June 1, 2006
With the passage of S.2611, the Hagel-Martinez Immigration Compromise bill, many advocates of immigration reform felt that a great achievement had been accomplished. The feeling was not unanimous, however. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights last week took the position that the status quo–passing no new bill at all–is a better outcome than passage of S.2611–a bill likely to see further alteration after the House/Senate conference committee. The article “No Bill is Better”, released by the Pacific News Service, quotes Sheila Chung of the San Francisco Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition as saying, “The current Senate bill does not reflect the immigration reform called for by millions of immigrant communities marching the streets.” Another individual accuses S.2611 of being a “Trojan horse,” a bill that looks enticing in appearance, but that is filled with anti-immigrant provisions in the details. There is no question that S.2611 is imperfect and continues to contain problematic provisions. Further work needs to be done to make it more workable and more fair. But I find it hard to agree with the idea that the status quo and holding out until the “perfect solution” becomes law is the best position. Our government is a system that requires some level of consensus and there is very little consensus on the immigration issue. What consensus does exist is largely reflected in S.2611, which survived vigorous debate and amendment. To borrow from baseball, I don’t think we need to be swinging for the home run–consistent base hits will win the day. Steady incremental progress appears to be much more feasible in our divided country than sweeping change. Millions of immigrant marchers may not have marched for the provisions of S.2611, but they did march for change. S.2611 brings change, much of it positive. If S.2611 or something like it becomes law, immigrant marchers will be encouraged that they did and can make a difference–a lesson that may be lost if we choose the status quo.