Muller: Senate immigration bill is a successful compromise


Yoni Muller, Assistant Opinion Editor

On Wednesday morning, the group of senators colloquially referred to as the “Gang of Eight” formally filed their new immigration reform bill. One can be certain that there will be an uproar, as there would have been regardless of what was actually in the legislation. However, in spite of Republicans screaming “Amnesty!” and Democrats pleading “Why can’t we just give everyone everything?!” the bill acts as a refreshing reminder of how compromise and bipartisanship can produce legitimate progress.

The provisions in the bill have mostly leaked out, and while in its most simplified form it offers illegal immigrants a path to citizenship (surprise, surprise), it is the furthest thing from amnesty. First and foremost, the bill includes a trigger mechanism for citizenship. More specifically, the bill requires an additional $3 billion on border security, the introduction of fences and additional guards at all spots that have more than 30,000 annual illegal crossings and an e-verify system for businesses to prevent hiring undocumented workers.

After those requirements have been met, all immigrants must pay a penalty for coming to the country illegally, pay back taxes and live with a ten-year provisional status before becoming permanent residents and eventually citizens. Immigrants also must have jobs and prove that they have a basic familiarity with English. The entire path from undocumented immigrant to naturalized US citizen takes $2,000, any owed back taxes, and 13 years — with exceptions that make the process easier for DREAMers and some agricultural workers.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that this is a strict path to citizenship. Green cards aren’t being given away willy-nilly; the Department of Homeland Security will not be hiring Oprah to yell “You get a free citizenship!” any time soon. Consequentially, quite a few people have started complaining about the toughness of this legislation.

And, on the surface, it may seem that way. More than a decade of red tape and thousands of dollars is quite a burden, and it might seem that the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers is cruel and overly cumbersome … until it’s compared to the pathway for all immigrants.

My parents are Israeli immigrants. They moved to Florida in 1991, two years before I was born, and they did everything within the confines of the law. Jobs were secured, papers were filed, identification was provided and processing fees were paid. Yet for years, my younger sister and I grew up as the only citizens in our household. Due in part to a bureaucratic error, commonly referred to as “losing an entire file,” and in larger part to a remarkably complex immigration system, my parents and older brother became U.S. citizens not after 13 years, but 18. This means even if no clerical errors took place, the pathway would be one that takes more than a decade to travel across.

Immigrating to the United States is not easy. Frankly, if it were, fewer people would be resigned to doing so illegally. Making undocumented workers pay a minor fine and go through a lengthy process is not cruel, but rather standard procedure. And with more than 11 million illegal immigrants living within our borders already, it’s high time some reasonable legislation was proposed. No amnesty or self-deportation, nothing that would make Joe Arpaio too happy or suicidal.

All in all, this bill represents a huge win for quite a few people. President Obama can finally add “immigration reform” to his legacy list; Rubio can add it to his inevitable 2016 presidential stump speech; Sen. John McCain proved that, in spite of what most of us thought, he is still relevant. More than 80 percent of polled Americans get to see reform that they support, which may restore some much-needed faith in our political system, and, most importantly, a population as large as Ohio’s can take the first step to securing its future in this country without risk of deportation and separation from family members. You can count on Rush Limbaugh to call it “surrendering to the illegals” and Rachel Maddow to call it “an abomination to the notion of a free America,” but you can count on me and the majority of citizens to simply call it what it is — a reasonable bill and a breath of fresh air.

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].