Can the right of the Republican Party be persuaded to back a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system?
|In a politically fractured town like Washington DC, one would think that a plan supported by President Barack Obama and sworn Republican political enemies, including John McCain and Marco Rubio, would be sure to succeed.But there is no guarantee about whether the right of the Republican Party will be persuaded to back immigration reform.
Immigration, and the status of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the US, has proved to be one of the most divisive issues in American politics.
Previous attempts to reform the system have failed amid rancour in Washington, but this week there is new hope that comprehensive reform could be passed by the end of the year.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled far-reaching legislation that could provide a path to citizenship.
Those arguing for reform were given hope by the presence of Republican Senior Senator John McCain and also Marco Rubio, an early favourite for the Republican presidential nod in 2016.
The senators’ plan emphasises four key aspects: security along the US southern border; employer-compliance with immigration laws; provisions for farm workers and highly-educated engineers; and a “pathway to citizenship” – which senators insist does not amount to a path to amnesty.
Undocumented US residents who want to continue working will have to register with the government and pay a fine.
This will effectively force them to the “back of the line” while they apply for permanent status.
But while they are waiting, they can work legally and do not face deportation, as long as they steer clear of criminal activity.
But there are obstacles: although Obama has come out in favour of the thrust of the plan, the key battles are to come when the bill comes up for debate in Congress.
In particular, more right-leaning Republican congressmen are wary of alienating many Republican voters who are hostile to reform, arguing it amounts to amnesty.
They seem to pay little heed to the arguments of Republican grandees who argue that the party needs to win Latino support to stand any chance of regaining the White House.
So, can the right of the Republican Party be persuaded to back comprehensive immigration reform?
To discuss this, Inside Story Americas with presenter Kimberly Halkett is joined by guests: Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post; Roberto Lovato, a co-founder of Presente.org, an online Latino advocacy organisation; and Michael Graham, a Conservative political commentator and talk radio host.
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