Senate Bill: Classic Divide & Conquer

Bennett Baumer Apr 16, 2006

Immigrants rallied in the millions to protest the punitive bill in the House of Representatives, but what do they want? Many unions and immigrant rights groups have backed the McCain-Kennedy bill. A compromise Senate bill, like its House counterpart, pumps more funds into detentions, deportations and a militarized border, but it includes a guest-worker program and provisions that make it possible for undocumented immigrants to eventually become citizens.

However, many immigrant groups are also critical of the Senate bill. The “compromise” would create three tiers of immigrants. At the top would be an estimated 7 million who have lived here at least five years and would have a chance to become citizens. But it would involve paying $2,000 for a work visa and any back taxes, having a background check as well as a medical exam, registering for selective service, learning English, and taking a civics class.

In the middle are an estimated 3 million who have been in the country for two to five years and would have to travel back to a port of entry to get a work visa. On the last rung are 1.5 million immigrants that have lived here for less than two years and would be subject to deportation outright. If immigrant groups support such a divisive bill, it will further split a Latino community that is already far from monolithic.

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