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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


Rubio, House GOP again warn immigration bill lacks support without border fixes

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
By Kasie Hunt, Frank Thorp and Carrie Dann, NBC News

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that there will not be enough votes in the House to pass the Senate’s immigration bill as it is currently written even if the legislation can find the 60 votes it will need in the upper chamber.

“I can tell you that the bill as currently structured is not going to pass in the House. And I think it’s going to struggle to pass in the Senate,” Rubio said after a meeting between Senate and House conservatives.

Rubio’s comments came shortly before Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho conservative who has been working on immigration in the House, said he will no longer be a part of an eight-person bipartisan working group that had recently hit snags in negotiations.

Labrador left the talks after a standoff over whether newly legalized immigrants who were previously undocumented should be eligible to receive government-based health care, the issue he called the breaking point that caused him to part from the group.

“I think my exit just means that I couldn’t agree with them on language,” Labrador told reporters, “I don’t think it means anything for immigration reform.”

Earlier Wednesday, Rubio said border security provisions must be strengthened before conservatives will support the bill in sufficient numbers to make it law. He has pledged to push amendments to the bill that would stiffen those requirements and potentially shift the power to craft security plans from the Department of Homeland Security to Congress.

“If the changes don’t happen, the bill can’t pass,” Rubio said. “We’ll keep working. We won’t abandon the effort. We’ll keep working to ensure the bill can pass.”

The Senate bill is expected to be taken up on the floor of the upper chamber next week. Rubio, along with Democrat and fellow “Gang of Eight” member Sen. Bob Menendez, has said that it does not currently have the 60 votes required for passage, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated last week that it would be “pretty easy” to pull together sufficient support.

But Rubio pointed to the Republican-controlled House as a major factor, even if the bill passes the Senate with broad bipartisan backing.

“Let’s remember – the goal here is not to pass a bill out of the Senate,” he said. “The goal here is to reform our immigration laws. And that requires something that can pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by the president.”

Rubio and a handful of other GOP senators — including Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — met with conservative House Republicans for over an hour in the basement of the Capitol to discuss the immigration reform efforts. Attendees described the meeting as an “open discussion” where participants voiced concern about passing legislation that could mirror what happened in 1986, when President Reagan signed a bill offering ‘amnesty’ to millions of undocumented immigrants.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the House will not take up the Senate bill wholesale.

“It’s very clear that the House will not take the Senate bill,” Goodlatte said, noting that the panel that he chairs is working through smaller pieces of legislation to beef up border and interior enforcement.

Some House Republicans are pessimistic that a larger package could be signed into law by the end of the summer at all.  Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told reporters Wednesday “It may pass in the Senate, but I don’t see it passing into law.”

“The border security piece of this is a big, big stumbling block,” Fleming said, “I don’t think Republicans are going to support anything that is milquetoast in the way of border security.”

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/05/18780685-rubio-house-gop-again-warn-immigration-bill-lacks-support-without-border-fixes?lite


What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?

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

What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?
By stacey On May 20, 2013 · Add Comment

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The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 sets the framework for Congress to address many immigration issues that have been suspended in a gridlock for several years in Washington. The proposed bill, crafted jointly by a group of four Democrats and four Republicans, together known as the Gang of Eight, was crafted to address four major immigration issues. If approved, this Act would: (i) tighten border controls, (ii) allow greater numbers of workers to immigrate legally, (iii) require employers to verify that all workers have legal status, and (iv) create an opportunity for those who are in the U.S. illegally to gain citizenship by following a detailed legal process.

Background

The U.S. is currently in its fourth and largest immigration wave. This wave began in 1965 reflecting the end of immigration limits based on nationality. According to Nancy Benac of the Associated Press in her April 8, 2013, article on the proposed act, the foreign-born population now accounts for approximately 1 in 8 U.S. residents, or approximately 13% of the population. Ms. Benac also states that out of the record 40.4 million immigrants who live in the United States, more than 18 million are naturalized citizens, 11 million are legal permanent or temporary residents, and more than 11 million are in the country without legal permission. (AP article published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/gang-of-eight)

Under present laws, the U.S. permits the granting of a significantly larger proportion of permanent green cards to family members of citizens and current permanent residents than to foreigners with job or other prospects here. About two-thirds of permanent legal immigration to the U.S. is family-based, compared to about the 15% that is employment based. Many members of Congress are interested in boosting employment-based immigration to help the U.S. economy, and to help the U.S. to compete more effectively with other countries around the world by attracting talent to the domestic workplace.

Business owners, entrepreneurs and business lobbying organizations are keenly interested in Congress changing the immigration system to allow the U.S. to attract foreign-born workers with various skill sets. Advocates also wish for workers who have legally worked in the U.S. for an extended period of time to qualify for permanent resident status with fewer obstacles. Despite guarded opposition by labor unions, language in the 2013 bill addresses these issues.

How Will the Bill Affect Business-Related Immigration?

The bill proposes a migration to a more merit-based immigration system by eliminating certain categories of family preferences that promote chain migration, while wholly eliminating the diversity visa lottery. The bill would prevent citizens from bringing in siblings while allowing citizens to sponsor married sons and daughters only if those children are under the age of 31. These changes set the stage for more business-based visas.

The bill would raise the cap on visas for highly-skilled workers seeking H1-B visa status from 65,000 to 110,000, which would be a huge coup and certainly appreciated by the immigration bar – few of us were immune to the frenetic rush to file before the April 1 deadline, and even then far too many legitimate prospective beneficiaries simply missed the boat due to the unreasonable limitations in this critical area.

The bill also proposes to increase the current cap for H-1B STEM graduates with advanced degrees from 20,000 to 25,000. STEM graduates possess degrees based around the natural sciences.

All of these proposed changes to the H-1B visa will allow students who have gone to universities in the U.S. to study and receive advanced degrees to stay in this country to work, and the U.S. will lose less of this pool of talent to foreign competitors. All of these proposed changes are expected to produce positive economic results.

Additionally, the bill creates a start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs. Under the INVEST program, two new types of visas, one for non-immigrant visas and the other for immigrant visas, have been proposed for entrepreneurs as detailed below:

(1) The non-immigrant INVEST visa is a renewable 3-year visa for investors who can show at least $100,000 in investment in his or her business from angel investors and/or other qualified investors over the past 3 years, and whose business has created no fewer than 3 jobs while generating at least $250,000 in annual revenues in the U.S. for the two years immediately prior to filing.

(2) The INVEST immigrant visa would be an entrepreneurial green card, the number of which would be capped at 10,000 per year. The INVEST immigrant visa would require that the applicant must:

Have significant ownership in a U.S. business (need not be majority interest);
Be employed as a senior executive in the U.S. business;
Have had a significant role in the founding/initial stages of the business;
Have resided for at least 2 years in the U.S. in lawful status;
and

Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs and which business must have received at least $500,000 in venture capital or other qualified investments; or
Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs, and the business has generated at least $750,000 in annual revenue for the 2 years immediately prior to filing.
Finally, the bill also proposes a guest worker visa program. This is among the more controversial aspects of the Gang of Eight bill and is known as “W visas.” This program would issue guest worker visas for low-skilled workers, defined in the bill as those whose jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Guest workers would serve three-year stints, renewable indefinitely, and would be allowed to bring their families with them. The program sets a first-year cap of 20,000 for the program, but the agency running it would be allowed to increase that to as high as 200,000 visas per year. This program could create a potentially huge source of future migration to the U.S., and raises the question of whether or not these foreign workers will be eligible for permanent residence or citizenship in later years.

Conclusion

Much of the proposed legislation in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is just an outline and framework that which the full Congress can refine and eventually act. Amendments and additional provisions will no doubt be included in any final version of the bill that is enacted by both houses. Congress has vowed to give this bill a long period of consideration and multiple hearings for comments and testimony. It will undoubtedly be many months before the final version of the bill is drafted and passed in any form. It is hoped that this detailed level of scrutiny will allow for a comprehensive and effective new immigration law that will have a positive effect on business and on the economy.

http://ecouncilinc.com/?p=2117&utm_source=eCouncil+Inc&utm_campaign=a3287d7f6e-May_Newsletter6_3_2013%283%29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_896120c70f-a3287d7f6e-26001245


U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone
Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration
by Walter Ewing

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, the bulk of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.
These are among the findings of a new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.
The report highlights the pointlessly inhumane treatment of non-violent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. But one in particular is Operation Streamline, which is basically a mass trial for border-crossers that convicts between 40 and 80 people per hearing for “illegal entry”—a misdemeanor offense. A group lawyer is provided for defendants, but limited time and the challenge of representing scores of defendants at once have raised concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel in this setting is apparent from the survey interviews. When asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?” recent deportees answered as follows:
40% said they were instructed to sign the form admitting guilt and not fight the charges against them.
40% were informed that they have legal rights.
7% were told nothing or could not understand what was said to them.
2% were asked to report any abuses against them.
1% were checked for their actual legal status.
No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.
As the report emphasizes, a first offense for unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence. But those who are convicted have a criminal record based solely on an immigration offense that will exclude them from legal residence or entry. If they are apprehended again, they will be charged with a felony for illegal re-entry and sentenced to a maximum two-year sentence. However, upon asking recent deportees what they understood about their sentence, only 71% mentioned that they would face some amount of jail time if they returned to the United States.
Operation Streamline accounts for much of the increase in deportations of “criminal aliens” in recent years, simply because of the rise in immigration offenders whose activities were previously considered administrative offenses. Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry increased from 3,900 cases to 43,700 between Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and FY 2010. During the same period prosecutions for illegal re-entry increased from 7,900 to 35,800. Roughly 48% of all immigration prosecutions now come from illegal entry and 44% from illegal re-entry.
And yet, despite the harsh consequences, many of the people ensnared by Operation Streamline and other immigration-enforcement programs continue trying to return to the United States because that is where their homes are. As the New York Times noted in a recent discussion of the report:
“…about 60 percent of the respondents said they planned to try crossing the border again in the near future. The reasons were clear: of the 1,113 recently deported migrants who were interviewed at ports of entry and in shelters in six border communities in Mexico, roughly 300 of them had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.”
The report concludes that border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders. The authors call for a reexamination of why we as a nation allocate so many resources to imposing criminal sentences and punishments on people with no previous criminal history or who have committed only minor legal infractions. Moreover, we must make distinctions among different categories of criminal offenses and provide relief for people who have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations. Otherwise, we are needlessly destroying the lives and families of people who call the United States home.


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