by former MS Gov. Haley Barbour and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros
Past comprehensive immigration reform bills, including the 2013 bipartisan Senate Gang of Eight bill, have included limitations on extended family-sponsored visas as well as ending the diversity visa lottery. However, those provisions were in the context of a larger overhaul of the legal immigration system that included significant changes to the employment-based visa categories (including a move toward “merit-based” immigration) as well as legalization for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Dealing with family-based immigration changes outside of that context is something most Democrats and advocates are not willing to do.
However, there may be a way out of the current box on the DACA fix. It necessitates some trust from both sides in the negotiation—something that frankly is a prerequisite for moving forward on any immigration legislation. If the White House, Democrats and congressional Republicans can agree on working together to negotiate a broader overhaul of the legal immigration system as the next immigration legislative priority, they could fairly quickly come to a deal on the Dreamer population, along the lines of where things currently seem to stand: a path to citizenship for Dreamers, border security funding, limitations on parental sponsorship and possibly a negotiated version of Kate’s Law or the House-passed gang bill.
That type of legislation would give everyone in the negotiation something to call a “win,” as well as some hard pills to swallow. But success could build momentum for the next round of discussions over the legal immigration system—one that will necessarily involve more constituencies, including the business community, in more substantive ways.