Ann Chih Lin is an associate professor of public policy at the Ford School. Her research focuses on immigration policies, such as guest worker programs and legalization, and the political beliefs of American immigrants.
The bipartisan group of senators' proposal really rewards the high-tech industry and the agriculture industry. Both of these industries get immigrant workers they need and get them under a fast-track system. Children who are brought to the U.S. illegally also win under this system, they also get a fast-track into permanent residence.
Who loses however, is all the other immigrants. So we are used to thinking of immigrants as either very high-tech or low-tech, but it turns out we have a lot of immigrants who dominate the construction industry, food services, other hotel and restaurant workers. All of these people can contribute a lot to America, they often work then create businesses of their own, and we need a line, we need a way for those people to come to the U.S. legally. The important problem the current proposal overlooks is that in the U.S. today, the majority of our immigrant workers come because they are the family member of an American citizen. If they are not family members, there is no line for admission.
The most promising aspect of the proposals are that they really focus on citizenship. Citizenship is not just a reward that you give to immigrants. Citizenship is a way for immigrants to commit to the U.S., and to build and contribute to a society. What makes the U.S. different from other immigration countries is we have always usually encouraged citizenship so you can see the current proposal continues to do that.