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Immigration Law News
House Speaker John Boehner’s hiring of a former top aide to Sen. John McCain to advise him on immigration issues has renewed hopes that House Republican leaders are planning to move forward on reform legislation next year.
Boehner’s hiring of Rebecca Tallent as assistant to the speaker for policy handling immigration issues comes amid intensifying pro-reform activism on Capitol Hill as time runs out on the 2013 legislative calendar.
Tallent, most recently director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., worked for McCain, R-Ariz., for years, including a stint as his chief of staff. Before that, she was an aide to then-Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., who, like McCain, was a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
“I’ll be focusing on trying to get this sticky immigration situation worked out,” Tallent wrote in an e-mail announcing her final day at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Reform supporters and opponents alike say the move by Boehner, R-Ohio, is the clearest signal yet House GOP leaders are sincere when they say they want to act on a series of immigration-reform bills.
“This is a sign that Speaker Boehner is very serious about doing something on immigration,” said John J. “Jack” Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California and an expert on how Congress works. “The big question is: What does that something consist of?”
McCain was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that wrote the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate in June. In her role at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Tallent voiced support for McCain’s approach to reform, but also reflected a sophisticated understanding of the internal House GOP dynamics at play.
Boehner has said the House won’t take up the Senate’s sweeping package, which balanced a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the country with a massive investment in border security and new visa programs for future foreign workers.
Boehner and other top House Republicans have expressed a preference to break up the immigration issue and address the various aspects, such as potential legalization for the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers,” one at a time rather than in one far-reaching piece of legislation.
The speaker has said individual bills must win support of a majority of House Republicans. That poses a challenge because a faction of House Republicans view attempts to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants as “amnesty” for lawbreakers.
Keeping conversation alive
Activists attempting to build support for immigration reform with their “Fast for Families” continued to pick up steam Tuesday.
Eight new fasters, including Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, relieved the group of four activists who for 22 days had been fasting on the National Mall to call attention to the moral implications of inaction on immigration reform. The original group, which included Cristian Avila of Arizona, previously attracted visits from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
“This fast has literally kept the conversation about immigration reform alive,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and one of the new fasters. “Across the street is one kind of power (in the U.S. Capitol). In this tent is another.”
Another group of 40 activists from Arizona also was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, praying outside Boehner’s home, holding a vigil outside his office and singing Christmas carols.
“The speaker remains hopeful that we can enact step-by-step, common-sense immigration reforms — the kind of reforms the American people understand and support,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday in a statement e-mailed toThe Arizona Republic. “Becky Tallent, a well-known expert in this field of public policy, is a great addition to our team and that effort.”
‘A slap in the face’
Boehner’s hiring of Tallent, an Arizona native, drew praise from reform supporters but also put “amnesty” opponents on alert because of her long association with McCain and her record of supporting immigration reform. Many reform foes had been quietly confident that House action on immigration was unlikely in 2014, a year expected to be dominated by congressional midterm-election politics.
As a former McCain and Kolbe staff member, Tallent brings “strong Republican credentials” but also can work with all sides on the complex immigration issue, said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist who served as national Hispanic co-chair for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and who knows Tallent well.
“Becky has an exemplary reputation: She is smart, she is hardworking, she is effective, and she is a serious person who seeks pragmatic solutions,” Navarro said. “It tells me that Boehner genuinely wants to get something done. … It’s a very smart move by Boehner.”
One reform critic called the Tallent hire “a slap in the face” to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and an indication that Boehner is planning “an end run around the Judiciary Committee,” which has oversight over immigration issues.
“It confirms what we always knew: that the Republican leadership in the House is pro-amnesty, but they just don’t know how to get it past their members,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-reform Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. “I assume the point is for her to try to cook up a way to get a majority of the Republican caucus to vote for something.”
But Pitney said that it is common for a House speaker to devote a staff member to a big policy topic, and Steel confirmed that Tallent is filling an existing position.
“On the vast majority of issues, speakers defer to the committee system, but they do take certain issues to heart and put a leadership stamp on some positions,” Pitney said.
If Tallent’s role is to help the House GOP find consensus on immigration issues, it is appropriate that she work out of the speaker’s office, he added.
“If you are concerned about building a majority within the entire conference, you don’t do that simply within a committee,” Pitney said. “That’s really the role of leadership. This is a sign that Boehner is hoping he can get something to the floor.”
A window for action
Other observers called Boehner’s decision to add Tallent to his staff, even at this late date, a positive sign for immigration reform’s prospects. Some believe there remains a window for action in early to mid-2014, before Capitol Hill is paralyzed by election-year partisanship.
“It’s a signal that despite the fact that Speaker Boehner really hasn’t been able to move his caucus forward all year, that he’s not giving up,” said Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science and Latino/Chicano studies at the University of California-Irvine.
Pro-reform activists are not giving up, either, at trying to persuade Boehner and other House Republicans to act.
Maria Castro, a 20-year-old Phoenix resident whose mother is in the United States without authorization, was part of a group of five Arizonans who recited the rosary on the sidewalk outside Boehner’s home on Tuesday morning. She said Boehner came out and waved. Later, the activists caught up to Boehner but were unable to engage him in a serious conversation, she said.
“We told him, ‘We’ve been praying for you,’” Castro said. “And he said, ‘Oh, I know.’ That was the only response we got out of him.”
Contributing: Gannett Washington Bureau reporter Erin KellyWritten by Ruby Powers on December 5, 2013 @ 3:43 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform
By: Maria Camila Bernal
After more than three weeks of fasting, immigration activists in Washington D.C. will be joined by many around the nation as they begin the “National Days to Act, Fast and Pray,” three days of no food in hopes that Congress brings an immigration reform bill to a vote.
Three people, Eliseo Medina of Service Employees International Union; Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Dae Joong Yoon of National Korean American & Education Association, have been fasting near the U.S. Capitol and vowed to fast until they can no longer sustain.
A fourth faster, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, committed to a 40-day fast.
But beginning Sunday, activists hope the fasting goes beyond Washington D.C. in order to “create a moral force that will convince Congress that the time to act is now,” Medina, a veteran of the farmworker rights protests of the 1960s, said.
The group’s goal is to get the attention of House Speaker John Boehner and urge him to call a vote on immigration reform by year’s end.
Ben Monterroso, Mi Familia Vota’s Executive Director, said his organization will have various solidarity events and actions throughout the country on Dec. 1-3. Events have been organized in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.
“We will not stop our efforts until this moral crisis that breaks apart families finally ends and our country has an immigration system that works for citizens, aspiring Americans and their families,” Monterroso said.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the group fasting in Washington D.C. Friday, reiterating that there is still time this year for the House to pass legislation, The Associated Press reported.
Previous visitors have included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and feminist Gloria Steinem.
Sunday marks the 20th day of fasting for the group in the National Mall.
“Understanding the struggle that my family and other families in my community face, I have the moral responsibility to do everything in my hands to make a change. If that means my body, my body it is. Anything less would mean I have failed my community, and that is a luxury I don’t have,” said Avila, Mi Familia Vota’s Arizona Coordinator.Written by Ruby Powers on December 2, 2013 @ 6:00 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform
By Justin Sink
The White House on Tuesday would not categorically rule out future executive actions to address immigration, while continuing to maintain “there is not” anything the president could do in lieu of congressional action on comprehensive reform.
“I don’t want to speculate about what sort of actions the president might or might not take,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Obama has come under pressure from immigration activists, who have challenged the president to act unilaterally now that a comprehensive immigration bill appears stalled in the House. The president was heckled twice during events in San Francisco on Monday while discussing immigration reform, with protesters each time demanding an end to deportations via executive order.
In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children, assuming they met certain criteria.
But the White House has maintained that path is not feasible for the nation’s entire immigrant population, arguing, as Obama did Monday, that the issue must be addressed legislatively.
“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so,” Obama told one of the hecklers who interrupted his speech at the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center. “But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.”
But while the White House has ruled out a sweeping halt to deportations, it is unclear whether Obama could use his executive authority, which includes the ability to grant temporary work permits, to help some of those here illegally.
Still, Earnest stressed that the White House believed congressional action was the only way to fully address the issue.
“We have been very clear that the problem that the president is trying to solve here is one that can only be solved with the Congress, and that problem is an immigration system that everybody acknowledges is broken,” he said.Written by Ruby Powers on November 27, 2013 @ 2:27 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law
Matthew I. Hirsch
As the recent budget impasse came to a close, the President made news by announcing he was prepared to restart efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Whether or not this “can and should get done by the end of this year,” as the President said, is uncertain. House leadership has indicated it will not take up the Senate’s wide-ranging bill during this legislative session and might start next year with a piecemeal strategy, which does not provoke the anti-amnesty crowd.
One of the core principles of CIR is legalization of the undocumented. What are the economic benefits of legalizing the undocumented? A UCLA study looked at the 1986 legalization and found that legalized immigrants earn higher wages, move into higher-paying occupations, invest more in education, open bank accounts, build and buy homes and start businesses. Projecting forward, that study found that CIR would add $1.5 trillion in U.S. GDP over 10 years. More specifically, the report found that, in the first three years, the higher earning power of legalized workers would yield increased personal income of more than $30 billion, $5 billion in new federal taxes and enough new spending to support 750,000 new jobs.
The UCLA study was consistent with an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that enacting CIR would reduce the federal deficit and “boost the economy.” According to the CBO study, after netting out costs, bringing the undocumented into the workforce would increase the economy by $700 billion and decrease deficits by $200 billion over the next decade. The CBO study also concluded legalization and a temporary worker program would increase the size of the labor force, provide long-term increases in average wages, boost capital investment and raise productivity.
But immigration reform proposals are not limited to legalizing the undocumented. They include provisions which would provide seasonal help for the region’s agricultural economy. To meet labor needs, mushroom producers, chicken farms and other agricultural producers in the region have historically relied on an immigrant workforce of dubious status. Enactment of CIR would obviate the need to hire undocumented workers by providing an improved system for meeting the labor needs of agricultural producers.
The region also has a large number of world-class universities which attract top students from all over the world. If enacted, CIR would mean these high-demand college graduates could find employment in our area, instead of taking their high-value degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to other, more welcoming countries.
Our area also has seasonal resorts. The Senate’s bill addresses perennial labor shortages in these areas by providing something missing from today’s immigration law – the “W” visa for temporary workers. Such a visa would provide a market-tested means of bringing screened, seasonal workers to fill temporary jobs, thereby helping business owners to meet their peak-season needs.
We are also a region that wants to grow its high-tech sector. Immigration reform increases visas for highly-educated innovators and entrepreneurs. Despite statistics which show the benefits of attracting foreign high-tech workers and entrepreneurs, today’s laws squelch innovation and deter investment from foreign shores. If passed, a new immigration law could stimulate investment and help our region to build out its entrepreneurial infrastructure.
The Senate’s CIR proposal also addresses concerns about future-flow, criminal aliens and abusive labor practices. It deals harshly with employers who hire the undocumented, increases the number of border agents and immigration judges, provides for enhanced enforcement, detention and removal of aliens involved with gangs, illegal drugs, and sexual violence, and cracks down on smugglers.
The time has come for comprehensive immigration reform. The White House is advocating for it. The Senate has managed to pass a bill. And in the Republican-led House, there are members crossing the aisle to support CIR. Polls show the American public supports immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. But, most important of all for politicians, CIR would offer substantial and demonstrable benefits to the voting public, and just might help them achieve their most prized goal – re-election.
Filed under: Immigration Law
New York judges must warn immigrant defendants that they face deportation if they plead guilty to a felony, the state’s highest court ruled on Tuesday.
In a 5-to-2 decision, the Court of Appeals overturned its 1995 ruling that deportation is a “collateral consequence” of a guilty plea, and so judges need not warn foreign defendants it might happen.
Writing for the majority, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam said that times had changed since the mid-1990s, when about 37,000 noncitizens were deported after criminal convictions.
That number stood at 188,000 in 2011, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote, and, with stricter enforcement of immigration laws, deportation has become “an automatic consequence of a guilty plea for most noncitizen defendants.” She said defendants who took plea bargains often found themselves stripped of their jobs, cut off from their family in the United States and returned to a country they hardly remembered.
The majority concluded “that deportation constitutes such a substantial and unique consequence of a plea that it must be mentioned by the trial court to defendant as a matter of fundamental fairness,” Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote.
More than 20 states already require judges to issue such warnings, and in the 1990s the New York State Legislature put a similar requirement in the criminal procedure law. But failing to give the warning carried no consequence, and judges sometimes skip it, defense lawyers said.
“Courts should be doing this already but in practice they are not,” said Rosemary Herbert, a lawyer for Richard Diaz, one of the three defendants in the case. “This decision is putting some teeth in that requirement.”
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judges Victoria Graffeo, Susan P. Read and Jenny Rivera joined Judge Abdus-Salaam in the majority. Judges Robert S. Smith and Eugene F. Pigott Jr. dissented.
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Padilla v. Kentucky that defense lawyers have a duty to tell clients they face deportation before they offer a guilty plea.
The Court of Appeals decision this week came in response to three criminal cases in which judges failed to tell defendants about their likely deportation.
Mr. Diaz, a legal United States resident from the Dominican Republic, was arrested in October 2006 with another man in the back of a taxicab in Upper Manhattan after the police found a two-pound brick of cocaine on the car’s floor during a traffic stop.
He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in return for a two-and-a-half-year sentence, but as soon as he was released, Immigration and Customs Enforcement moved to deport him.
Because a trial judge in Manhattan never warned Mr. Diaz of the deportation, the Court of Appeals ruled that he had a right to move to withdraw his guilty plea. The majority said the motion would not be granted automatically, though, as is done with other violations of due process. Instead Mr. Diaz, and other defendants like him, must show that if he had been warned, he would have insisted on going to trial.
On this point, Judges Lippman and Rivera dissented, arguing that similar pleas in the absence of a warning should be reversed automatically.
Lawyers for the three defendants in the case — Mr. Diaz, Juan Jose Peque and Michael Thomas — said the decision was a sea change. “The decision certainly makes clear that judges from now going forward must warn, and it opens up an avenue for defendants who are already convicted and haven’t been warned to appeal,” said Lynn W. L. Fahey, who represented Mr. ThomasWritten by Ruby Powers on November 21, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law, Immigration Trends