Warning of the Day

From John Huppenthal:

The state’s top education official warned Wednesday that Arizona schools could be inundated with tens of thousands of immigrant children at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars if President Obama enacts some kind of amnesty.

But John Huppenthal conceded he has absolutely nothing to back that up. In fact, Huppenthal acknowledged that federal law already requires Arizona — and all states — to educate children regardless of their immigration status. That, he said, means the children who he fears might be granted amnesty likely already are here and in Arizona schools.

“Perhaps,” he said, saying there is no way to know “all of the implications” of what the president might order. (my emphasis)

It’s true. For all we know the President will announce the rollout of some kind of mutant clone army to escort illegal aliens across the boarder and into our schools. Best to prepare for the worst you can make up imagine.

An Immigration Reform Strategy That Includes Investments in Skills for All

Jared Bernstein looks at the impact of immigration on poverty in the U.S., and concludes that it doesn’t have much of an impact on poverty trends over time:

The fact that immigration isn’t placing much pressure on poverty rate trends suggests that if we want to reduce those trends, we’re less likely to get there by trying to reduce immigration.  A far better strategy would be to improve the earnings capacity–the skills, the availability of decent paying jobs, the work supports—available to all low-wage working families, regardless of their nativity. (my emphasis)

This was more-or-less the premise we started from when I worked with the National Skills Coalition on this set of immigration reform recommendations. That is, we looked at  immigration reform as an opportunity to begin overhauling the federal workforce development system across the board (including investing in more skills training and adult education). In fact, immigration reform seemed to me at the time to be the best chance to get something resembling workforce development legislation passed in the near term (even if prospects for WIA look a bit better right now), because, at least in the case of last year’s Senate bill, there were some significant dollars attached for education and training.

I also wonder if embedding immigration reform inside a broader education and workforce development strategy might be helpful from a political perspective, by placing it in the context of a political issue with a broader constituency. It might also give some structure by which to diffuse the argument that immigration reforms will result in immigrants taking away jobs from U.S.-born workers. (I know that a lot of people have made the case for immigration reform in the context of broader economic growth , but I’m not sure among that this connects very well with the general public in the way that jobs and job training does.)

Summer of Immigration Reform?

Major Garrett reads the tea leaves on immigration reform in the House and likes the chances for progress next year. He notes not only House Speaker John Boehner’s hiring of Rebecca Tallent, but thinks that the budget deal has demonstrated that the Boehner and his leadership team can work around hard-line conservatives in his party. He also notes the Obama administration’s increasing willingness to accept the piecemeal, bill-by-bill approach the House wants to take (as opposed to one big comprehensive bill, which is what the Senate did last year), and thinks Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may end up playing significant role. Here’s how he thinks it might play out:

Boehner has to wait for the bulk of primary season to pass (May or June) before serious immigration work can begin. By then, much of the legislation can be written and the calendar cleared for action in the summer. The House GOP leader on the budget deal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., may emerge as a key figure. Ryan’s pedigree is not on immigration policy, but conference conservatives will follow him. He has the scars of the budget fights, the experience of a national campaign, and a wide-open calendar to freelance now that spending numbers have been set for the next two years. Ryan has boundless policy energy and equally boundless ambition. If Boehner needs or wants a new driver on immigration, one tested by fire from the right, he may well choose Ryan.

A lot can change between now and May, but right now, this seems like a reasonable scenario.

By the way, those who lobbied for the immigration integration programs proposed in the Senate bill last spring (which included resources for english language instruction, job training, and legal services), will have their work cut out for them during the House process (assuming it ever gets going). I don’t think integration programs are seen right now as an integral part of whatever legalization scheme they come up with in the House.

Prospects for Immigration Reform Next Year Slightly Improve, Maybe

That’s about as encouraging a headline you are going to get from me on this subject these days.

The reason for this (cautious) optimism? First, Roll Call reports that Rebecca Tallent, most recently the Director of Immigration Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), has just joined House Speaker John Boehner’s staff. Roll Call notes that Tallent previously served in several senior staff positions with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)—one of the strongest Republican advocates for immigration reform in the Senate. Working for McCain, she helped draft a handful of immigration overhaul measures, including an earlier comprehensive  immigration reform effort back in 2007.

According to Roll Call, the BPC said the move “signals new momentum for immigration reform.” Of course, you’d expect them to say something like that. We shall see.

The other minor cause for optimism comes from an interview published in the Richmond Times Dispatch over the weekend with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor cited immigration reform as on elf his 2014 priorities, although he is a strong proponent of the incremental approach championed by his fellow Republicans in the House. He suggested he wanted to start with the Kids Act, which would create a path to citizenship for people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children.

At the very least, I think cautious optimism is reasonable as long as Republican leaders in the House are still talking about this issue. Eventually—one would think—all the talk will  have to be backed up by some kind of action.