There’s been a massive conservative shift in the ongoing debate over immigration. With Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, and some of the party pushing a hard anti-immigrant stance, Democrats and immigration advocates have had to greatly temper their hopes for reform.
The last big effort at immigration reform came five years ago, in a bill written by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight. It included a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at that time. That pathway to citizenship was offered in exchange for about $40 billion over 10 years to pay for 20,000 new border patrol agents, 3,500 new customs agents, 700 miles of border fencing and other security enhancements. The plan also would have included an increase in H-1B visas, which are reserved for educated, specialized workers; created a new guest worker program; and shifted away from family visas toward a skills-based system that would have raised the caps on visas for some immediate family members in exchange for getting rid of visas altogether for siblings and many adult children.
In other words, it was a compromise, offering a way for those already in the U.S. to obtain legal status while shifting the contours of who would be allowed into the U.S. in the future.