Don’t leave immigration debate to beltway reporters

The Associated Press speculated Saturday that immigration legislation, which House Republicans say they’ll bring up this week, during the lame duck session, could be seen as evidence that the GOP is “serious about overhauling the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system.”

If you know nothing about immigration, then, yes, you might think the House bill, called the “STEM Jobs Act,” is serious. It would grant more visas for foreign students and help green-card-holding immigrants bring their family members here. That’s it.

Immigration reform, if it is serious, needs to deal with the estimated 12 million undocumented people currently in the U.S. The House bill affects not a one of them.

But the GOP’s window-dressing activities in Washington raise the question for reporters of what Republicans here in Colorado have to say about national immigration reform.

It’s not a story that should be left to the beltway press, just because the decision will ultimately be made there. Colorado will be disproportionately affected, and so the views of the local politicians should be heard, even if they’re ignored.

But lately, we haven’t been hearing much talk from GOP legislators here about it, even from the GOP legislators who not long ago considered introducing an Arizona-style immigration bill for Colorado.

Why isn’t there more talk here in Colorado about what national immigration should look like?

One recent murmur I found from came from Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, when he was a guest on KBDI’s Studio 12 public affairs show Sept. 12:

SCOTT:  Probably one of the most impressive programs that I’ve even read about, and maybe you all have read about it as well, is called the “Red Card Solution.”


SCOTT: …It’s a very thoughtful approach to how to approach immigration issues on the federal level, which obviously drift down to the state level.

Scott gets credit for appearing on Studio 12 at all to discuss immigration issues, because, as Banks told Scott on air, she “called a number of [Scott’s] colleagues who would not talk an hour live about this issue.”

Authored in 2008 by Helen Krieble, a Colorado businesswomen in need of menial labor, the Red Card Solution is basically a guest worker program. Paid for not by taxes but by fees from businesses that want workers and by foreign workers who want jobs, it’s proposed to be a market-driven, non-governmental “private sector initiative,” which would control the borders, provide labor to U.S. business owners, and incentivize job seekers to legally enter and work in the U.S.

Undocumented workers in the U.S. would presumably be required to return to their home countries with their families, in a wave of reverse immigration, and obtain workers’ permits to come back to America for employment. They’d pick up their work permits from U.S.-certified private companies operating in foreign countries.

If that sounds thin on details, it’s not my fault. It is, even though big-thinking Newt Gingrich latched onto the idea. It’s been widely criticized as unworkable.

But at least Rep. Scott had the guts to put it out there. Do his fellow Republicans agree with it? Or do they want something else that offers a path to citizenship, like many Democrats prefer, as part of comprehensive immigration reform?

As the immigration debate heats up in DC, with Republicans saying they want to be reasonable but offering little or no details to back them up, I’m hoping reporters seek out the views of local leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Who will talk about it? Who won’t? And why?


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