Politics
2:05 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

A Look Foward: Immigration Reform In 2013

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 3:39 pm

This year we saw a great divide in the nation on the issue of immigration reform.

Much of the concern surrounds the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country — the majority of whom are from Mexico and Latin American countries, and about 10 percent from Asia.

President Obama won office again with 71 percent of the Latino vote. He has called pledge to reform current immigration law.

Hiroshi Motomura is a professor of law at the University of California Los Angeles. He spoke with weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden about what he thinks 2013 might look like on the subject.


Interview Highlights

A quick look back: Important legislation from 2012

"One important type of legislation is, what often is called the DREAM Act, and that's what would give legal status to kids that are brought to this country — kids who don't have legal status but are brought to this country by their parents ... Another is more comprehensive immigration reform, which generally includes programs to legalize a great number of the 11 million undocumented people in this country."

What will be the fate of the college-educated undocumented?

"One of the issues that's been important at the state and local level is, what exactly is access to college education going to be for undocumented immigrants? I mean, that is taking place, for example, in California. Quite prominently you have issues of what is the in-state tuition options, what the admission policies are going to be, and then you also have admission into the professions, for example. There is a case in California right now involving an undocumented student who graduated from law school and applied for admission to the bar, and he passed the bar, and the question right now ... is whether or not he will be able to become a lawyer."

Imagining what the DREAM Act might look like in 2013

"I think it could clear Congress. I think the support for it is there, and I think that there will be some sort of legislation enacted that will be like the Dream Act, but the question is, how restrictive it's going to be, and exactly what the benefits are going to be, and there are some issues there. I mean, one is, will people have to pay a fine? Will people have to leave the country and come back? And another issue is whether or not people who will be legalized will have a path to citizenship."

Speculating on Republican support

"I think that the Republican Party has gotten the message that immigration reform is important, it's key to a certain part of the electorate, you know, [the] vote. The question that I have ... is how far the Republican Party is willing to go, whether a legalization program would include a path to citizenship. That may be a sticking point. You saw that, for example, in the run up to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — the so called DACA program — that the president announced back in June. One of the early impetuses was actually a proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who proposed something similar, but it would clearly would not include a path to citizenship."

The fate of enforcement

"[Enforcement] will continue, because no matter what happens in regard to legalization, whether it's the DREAM Act, whether it's something broader than that, there are still going to be people left out."

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Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

In 2012, we saw a great divide in the nation on the issue of immigration reform. The concern surrounds the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country - the majority of whom are from Mexico and Latin American countries, about 10 percent are from Asia.

President Obama won office again with 71 percent of the Latino vote. He's pledged to reform current immigration law.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system.

LYDEN: Helping us look ahead on this issue is Professor Hiroshi Motomura from the UCLA School of Law. He specializes in immigration and citizenship law. Welcome to the program.

HIROSHI MOTOMURA: Thank you. Good afternoon.

LYDEN: Professor Motomura, immigration reform is really complicated. Before we look forward, remind us of what important legislation took center stage in 2012 that we might see extended in the coming year.

MOTOMURA: Well, one important type of legislation is what often is called the DREAM Act, and that's what would give legal status to kids who don't have legal status but are brought to this country by their parents. And another is a more comprehensive immigration reform, which generally includes programs to legalize a great number of the 11 million undocumented people in this country.

LYDEN: Another thing that really comes up a lot is what will happen with children of undocumented workers who are now college students or who want to come here perhaps without a college degree either to study or to work? Do you see any changes in terms of admission programs?

MOTOMURA: One of the issues at the state and local level is what exactly is access to college education going to be for undocumented immigrants? For example, in California, quite prominently, you have issues of what is the in-state tuition options, what the admission policies are going to be, and then you also have admission into the professions, for example. There's a case in California right now involving an undocumented student who graduated from law school and applied for admission to the California Bar. He passed the bar, and the question right now, which has not yet been decided, is whether or not he'll be allowed to become a lawyer.

LYDEN: Do you see any shifts coming about much comment made that the Republican Party also needs to endorse a more inclusive agenda on the issue of immigration reform? Do you see any of that happening or being discussed anywhere?

MOTOMURA: Yeah. I think that the Republican Party has gotten the message that immigration reform is key to a crucial part of the electorate, the Latino vote. The question I have in - as I look at this is exactly how far the Republican Party is willing to go. And you saw that, for example, in the run up to the different action for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the so-called DACA program that the president announced back in June. One of the early impetuses for that, actually, was a proposal from Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who proposed something similar, but it clearly would not include a path to citizenship.

LYDEN: What about enforcement policy? Those have become very contentious between, say, the federal government and the state.

MOTOMURA: Yeah, that will continue, because no matter what happens with legalization, whether it's DREAM Act, whether it's something broader than that, there are still going to be people left out, and the question is how vigorously is the federal government going to enforce against those folks. And then, on the one hand, there are states and local governments that are very interested in vigorous enforcement, certainly seen that in places like Arizona. But there are other localities - Los Angeles is one good example of that - where there is concern that if you start enforcing immigration law too vigorously, you undermine the relationship between police and local communities, immigrant communities.

LYDEN: Hiroshi Motomura is a professor at UCLA School of Law. He's the author of "Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States." Thank you very much for joining us.

MOTOMURA: Thank you.

LYDEN: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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