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Obama concedes Congress won’t meet August deadline on immigration overhaul

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Obama concedes Congress won’t meet August deadline on immigration overhaul

By Associated Press, Published: July 15 | Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 8:23 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday conceded that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline. With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall — though even that goal may be overly optimistic.

The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president’s top second-term legislative priority.

“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he said during an interview with Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.

The White House sees the president’s outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.

Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party’s national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative — and largely white — districts see little incentive to back legislation.

The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation’s fractured laws.

“That was originally my hope and my goal,” Obama said. “But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform.”

Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight — the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill — met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.

The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed honing a message for Congress’ monthlong August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.

“When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody’s working hard and trying to make our case,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.

The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fines, learning English and taking other steps.

During his interview with Univision’s New York affiliate, Obama said the citizenship pathway “needs to be part of the bill.”

House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.

House Republicans are considering other options, including proposals to give priority for legalization to the so-called Dreamers — those who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Allowing only those individuals to obtain citizenship could shield Republicans from attacks by conservatives that they’re giving a free pass to those who voluntarily broke the law.

“I think that group of people — some call Dreamers — is a group that deserves perhaps the highest priority attention,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at an immigration-related conference in California Monday. “They know no other country.”

Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Virginia Republicans, are working on a bill to address the status of those immigrants, although the timing is uncertain. And Goodlatte cautioned that any such measure should hinge on completion of enforcement measures to prevent parents from smuggling their children into the U.S. in the future.

The House is not expected to act on any legislation before the August recess, though the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on the bill dealing with people brought to the U.S. when they were young.

Obama also spoke with the Telemundo station in Dallas and the Univision station in Los Angeles.

_

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.


What We Won With Senate Immigration Bill S. 744, from America’s Voice

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

What We Won With Senate Immigration Bill S. 744

The Senate passed a landmark immigration reform bill by a 68-32 vote. Immigration reform is NOT yet a
done deal–we now have to fight to pass immigration reform through the House of Representatives, then conference
the two bills together. But the Senate bill–while it is a compromise full of unnecessary and overstrict border
measures–is full of provisions that would substantially improve the lives of immigrants. Here’s a short list of some of
them:
1. Path to citizenship for vast majority of the 11 million!!!
2. While in RPI status, immigrants can work, travel and live without fear of deportation
3. Reunification of many families separated by deportation
4. 5 year path to citizenship for Dreamers
5. DACA recipients will have RPI status expedited
6. Farm workers will get a ‘blue card’ and will be on a 5 year path to citizenship
7. Expedited path for those already here in a temporary status (TPS/DED)
8. Families that have spent years, even decades waiting for their turn in line will finally be reunited
9. Spouses and children of LPRs would be considered immediate family members and therefore would no longer
be subject to arbitrary visa caps.
10. Allows DREAMers to become citizens through military service
11. Immigrants on the path to citizenship can pay fees in installments
12. Individuals with final removal orders may be eligible for RPI status
13. Beacons for those toiling at the border
14. New temporary worker programs that protects immigrant workers and American labor force
15. All workers, including RPIs, will be treated equally by the tax system and eligible for tax credits
16. Spouses of H-1B holders will now be able to work
17. Immigration Judges will have some flexibility to consider individual factors when making decisions
18. Children and the mentally disabled will be eligible for court appointed counsel in immigration proceedings
19. Removal of filing deadline for asylum seekers
20. Encourages immigrant integration through more targeted programs and foundations to help legal immigrants
become citizens
21. Inclusion of POWER Act, bolsters legal remedies to immigrant workers who are fired in violation of labor laws
22. Strict limits on solitary confinement in immigration detention facilities
23. Provides immigration status to certain battered spouses and children
24. Prohibit ICE from conducting raids/arrests outside schools, churches, hospitals and other “sensitive locations”
25. Makes it substantially easier for both LPRs and non-LPRs to qualify for cancellation of removal, and removes
the cap on the number of cancellations that DOJ/DHS can grant in a year.
26. Protects the ability of W visaholders (essential workers) to change jobs.
27. Ensures access to affordable housing for battered immigrants.
28. Encourages alternatives to immigration detention
29. More protections for workers recruited abroad
30. Stricter penalties for notario fraud
31. Requires a use-of-force policy among all DHS agencies
32. Future work-visa holders will be able to self-petition for green cards rather than relying on employers to decide
whether they can call America home for good


Fixing America’s broken immigration system would be good for the country–and for the Republican Party

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

The Economist

Immigration

Of fences and good sense

Fixing America’s broken immigration system would be good for the country—and for the Republican Party

SOME of the first English words that Mario Rubio learned were “I am looking for work.” A penniless Cuban immigrant, he asked a friend to write them out phonetically on a piece of paper so he could memorise them. He worked hard and eventually became an American citizen. Perhaps his greatest reward was that his children had a better start in life. His son Marco is now a Republican senator.

His family’s story helps illustrate why the immigration reform Senator Rubio backs would increase the sum of human happiness, by freeing more people to pursue it. But like the sea between Cuba and Miami, the route to reform is rough.

On June 27th, by a convincing 68 votes to 32, the Senate passed an immigration bill co-sponsored by Mr Rubio. Now the action moves to the House of Representatives, where its passage is far from certain (see article). The Senate bill passed with support from both parties: all the Democrats voted for it, as did nearly a third of Republicans. House members would probably pass something similar, if allowed. But John Boehner, the Speaker, says he will not allow a vote on any bill unless a “majority of the majority” (ie, a majority of House Republicans) approve of it. That is a steep hurdle.

The Senate bill, were it to become law, would go a long way towards fixing America’s broken immigration system. It would increase the number of visas for skilled workers, grant visas for entrepreneurs and establish a guest-worker programme for manual labourers. It would give the estimated 11m illegal immigrants in America a chance to come in from the shadows: after paying a fine and back taxes, working hard and staying out of trouble, they would eventually be eligible to apply for citizenship. And in a last-minute deal the bill added another $46 billion (up from $8 billion in the original version) to fortify the Mexican border, which is already bristling with fences, armed guards and drones, and to beef up systems for checking that firms do not hire illegal workers. This “border surge” managed to lure in wavering Republican senators. But it is not enough for House Republicans.

Many of them insist on a bill that “secures the border first”. That is, they do not want any of the illegal immigrants now in America to be granted legal status until the border is so militarised that the flow of new ones slows almost to nothing. This would cost a fortune—America already spends more on border security than on all the main federal criminal law-enforcement agencies combined. And it would make only a marginal difference. So long as the supply of legal foreign workers falls far short of demand for their services, people will find a way in. It would be far better, for the immigrants themselves and for America, if they were allowed in legally.

More highly skilled immigrants would make America more innovative. More foreign entrepreneurs would create jobs for the native-born. More young, energetic newcomers would slow the rate at which America is ageing. More immigrants would mean more connections with fast-growing places such as China and India—connections that would accelerate trade and the exchange of ideas. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill would raise GDP, reduce the budget deficit and slightly increase the wages of the native-born. Countries built on immigration tend to be rich and dynamic: think of Australia, Canada and Singapore.

From “Tear down this wall” to “Build a fence”

Passing immigration reform would also be good for the Republican Party. Granted, to many in the House, it does not seem that way. Many represent districts gerrymandered to be whiter than a starlet’s teeth. For such congressmen, the biggest worry is a primary challenge from a more conservative fellow Republican. Many will doubtless hear, at barbecues over the July 4th weekend, that voters want landmines in the Yuma desert and crocodiles in the Rio Grande. Pandering to such demands will help some Republicans hang on to their seats in 2014.

But if the Grand Old Party wants to retake the Senate or the White House, it cannot afford to alienate ethnic minorities. They will reject a party that rejects them, and they will one day be a majority. Half of the babies born in America today are non-white. By 2060 non-Hispanic whites will be only 43% of the population, predicts the Census Bureau. Long before then, a party that attracts barely a quarter of the Hispanic and Asian vote, as Mitt Romney did, will be incapable of winning national elections. Mr Rubio, who would like to be president one day, understands this. If his party does not, it will be swept aside not by Democrats, but by demography.


Pass the Bill!

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Pass the Bill!

 

By 

 

It’s beginning to look as though we’re not going to get an immigration reform law this year. House Republicans are moving in a direction that will probably be unacceptable to the Senate majority and the White House. Conservative commentators like my friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry are arguing that the status quo is better than the comprehensive approach passed by the Senate. The whole effort is in peril.

This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.

After all, the Senate bill fulfills the four biggest conservative objectives. Conservatives say they want economic growth. The Senate immigration bill is the biggest pro-growth item on the agenda today. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years.

Conservatives say they want to bring down debt. According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years. The Senate bill reduces the 75-year Social Security fund shortfall by half-a-trillion dollars.

Conservatives say they want to reduce illegal immigration. The Senate bill spends huge amounts of money to secure the border. According to the C.B.O., the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent. True, it would not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but it would do a lot better than current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent.

Conservatives say they want to avoid a European-style demographic collapse. But without more immigrants, and the higher fertility rates they bring, that is exactly what the U.S. faces. Plus, this bill radically increases the number of high-skilled immigrants. It takes millions of long-term resident families out of the shadows so they can lead more mainstream lives.

These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.

The first conservative complaint is that, as Kristol and Lowry put it, “the enforcement provisions are riddled with exceptions, loopholes and waivers.” If Obama can waive the parts of Obamacare he finds inconvenient, why won’t he end up waiving a requirement for the use of E-Verify.

There’s some truth to this critique, and maybe the House should pass a version of the Senate bill that has fewer waivers and loopholes. But, at some point, this argument just becomes an excuse to oppose every piece of legislation, ever. All legislation allows the executive branch to have some discretion. It’s always possible to imagine ways in which a law may be distorted in violation of its intent. But if you are going to use that logic to oppose something, you are going to end up opposing tax reform, welfare reform, the Civil Rights Act and everything else.

The second conservative complaint is that the bill would flood the country with more low-skilled workers, driving down wages. This is an argument borrowed from the reactionary left, and it shows. In the first place, the recent research suggests that increased immigration drives down wages far less than expected. Low-skilled immigrants don’t directly compete with the native-born. They do entry-level work, create wealth and push natives into better jobs.

Furthermore, conservatives are not supposed to take a static, protectionist view of economics. They’re not supposed to believe that growth can be created or even preserved if government protects favored groups from competition. Conservatives are supposed to believe in the logic of capitalism; that if you encourage the movement of goods, ideas and people, then you increase dynamism, you increase creative destruction and you end up creating more wealth that improves lives over all.

The final conservative point of opposition is a political one. Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration reform; they should do it with a working-class agenda.

This argument would be slightly plausible if Republicans had even a hint of such an agenda, but they don’t. Even then it would fail. Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard.

Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.

That’s what’s at stake.


House GOP divided on immigration but united against Senate, Obama

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

By Frank Thorp, Luke Russert and Carrie Dann, NBC News
Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:54 PM EDT
NBCNews.com

House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Wednesday in a long-awaited “special conference” to
discuss tactics, air grievances and plot the way forward – or out of – the national debate over
comprehensive immigration reform.

While the “lively” meeting didn’t yield any major breakthroughs among the deeply divided GOP
conference, Republican leaders made clear in a statement afterward that any legislation that gives
too much responsibility to the Obama administration is a non-starter in the House.

The American people “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the
president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than
pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem,” leaders wrote after
the meeting. “The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore
significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this
administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws
as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”

Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas put it more bluntly.

“Trusting Barack Obama with border security is like trusting my daughter with Bill Clinton,” he
said. “We just don’t trust him.”

The gathering served to offer members a spectrum of options for addressing an issue that has long
split the Republican Party and some say could permanently damage its standing with the rapidly
growing bloc of Latino voters.

At the beginning of the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated that the House will not take
up the “flawed” Senate-passed bill but urged some type of action. And Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the
high-profile former vice presidential nominee who supports the reform effort, presented an economic
argument for immigration legislation and noted the nation’s declining birthrate without the influx
of new residents, sources in the room said.

“I think we got consensus that the system is broken and needs to be fixed and I feel pretty good
about where we are,” Ryan told reporters after the meeting.

But many Republicans from ruby red districts have little incentive to support a reform effort
largely opposed by their conservative constituents. Some fear that any bill could result in
“amnesty” if it is conferenced or blended with the Senate-passed measure.

And even the leaders of the House GOP argue that the Senate bill’s reliance on federal agencies to
enforce border security members won’t sit well with Americans skeptical of the Obama
administration.

California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham was one of those in the meeting who advocated for a
comprehensive reform but said the Senate bill gave too much discretion for border security to the
Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s time for action,” he said, according to a participant in the meeting. “We need comprehensive
immigration reform, but we need a guarantee in this. We need to make sure that we are able to
secure the border by using our congressional oversight – not Janet Napolitano, but the power of
this body.”

One type of immigration action could take the form of legislation to address those who were brought
to the country illegally as children – or DREAMers – who have been among the most organized and
sympathetic advocates for reform.

Rep. Darrell Issa told reporters outside the meeting that members discussed the possibility of
offering a pathway to citizenship for the DREAMer group.

That’s an idea which seems to have measurable “consensus” from the GOP, said Rep. Raul Labrador,
R-Idaho, an influential conservative voice on the immigration issue who left the House’s group of
bipartisan reform negotiators because of disagreements with their approach.
But it seems that any movement is unlikely to happen before the House adjourns for August recess.
Some members are working on individual pieces of border security and visa regulation legislation
that could theoretically be bundled into a package that could pass the GOP-dominated lower chamber but
would likely be dead on arrival in the Senate. Others, mindful of the potential political
consequences of being blamed for the slow death of a bill important to the growing Latino voting
bloc, hope that group of bipartisan negotiators can finalize a product that could find middle
ground between both parties.

And some, like immigration opponent Rep. Steve King of Iowa, have vocally opposed the passage of
any measure at all, saying the conference process in the Senate would insert a pathway to
citizenship for some undocumented immigrants into any House-passed bill.

“I’m not going to support any kind of legalization because legalization is amnesty, is eventual
citizenship, if not instantaneous citizenship,” King told reporters Tuesday, “We don’t have a moral
obligation to solve that problem, the people who came here illegally came here to live in the shadows.

Several things were clear before the GOP gathered for the meeting Wednesday afternoon.

First, House leaders won’t bring up the Senate bill – which one GOP member said almost all members
in the meeting agreed was “inherently flawed” – for an up-or-down vote.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp tweeted after the meeting that the House couldn’t take up
the Senate bill if it wanted to because legislation that raises revenues must originate in the
House, according to the Constitution.

And second, the Democratic insistence on its long-held prioritization of a path to citizenship for
most undocumented immigrants is problematic.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Christopher Guitterez, 6, who was born in Fairfax, Va., joins his Salvadoran mother, not in picture, during a rally for citizenship
on Capitol Hill in in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013, coinciding with the GOP House Caucus
meeting. Gang of Eight leader and New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that must include a
pathway to citizenship in any House legislation or Democrats will kill it.

That didn’t sit well with GOP rank-and-file.
“For him to him to say basically, ‘If you can’t do my way then we’re not going anything at all,’ I
think would be very sad in the process,” said Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma.

Labrador said earlier Wednesday on MSNBC that the ultimatum means the burden will lie on Democrats
if the legislation stalls. “If Chuck Schumer is not going to accept anything unless he gets 100 percent of what he wants, then
he’s the one who’s killing immigration reform.”


On immigration, demographics and math

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

On immigration, demographics and math

By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News

With the immigration debate now moving over the Republican-led House of Representatives,MSNBC.com’s Benjy Sarlin writes how some conservatives believe that wooing Latino voters is less important than improving on their performance with white voters.

On election night, Fox News anchor Brit Hume called the “demographic” threat posed by Latino voters “absolutely real” and suggested Mitt Romney’s “hardline position on immigration” may be to blame for election losses. On Monday, Hume declared that argument “baloney.” The Hispanic vote, he said, “is not nearly as important, still, as the white vote.”

Sean Hannity, a reliable bellwether on the right, has been on a similar journey since the fall. He announced the day after President Obama’s re-election that he had “evolved” on immigration reform and now supported a “path to citizenship” in order to improve relations with Hispanic voters. Hannity has now flipped hard against the Senate’s bill.

“Not only do I doubt the current legislation will solve the immigration problem,” he wrote in a June column, “but it also won’t help the GOP in future elections.”

Hannity and Hume didn’t arrive at their latest destination by accident. They’re just the latest figures on the right to embrace the compelling new message that’s whipping Republicans against immigration reform while still promising a better tomorrow for the GOP’s presidential candidates.

It’s uncertain if Republicans supporting immigration reform will result in more Latinos who vote Republican in presidential contest, but this is pretty clear: White voters are only declining as a share of the electorate.

Consider: In 2000, whites made up more than 80% of all voters, according to the exit polls. In 2004, that share dropped to 77%. In 2008, it declined to 74%. And in 2012, white voters made up 72% of the electorate. At that current pace and because of demographic trends, you could expect — though it’s not a sure thing — that the white percentage could drop to 70% by 2016 and 68% by 2020.

Also consider: President Obama won just 39% of the white vote in 2012, which was the worst performance for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1984. But Obama carried more than 80% of the non-white vote, which gave him his 51%-47% popular-vote win over Mitt Romney.

So extrapolate that out to 2016 and 2020, given the demographic trends showing that the country is on pace to be a majority-minority nation 30 years from now. In 2016, a future Democratic presidential candidate — say Hillary Clinton? — who gets 40% of the white vote and 80% of the non-white vote could win 52% of the popular vote. In 2020, that overall percentage would jump up to nearly 53%.

Now it’s important to acknowledge the difference between presidential elections (where there’s greater minority participation) and midterm elections (where there’s less). It’s also important to state that it’s impossible to predict who, exactly, will turn out in an election. Indeed, RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende has cautioned that it’s very possible that future Democratic presidential candidates don’t get 80% of the non-white vote, especially when the nation’s first African-American president no longer remains on the top of the ticket. And that’s probably a good assumption.

But here’s the power of changing demographics: In 2004, John Kerry won 41% of the white vote and about 71% of the non-white vote, giving him 48% of the overall popular vote. But come 2016, if the white share is at 70% and non-white at 30%, then Kerry’s ’04 performance gets to you to 50% of the popular vote.

Let that sink in — Kerry goes from a losing 48% to a possibly winning 50%.

So while it’s debatable if the Republican Party can benefit from supporting the immigration legislation, it isn’t debatable that the white portion of the electorate is getting smaller — and that has consequences for future elections.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/02/19252850-on-immigration-demographics-and-math?lite


Statement by President Obama on Senate Passage of Immigration Reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

For Immediate Release June 27, 2013

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Statement by President Obama on Senate Passage of Immigration Reform

Today, with a strong bipartisan vote, the United States Senate delivered for the American people, bringing us a
critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all.

I thank Majority Leader Reid, Senator Leahy, Senator Schumer, and every member of the ‘Gang of Eight’ for their
leadership, and I commend all Senators who worked across party lines to get this done.

The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not
Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me. But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense
reform that I – and many others – have repeatedly laid out.

If enacted, the Senate bill would establish the most aggressive border security plan in our history. It would offer a
pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally – a pathway that includes
passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line
behind everyone who’s playing by the rules and trying to come here legally. It would modernize the legal
immigration system so that it once again reflects our values as a nation and addresses the urgent needs of our
time. And it would provide a big boost to our recovery, by shrinking our deficits and growing our economy.

Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same.

As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time
when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from
becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen. If you’re among the clear majority of Americans who support reform
– from CEOs to labor leaders, law enforcement to clergy – reach out to your Member of Congress. Tell them to do
the right thing. Tell them to pass commonsense reform so that our businesses and workers are all playing by the
same rules and everyone who’s in this country is paying their fair share in taxes.

We have a unique opportunity to fix our broken system in a way that upholds our traditions as a nation of laws and
a nation of immigrants. We just need Congress to finish the job.

http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=44947


Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

In a bipartisan vote, the Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping, historic overhaul of the nation’s immigration system – the first attempt to tackle such reform in six years. But the bill appears to face a procedural brick wall in the GOP-led House, with Republican leaders vowing instead to move forward on their own measures.

Fourteen Republicans joined with all Democrats to back the legislation, which would revamp the nation’s legal immigration system, send unprecedented resources to the nation’s southern border, and offer millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.

The final vote was 68-32.

To mark the history of the occasion, Vice President Joe Biden presided over the vote and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid directed senators to vote from their seats in the chamber.

The gallery above the chamber was crowded with tourists, DREAM Act proponents, self-described undocumented immigrants, and members of the media. After the vote tally was announced, a young spectator shouted “Yes we can!” This came even as Biden urged those in attendance to refrain from voicing reaction.

The bipartisan drafters of the legislation, which was first formally unveiled in April, came one by one to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to make deeply personal appeals for the passage of a bill they described as a compassionate, economically sound measure necessary to maintain the American Dream central to the nation’s identity.

“Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining City on the Hill. We are still the hope of the world,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida conservative and Cuban-American whose support of the legislation was key to wooing Republican support. “Go to our factories and fields. Go to our kitchens and construction sites. Go to the cafeteria of this very Capitol. There, you will find that the miracle of America still lives.”

“Pass this bill and keep the American covenant alive,” urged Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat on the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that first unveiled compromise legislation in April.

In emotional remarks right before the vote, Reid invoked the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who led the failed effort six years ago to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“Sen. Kennedy knew the day would come when a group of senators divided by party, but united by love of country, would see this fight to the finish,” he said. “That day is today.”

In the face of great fanfare and emotion on Thursday, the bill remains many hard-fought steps from the president’s desk, and the victory for backers of the reform may ultimately be short-lived.

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the immigration legislation faces a rocky path in the GOP-controlled House, where opposition to the citizenship provision is significantly stronger. Boehner has pledged not to bring the Senate bill up for a vote, pointing instead to smaller pieces of immigration legislation  focused on border security and enforcement. On Thursday, he reiterated that he will not bring legislation to the House floor that does not have majority support from the Republican conference, and he extended that pledge even to merged legislation that could blend House- and Senate-passed bills.

In a statement lauding the Senate’s passage of the bill, President Barack Obama urged the diverse coalition of groups that worked for reform to keep up the fight as the House turns its attention to the immigration issue.

“Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”

“Today, the Senate did its job, he said. “It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Despite the difficult road ahead, the Senate’s passage of the bill represents the furthest legislative progress on a comprehensive immigration bill since 2006. That effort passed the upper chamber but languished without support from the House. Another attempt in 2007 fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation in the Senate.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2013, prior to the final vote on the immigration reform bill.

The home stretch for the months-long Senate process to pass the bill comes after a last-minute deal to add a massive influx of funding and resources for the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling the number of border security agents on patrol and requiring the completion of 700 miles of fencing. That compromise – labeled “almost overkill” by cosponsor Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee – was designed to recruit more Republicans to push the legislation over the finish line.

Opponents of the border “surge” drafted by Corker and Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota say there’s no guarantee that the legislation’s border security goals will be met before undocumented workers are eligible to apply for green cards.

The legislation’s foes also contend that the citizenship proposal amounts to “amnesty” that rewards lawbreakers without sufficient protections against new waves of illegal immigration.

“The amnesty will occur, but the enforcement is not going to occur, and the policies for future immigration are not serving the national interest,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill. “I urge my colleagues to vote no.”

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/27/19174577-senate-passes-sweeping-immigration-overhaul?lite


Deals for industries, immigrants tucked in Senate bill

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

WASHINGTON — Foreign retirees could live in the United States for longer periods each year if they agree to make hefty cash investments in real estate. Overseas snowboard instructors could enter the USA under visas now reserved for athletes, and beach resorts could hire more lifeguards and groundskeepers from abroad.

The massive immigration overhaul working its way through the Senate is peppered with benefits like these for specific industries and immigrant groups — even as it aims to tackle three core policy objectives: creating a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in this country illegally, strengthening border security and increasing enforcement of laws that guard against the employment of undocumented workers.

“This is one of the primary reasons that our immigration laws, like our tax code, are so complicated,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA, which opposes increased immigration. “Congress treats it like a Christmas tree.”

“Each time a new special interest comes through the door, they just stick on a new ornament for the special interest,” she said.

Proponents of the bill, however, say the measures already in the bill reflect the need to fix many parts of a broken immigration system Congress last overhauled in 1986.

“This bill is the best chance for a lot of people to have a lot of their specific issues addressed,” said Bob Sakaniwa,of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group advocating for the overhaul. “There’s been this pent-up demand.”

Even before the immigration debate began on the Senate floor last week, the overhaul included provisions long the focus of intense lobbying by an array of interests groups. For instance, the technology industry lobbied successfully to secure more visas for foreign engineers, programmers and other high-skilled workers, while the bill sets aside 10,500 visas each year for Irish immigrants.

More changes are expected during the weeks of debate ahead.

Among the measures inserted in the bill:

•A provision granting foreign retirees 55 and older a three-year, renewable visas if they invest $500,000 in U.S. real estate. They must live in this country at least six months each year and have health insurance.

A separate measure would allow older Canadians to remain in the United States for up to eight months each year — up from six months under current law.To qualify, Canadians must own a home here or have a long-term rental agreement. They also must have health insurance and cannot work in this country.

The 70,000-member Canadian Snowbird Association lobbied Congress for years to extend the time limit, including a letter-writing campaign two years ago that targeted every lawmaker on Capitol Hill, said Evan Rachkovsky, the group’s research officer.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and one of the so-called Gang of Eight senators who crafted the bill, backed the measure.

Both foreign visa measures were supported by a powerful U.S. interest: The National Association of Realtors, which spent $41.5 million to lobby Congress last year.

Advocates say relaxing the requirements advance U.S. economic interests. Foreigners bought $82.5 billion in real estate between March 2011 and March 2012, or nearly 5% of all sales, according to a study by the Realtors’ group. Canadians accounted for nearly one-quarter of purchases by international buyers.

“The real estate industry has been through a really difficult patch,” said Marcia Salkin, managing director for legislative policy with the National Association of Realtors. “This makes it easier for foreign investors to purchase property in the U.S. and have enough time here to use that property.”

•A measure that would make it easier for resorts to hire foreign ski and snowboard instructors by allowing them to work in the USA under the same program used by professional athletes and entertainers.

Currently, foreign ski instructors are hired under a 10-month visa program established for seasonal employees. Visas used by foreign athletes can be renewed for up to a decade under current law. Industry officials say they’ve had a hard time finding certified ski instructors with the language skills to serve growing numbers of foreign visitors.

The 2012-13 ski season drew about 3.5 million foreigners to U.S. slopes, up from 3.15 million foreign skiers the previous year, said Dave Byrd, of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, which lobbied for the change. The spending by foreign tourists, the groups says, sends big ripples through the economy — especially in the rural areas surrounding many ski resorts.

“If we don’t have the language skills and the high certification to serve these international tourists, that’s money we are leaving on the table,” Byrd said.

The measure was advanced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democratic member of the Gang of Eight, whose state accounts for about 20% of the nation’s ski visits.

Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said it’s wrong to characterize the measure as a home-state carve-out, given the benefits it will bring to a ski industry that has a coast-to-coast presence.

“We don’t look at this as a state-specific issue,” Bozzi said. “It’s an issue we may be more in tune to because it’s an industry that’s larger in our state.”

•Another provision that would increase the number of foreigners who can enter the USA each year to fill non-agricultural seasonal jobs in a wide range of industries – from landscaping and seafood processing to hotels and touring carnivals.

Under current law, no more than 66,000 of these so-called H-2B visas can be granted each year. The immigration plan would temporarily boost the number of these workers in the USA by not counting returning foreign workers toward the annual cap.

In 2007, after Congress approved a similar provision in a spending bill, the number of workers entering the USA on the visa hit 129,547, State Department records show. That provision has expired.

It was one of several measures long sought by a broad consortium of businesses, known as the H-2B Workforce Coalition, which has challenged U.S. Department of Labor’s recent efforts to hike wages for seasonal employees. Businesses say the wage increases threatened thin profit margins in industries where it’s hard to fill jobs with American workers.

Ana Avendaño, who works on immigration policy for the AFL-CIO, calls the seasonal program a “blueprint for worker exploitation.” Some workers, she said, pay high fees to recruiters to enter the program. Once in this country, the workers cannot change jobs without risking deportation. Labor successfully sought a provision to stop recruiters from collecting fees from visa holders, but “is working hard to improve” other parts of the bill, she said.

Jeff Blomsness, co-CEO of North American Midway Entertainment, said he hires about 250 to 300 foreign workers each year under the program to staff his traveling amusement parks.His employees generally come from either South Africa or Mexico and do everything from assembling rides to selling cotton candy at state and county fairs.

He said it’s hard to find U.S. workers willing to take on jobs that generally last a few months each year, require them to live in mobile bunkhouses and travel non-stop. “It’s not the lifestyle most people want.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/immigration-industry-deals/2425041/?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=b5452e475e-AILA8_6_18_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-b5452e475e-287739493


After first bipartisan vote, tensions begin to flare on immigration reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

After first bipartisan vote, tensions begin to flare on immigration reform

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

The day after an overwhelming bipartisan vote to begin work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, that debate got a little less, um, Kumbaya.

A procedural squabble erupted on the third day of formal discussion on the bill as both sides wrangled over how to begin the process of amending the legislation, and senators argued heatedly over a proposed amendment by Texas Sen. John Cornyn that would broaden the requirements for border security — and, some say, could jeopardize the timeline for a path to citizenship.

“We cannot accept his amendment, plain and simple,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a key bill drafter, said of Cornyn’s measure on the Senate floor.

The Cornyn amendment has emerged as a major flashpoint, with some Republicans saying their support of the final bill will be contingent upon its inclusion. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has labeled the proposal a “poison pill” designed to throw up roadblocks for undocumented immigrants hoping to work their way toward legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

Sen. John McCain makes a pointed statement Wednesday on the Senate floor while speaking about immigration reform legislation.

The amendment, unveiled in full today, would create stricter “triggers” that would prevent previously undocumented immigrants from being eligible for green cards until the nation’s entire southern border is under surveillance and 90 percent of illegal border crossers are being apprehended.

Schumer argues that the amendment’s triggers are unreasonable and could be used to delay or even eliminate the proposed path to citizenship.

“It doesn’t create a path to citizenship in any way,” Schumer said. “It doesn’t allow one. And – finally – its cost is through the roof!”

Other Republicans who support the reform bill – including Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham – have voiced concern about the Cornyn measure’s cost as well, saying that its increase of border patrol agents and implementation of biometric systems are particularly expensive.

Cornyn says his amendment appropriates the same amount for border security —  $6.5 billion — as the Gang of Eight bill.

But earlier Wednesday, another GOP member of the Gang of Eight disputed the idea that Cornyn’s amendment is designed to bring down the legislation. “I don’t think it’s a poison pill,” Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said at a breakfast with reporters. “He has said publicly, he said again in our lunch meeting yesterday, `If my amendment is adopted I will vote for the bill.’ He has said that on a number of occasions and I believe him.”

But Flake also said he believes Cornyn’s amendment won’t be adopted as written and that bill supporters are working to find areas of agreement.

Top senators also quibbled Wednesday about the procedure for voting on amendments.

Reid proposed a vote on a first raft of amendments – two from Democrats and three from Republicans – with each requiring 60 votes for passage.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa objected, saying a simple majority should suffice.

“Right out of the box, right now, just on the third day, they want to subject our amendments to a filibuster, like a 60-vote threshold,” he said. “So I have to ask: Who’s obstructing now?”

The delay in beginning amendment votes comes after Reid has repeatedly said he hopes for a final vote on the legislation by July 4.

With every hour of disagreement, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont commented dryly, that congressional vacation is pushed closer to jeopardy.

“I’d like to just have voting on something  so we can finish this,” Leahy said. “Frankly, given my choice to spend Fourth of July week in Washington, as salubrious as the weather is, or in Vermont for the Fourth of July, I’d much rather be in Vermont.”

This story was originally published on Wed Jun 12, 2013 5:34 PM EDT

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/12/18922929-after-first-bipartisan-vote-tensions-begin-to-flare-on-immigration-reform?lite


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