Op-Ed: On immigration expansion, go slow and steady, one step at a time

By Karthick Ramakrishnan & Allan Colbern, Los Angeles Times |

Last week, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Dream Act, co-sponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which would grant legalization and eventual citizenship to an estimated 2 million immigrants without papers, who were brought to the United States as children.

Even though such legislation has remained highly popular among voters since former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced it in 2001, critics have often dismissed it as a piecemeal effort that is inferior to comprehensive immigration reform.

Critics from the right have often insisted that moves to legalize any portion of the immigrant population need to be combined with other measures such as tougher immigration enforcement or increasing the number of temporary agricultural workers. At the same time, critics from the left have warned that focusing solely on “Dreamers” reinforces a narrative of “good immigrants versus bad immigrants” and could prevent the legalization of immigrants deemed less worthy. In addition, some policy analysts have argued that immigration reform can be solved only through grand bargains that address a multitude of challenges, satisfying the wish lists of multiple interest groups.

California’s immigration reforms in the last two decades have proved all of these critics wrong. Instead of tying together various aspects of immigration reform in a package that satisfies liberals and conservatives alike, the state has taken an incremental approach on immigration reform by building public and legislative support year by year, and among Republicans as well as Democrats.

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