conscientious decision to break the civil immigration statutes. The DREAM Act makes it much easier and cheaper for these individuals to get their papers. The traditional DREAM Act, in its various formats, provided this preferred treatment to college graduates and those who would serve in the military.  The traditional DREAM Act left out working class youth, and created a de facto draft, as pointed out first to me by Union Del Barrio. Rep. Gutierrez’s bill, introduced in December, expanded the DREAM Act provisions to include workers, which I was extremely impressed with:

Special Rule for Persons Brought to the United States Before the Age of 16: In order to simplify processing of applicants under CIR ASAP, those persons ordinarily covered under the DREAM Act will apply for status through the same program outlined above, with the following special features:
 No fines for persons who were brought to the United States before the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, and were 35 years of age or less
 Such persons will be eligible for accelerated LPR status upon graduation from high school, and completion of two years of college, military service, or employment. Persons granted LPR status under this provision will be eligible for naturalization three years after the date LPR status is granted
 Graduation from a U.S. high school or receipt of an equivalency degree will meet the English proficiency requirement
 Individual states permitted to determine residency requirements for in-state tuition purposes

As this reform begins to take shape, it is important that the DREAM Act not be reduced to only college kids and soldiers. If CIR is passed, it could be simply a semantic argument, and it would not be as big a deal. If, under CIR, DREAM Act workers were given the chance to get papers without the ease of DREAM Act provisions, they would certainly be willing to sell themselves short and pay the fees, go to the back of the line and pay the penalty that adult-age migrants will have to pay.

However, if CIR does not pass, we can’t allow the system to separate us by class and to create undue pressure to enlist in the military for the empire’s expansion. The possibility of piecemeal legislation makes today’s semantic framing of the DREAM Act, even as part of the CIR debate, important.

Luis Gutierrez is proudly Puerto Rican. Right now, “la isla’ is debating nationhood versus statehood. I can only envision a day when people in this part of the country will realize that we too should be debating self-determination. For now, I push for CIR in the hopes that it will give our gente the confidence to even conceive of such concepts.

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