USCIS Announces Higher Scrutiny for Petitions to Extend Nonimmigrant Status

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship Leave a comment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is instructing its officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. The guidance applies to almost all nonimmigrant classifications filed using Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.

Adjudicators are instructed to thoroughly review the petition and supporting evidence to determine eligibility for the benefit sought. The updated guidance instructs officers to apply the same level of scrutiny when reviewing nonimmigrant visa extension requests even where the petitioner, beneficiary and underlying facts are unchanged from a previously approved petition. While adjudicators may ultimately reach the same conclusion as in a prior decision, they are not compelled to do so.

The previous policy instructed officers to give deference to the findings of a previously approved petition, as long as the key elements were unchanged and there was no evidence of a material error or fraud related to the prior determination. The updated policy guidance rescinds the previous policy.

Under the law, the burden of proof in establishing eligibility for the visa petition extension is on the petitioner, regardless of whether USCIS previously approved a petition. The adjudicator’s determination is based on the merits of each case, and officers may request additional evidence if the petitioner has not submitted sufficient evidence to establish eligibility.
Petitioners will now see more Requests for Evidence from the Service Centers. You should work closely with an immigration lawyer at every step in the process.


The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Consular Processing, Deportation, I-601 Waivers, I-601A Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

By Board Certified Immigration Attorney Ruby L. Powers

November 4, 2015

The Provisional Waiver (I-601A) process currently allows certain people who are present in the United States to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a provisional waiver for certain unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas—rather than applying for a waiver abroad after the immigrant visa interview using the Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories, including family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children.  It also proposes expanding who may be considered a qualifying relative for purpose of the extreme hardship determination to include legal permanent resident spouses and parents.  This has a far reaching scope and is a refreshing positive change in light of deadlocked reform and executive actions being held in litigation all year.

Before the existing and more limited provisional waiver rule was implemented in March 4, 2013, many families had to be separated for 4 to 18 months to complete a legal permanent residency process via consular processing due to an illegal entry or other grounds of inadmissibility. Before the provisional waiver, clients might have been able to stay in Mexico only 4 months due to the generous pilot program in Cd. Juarez, Mexico or in some cases wait 18 months in Honduras or longer, if an appeal was sought and in other countries there were inconsistent waiting times. Obviously, there were hesitations for families to proceed with this process for legalization.

Then the idea of the Provisional Waiver was formulated as a way to allow certain family members to apply for the waiver in the U.S., and prevent waiting and separation times abroad. The concept was proposed in January 2012 and initially opened for Federal Register comment period on January 9, 2012 and again April 2, 2012. The rule was announced January 3, 2013 and began 60 days later, on March 4, 2013.

After the Provisional Waiver program began, the Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has been able to help countless families gain legal permanent residency for family members who only need to remain out of the country for 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes for less time, to complete their consular processing. From fiscal years 2013 to 2015, 74,439 waivers were filed and of those 44,198 waivers were approved and 18,773 waivers were denied.  It was such a success that the DHS would like to expand it to people in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories and expand the qualifying member for the waiver to spouses and citizens of legal permanent residents as well.

On November 20, 2014, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum, “Expansion of the Provisional Waiver Program,” directing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to amend its regulations to expand access to the provisional waiver program, to provide additional guidance on the definition of “extreme hardship,” and to “consider criteria by which a presumption of extreme hardship may be determined to exist.”

Currently DHS is proposing to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include as qualifying relatives, who can establish extreme hardship, an LPR spouse or parent, not just to U.S. citizen spouses or parents, as it currently stands.  This would be in the interests of encouraging eligible aliens to complete the visa process abroad, promoting family unity, and improving administrative efficiency. The expansion of the provisional waiver program would be a welcome change. The hardships suffered by preference category families, who face the same lengthy separation from loved ones when they seek legal permanent resident status, are as equally compelling as those suffered by immediate relatives. Opening up the provisional waiver process to these individuals will offer more measurable benefits to USCIS and DOS, will further facilitate legal immigration by encouraging a more sizable group to come out of the shadows, and comports with USCIS’s goal of alleviating unnecessary familial hardships.                 On July 22, 2015, the Federal Register opened a 60-day public comment period on the expansion of the provisional waiver which ended September 21, 2015. As we see, the previous provisional waiver had two comment periods and took a year of discussion that was noted to the public. In this case, the expansion was noted nearly a year ago on November 20, 2014 and we greatly hope the rule will be in place in early 2016.

Additionally, the new rule may have a more concise definition of extreme hardship, the standard one must meet for a successful provisional waiver.  This will allow legal practitioners to save their clients time and money by telling them what specific type of evidence is required to prove extreme hardship and accordingly streamline the process and shorten the processing times for cases filed meeting the new guidelines. Currently there are only a few cases that hold guidance and a large room for discretion which can cause varying results in the applications and outcomes.

If you may know someone who could benefit from this expanded provisional waiver, although it is not a rule yet, it is helpful to have a consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.  Ideally, learn if the attorney and their firm have extensive experience with waivers. It is important to plan in advance in case freedom of information act requests, FBI background checks, and collection of other documents are necessary. Additionally, in many cases certain processes would need to be started with requisite wait times before the waiver process may begin. In some cases, preparation, research and strategy take time. Once this rule is in effect, many people will be searching for help to see how it could benefit them.

Furthermore, we would like to warn you and others about the use of people who practice law without a license. In Texas, people often called ‘notarios’ frequently persuade people needing immigration legal services that the process is simple and an attorney is not needed. In the process, they are acting illegally by providing legal advice without a license and many times put people in difficult situations that are hard to correct.

The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has had continued success with waiver and provisional waivers reuniting families from many countries.   I regularly speak locally and nationwide on the topic of waivers and am regularly consulted by other attorneys on problem cases. We have a team with many years of immigration, consular processing, and waiver experience specific to this article’s topic. We pride ourselves in quality service and helping guide clients through the arduous process to a reunification, peace of mind, greater financial and emotional stability and an improved life in the United States.


Republican Ideas on Immigration Could Legalize Up to 6.5 Million, Study Says

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
By JULIA PRESTON
A Dream Action Coalition demonstration last month.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesA Dream Action Coalition demonstration last month.

Between 4.4 million and 6.5 million immigrants illegally in the United States could gain an eventual pathway to citizenship under proposals being discussed by Republicans in the House of Representatives, according to an estimate published Tuesday by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

The estimate is based on policy ideas that have been put forward by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, a Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Goodlatte has said he would not support legislation with a “special” or direct pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants in the country without legal papers, such as the 13-year pathway in a broad bill the Senate passed last June.

House Republicans have rejected the sweeping approach of that bill and said they would handle immigration in smaller pieces. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has said that Mr. Goodlatte is preparing principles that will guide House action on this issue this year.

 

Mr. Goodlatte has said he would instead offer a provisional legal status to illegal immigrants, then allow those who can demonstrate they are eligible to apply for permanent residency — a document known as a green card — through the existing system, based on sponsorship by a family member or an employer. Obtaining a green card is the crucial step toward American citizenship.

The foundation’s report, prepared by Stuart Anderson, its executive director, finds that even without major changes to current immigration law, 3.1 million to 4.4 million immigrants now illegally in the United States would be eligible for green cards because they are parents of American citizens. As many as 600,000 could gain green cards as spouses of citizens and legal residents, and up to 45,000 could receive green cards within two decades as low-skilled workers.

The estimate assumes the House would pass legislation creating new green cards for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, who call themselves Dreamers. Mr. Anderson calculates that 800,000 to 1.5 million of those immigrants would gain a pathway to citizenship.

Mr. Anderson’s calculation, based on figures from the Department of Homeland Security among other sources, is the first effort to put numbers on proposals emerging from House Republicans. On a conference call Tuesday with reporters, Mr. Anderson stressed that the estimates were imprecise because no Republican has so far offered a specific legalization bill.

Under the foundation’s projection, at least two million immigrants would have to wait a long time — as much as two decades — before they could apply for naturalization. As many as five million immigrants would remain here with legal status but no prospect of becoming citizens.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that eight million illegal immigrants would gain a pathway to citizenship under the Senate bill. Many Democrats and immigrant advocates have rejected any legislation that excludes large groups of residents from citizenship.

Tamar Jacoby, a Republican who is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a small-business organization that supports an overhaul of immigration laws, said on Tuesday that proposals for a bill with no separate path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants were gaining ground among House Republicans, as the basis for negotiations with the Senate. She said Mr. Anderson’s estimates were higher than many immigration analysts have predicted.

“The half a loaf is more substantial than many people would have thought,” she said.


U.S. citizens ditch passports in record numbers

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

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

By Lynnley Browning

Mahmood Karzai

Mahmood Karzai, no longer a U.S. citizen.

FORTUNE — Americans are ditching their U.S. passports in record numbers, a sign of growing frustration with a system that taxes U.S. citizens on their global wealth whether they live in Montana or Mongolia.

The latest bold-faced names to relinquish their U.S. citizenship include Mahmood Karzai, a brother of Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, according to federal data released Wednesday. Also on the list, published quarterly by the Internal Revenue Service, is Isabel Getty, the daughter of jet-setting socialite Pia Getty and Getty oil heir Christopher Getty.

In total, more than 670 U.S. passport holders gave up their citizenship — and with it, their U.S. tax bills — in the first three months of this year. That is the most in any quarter since the I.R.S. began publishing figures in 1998. And it is nearly three-quarters of the total number for all of 2012, a year in which the wealthy songwriter-socialite Denise Rich (christened “Lady Gatsby” by Yachtingmagazine) and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin joined more than 932 other Americans in tossing their passports.

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

MORE: Offshore account holders win a victory in government tax case

“It’s the cumulative effect of the I.R.S. ‘jihad’ against foreign bank accounts,” said Phil Hodgen, an international tax lawyer in Pasadena, Calif. He said growing numbers of Middle Eastern investors were ordering their dual-citizen children to dump their U.S. passports if they wanted to inherit family-owned companies without onerous U.S. estate taxes.

While dumping citizenship may seem unpatriotic or smack of tax avoidance to some critics, tax lawyers blame the byzantine complexity of American tax regulations.

The rules “are confusing, complex, and so complicated that even Americans with good intentions can easily find themselves running afoul of the law,” said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor who was involved in the government’s offshore banking probe and is now in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This very well may explain why we are seeing a record number of Americans renouncing their United States citizenship.”

The trend has swelled amid a widening crackdown by the U.S. Justice Department on offshore private banking services sold by Swiss and Swiss-style banks to wealthy Americans in recent years. Nearly a dozen foreign banks, include Israel’s Bank Leumi, HSBC, Credit Suisse (CS), Julius Baer and Swiss cantonal, or regional, banks are under criminal scrutiny; last year, Wegelin & Co, Switzerland’s oldest bank, was indicted and put out of business. More than four dozen wealthy Americans and their foreign bankers have been indicted or charged in recent years.

More than 39,000 Americans have come forward in recent years to declare their secret accounts to the I.R.S. in exchange for reduced fines and penalties, but officials suspect that is a fraction of the total number of people either deliberately hiding or unwittingly not reporting their foreign accounts. I.R.S. data for 2012 shows just over two million tax returns filed in 2012 by overseas Americans, compared with an estimated six million Americans living or working abroad. Only a fraction of Americans with foreign bank accounts are also filing required disclosures known as Fbars, according to federal data.

MORE: Cracks in objections to Internet sales taxes

Expatriations first picked up pace in 2010, when more than 1,530 Americans dumped their passports. Sparking that uptick, tax lawyers say, was a deal by UBS (UBS), the Swiss bank giant, the year before to disclose more than 4,000 American client names to the I.R.S. and pay a record $780 million for selling offshore services that violated U.S. tax laws.

In January, Karzai told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan that “the reason I gave up my U.S. passport and citizenship is that I have been working in Afghanistan for the past 12 years,” according to a transcript. He added that “I might become politically active, therefore I decided to give up my [U.S.] passport.” Karzai could not immediately be reached for comment.

Karzai is a shareholder of the scandal-plagued Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest bank that nearly collapsed due to fraud, according to global media reports in March. Getty, a student at New York University, according to her Facebook page, could not be immediately reached, and emails to her mother, a filmmaker in London, were not immediately returned.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the IRS began reporting this information in 2008. It began reporting it in 1998.


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.”


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


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


Senate Floor Debate Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise, Adhere to Certain Principles to Ensure A Workable System

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

For Immediate Release

Senate Floor Debate Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise,
Adhere to Certain Principles to Ensure A Workable System

June 11, 2013

Washington D.C. – Today, the long-awaited opportunity to reform the country’s dysfunctional immigration system moves one step closer to reality as the full Senate begins consideration of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee set a high standard for civility and transparency during its markup of the bill last month, and we urge the full Senate to continue in this vein. The bill that emerged from committee offers a workable plan that takes a balanced approach to immigration reform. Evidence, rather than grandstanding and rhetoric, should drive the debate on the Senate floor. Common sense and good policy can trump political one-upmanship, as long as Senators keep the following principles in mind.

– A closed border does not facilitate a robust immigration system. Piling on additional border-enforcement measures that are grounded more in politics than effective law enforcement is a waste of resources, and ignores the fact that ending illegal immigration requires a balance of enforcement measures, new immigration programs for future labor needs, and a working E-Verify system. Also, while there is a need for secure borders, there is also a need for further streamlining and efficiently facilitating the daily cross-border flows of people, goods, and services important to the critical economic relationships between the United States and Mexico and Canada.

– Triggers must be reasonable, not designed to derail legalization. The legalization provisions of the bill should not be held hostage to border triggers that set unrealistic goals or impose overly burdensome procedures. Such triggers unnecessarily hold up the important process of bringing millions of undocumented individuals out of the shadows. Border security and legalization go hand in hand. We should not delay identifying and documenting those who reside in our country.

– Legalizing more than 11 million undocumented immigrants is an economic, social, and moral imperative. Making the process simple, straightforward, and fair means no unnecessary requirements, reasonable application procedures, realistic time frames, and strong family protections. Efforts to undermine or weaken the current proposal or to prevent these individuals from becoming lawful permanent residents, thus creating a permanent underclass with no opportunity for citizenship, would be a mistake of historic proportions.

– Immigrants must have the opportunity to fairly present their cases. A fair and just immigration system includes ensuring access to counsel for immigrants unable to represent themselves, limits on detention, and proportionate penalties for immigration violations. The temptation to continue to make immigration laws “tougher” without any moderation or respect for case-by-case decision-making must be avoided. For more than 20 years, Congress’s solution to immigration problems has been to layer on more punitive measures, ultimately creating a system that is often unbalanced and unfair. S. 744 attempts to restore some of the fundamental principles of fairness, due process, and proportional punishment that are the hallmark of the American judicial system.

– The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have discretion to use its resources wisely. We need smart security measures that actually work, not high-priced, politically driven strategies that don’t. DHS must be given the discretion to deploy resources and implement border-security policies that are based on sound, effective law-enforcement strategies and not political theater. In order to achieve maximum effectiveness, DHS must have discretion to develop strategies that are tailored to the current border challenges and employ cutting-edge technology.

– The United States needs a workable, efficient, and flexible immigration system that responds to the rapidly changing demands of a 21st century economy, technologies, and migration patterns. People live and work and innovate in ways that are different than they were 20 years ago, and yet our immigration system continues to operate on a series of static quotas and rigid requirements that ignore advances in every sector of our economy and the way we live today. We can protect the wages and working conditions of all workers without sacrificing business opportunities.

For many years we have said that we must fix our immigration system. Today marks the next step in the process of creating an immigration system that can change and grow with the needs of our nation.

###

For more information contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524

 


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


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