Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

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

Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

By  and , Published: January 29

The release of a new bipartisan Senate plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and a policy address expected Tuesday from President Obama have launched dramatic new momentum on a long-stalled issue.

Now the hard part begins.

The blueprint unveiled by senators Monday amid warm bipartisan unity settled some of the most difficult questions that have bedeviled efforts to change immigration laws, particularly by endorsing a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. But it left unanswered dozens of key questions, all of which must be meticulously negotiated in the coming weeks under competing political pressures. And nobody thinks that will be easy.

“We still have a long way to go,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday, while calling the broad framework a major breakthrough.

“A first step in what will continue to be difficult — but achievable,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The politics for passage are quite treacherous, with a number of key Republicans already labeling this latest iteration of immigration proposals as amnesty for the nation’s 11 million illegal residents. But even before the group of four Democrats and four Republicans can focus on the persistent GOP opposition, they must translate their broad statement of principles on the issue into a detailed bill that can withstand intense legislative scrutiny.

That means tackling a number of extremely difficult issues by the end of March, when the group has said it hopes to draft a bill. A bipartisan group is also working on legislation in the House, but most proponents believe legislative action will start in the Democratic-held Senate.

For instance, the Senate plan calls for offering illegal immigrants the chance to quickly achieve probationary legal residency, provided they register with the government and pay a fine and back taxes. But it does not outline how large a fine or how long the applicants would have to pay off their taxes.

“I think the question is, how broad will the road to citizenship be?” said Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We have to make sure that it’s not so expensive and onerous that it doesn’t leave millions of people in limbo for an extended period of time.”

More critical to the coming debate is the senators’ requirement that illegal immigrants could not seek a green card — the first step to full citizenship — until the U.S.-Mexican border is secure and other enforcement measures are in place. The measures include a system for employers to verify the legal status of workers and a new way to track legal visa holders.

But the framework is silent on how federal officials would certify that the border is secure. It envisions the creation of a commission of governors, attorneys general and others living along the border to “make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measure outlined in the legislation are completed.” But it is not clear whether that recommendation would be considered advisory or would by law allow those with probationary status to seek permanent residency.

The commission, which would probably include immigration hard-liners elected to statewide office in recent years in Arizona and elsewhere, has already emerged as a potential flash point, making immigrants’ advocates and some Democrats deeply nervous.

President Obama is expected Tuesday to unveil his own immigration reform proposal, which would not include such a delay and which otherwise supportive Republicans are warning could sap bipartisan backing for the effort.

“All these things must happen before — before — there’s a path to a green card,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News on Monday, in one of a series of interviews Rubio has been conducting to sell the senators’ plan to GOP opinion makers.

Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she was concerned that the proposal placed too much emphasis on border control.

She also questioned another key plank the Republicans had required: that illegal immigrants would be sent to the back of the green card line behind those who had legally applied for residency.

“It’s really not appropriate to create a group of second-class non-citizens,” she said. “Do people realize how long the lines are? The lines are 10 years and sometimes two decades. Putting someone behind the 30-year line is not going to work.”

Another potentially tricky issue is what is known as “future flow” — how many new legal visas to give out and in what fields.

On Monday, Schumer called that issue “one of the shoals upon which the good ship ‘Immigration Reform’ has floundered” because it pits big business — which wants access to cheap labor — against the unions, which seek to require businesses to hire Americans.

Schumer said the AFL-CIO has been quietly meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to work out an agreement that would link future immigration flow to unemployment rates. But details need to be fleshed out.

Dozens of other similar pitfalls abound.

The senators call for withholding federal benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid, from illegal immigrants who have met the demands to live and work in the country. But immigrant advocates question how, then, will often low-income immigrants get access to affordable health care?

The senators are silent, too, about whether same-sex partners would be eligible for the same benefits as married couples, a divisive question within more socially conservative portions of the immigrant community.

Obama will probably call for addressing the issue in his Las Vegas speech.


Reid predicts the Senate will pass immigration reform

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

Reid predicts the Senate will pass immigration reform

By Noam N. Levey

10:06 AM PST, February 3, 2013

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he is optimistic the Senate will pass immigration legislation, suggesting Republicans will have no choice but to join the push for a sweeping overhaul.

“Things are looking really good,” the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” “Republicans can no longer stop this. They’ve tried it; it hasn’t worked.”

A bipartisan group of senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – last week unveiled a blueprint for comprehensive legislation that would tighten border security and set up a path for illegal immigrants to get citizenship.

U.S. immigration law: Decades of debate

And several leading GOP lawmakers have noted that the party, which lost heavily among Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election, must take action on the immigration issue.

But many conservatives, particularly in the House, remain leery of allowing the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally to become citizens.

Other issues important to Democrats – such as giving the foreign partners of gay and lesbian Americans a family preference in the immigration system – also remain major partisan stumbling blocks.

Reid brushed that issue aside. “If they’re looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one, but the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed,” he said.

The Senate leader also was bullish on prospects for passing new gun control legislation, another one of President Obama’s top priorities for his second term.

But the veteran lawmaker – who has won the backing in the past from the National Rifle Assn. – would not commit to a key goal of gun control advocates: limits on the size of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Reid would only say: “I think that’s something we definitely have to take a look at.”

Looking ahead to the next round of budget negotiations, the majority leader continued to insist that any more efforts to reduce federal deficits must include new tax revenue.

Republicans, by contrast, are insisting on only spending cuts.

“The American people are on our side,” Reid said. “The American people don’t believe in these austere things. We believe that the rich should contribute. We believe we should fill those tax loopholes, get rid of them, I should say. And that’s where we need to go.”


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Deportation, DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

 

Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

February 7, 2013, 8:44 am NBCNews.com

A bipartisan group of senators formally unveiled an immigration reform framework that they hope the Senate could

pass “in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion” by late spring or early summer.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday on Capitol Hill, five of the eight members of a bipartisan working group

announced the contours of their agreement, which would shore up America’s borders and provide an eventual path to

citizenship for undocumented workers.

“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan grouping is a major breakthrough,” New York Sen. Charles

Schumer, a Democratic member of the group of eight, said Monday afternoon.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, set an ambitious goal of translating the statement of principles released

Sunday evening by the senators into legislation by March. He said the Senate would try to approve the legislation for

consideration in the House by the end of spring, or early summer.

The major development involves the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers that would be established

under the Senate plan. Conservatives have resisted similar proposals — even when they were proposed by President

George W. Bush — and labeled them as “amnesty” for individuals who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Americans “have been too content for too long” to allow many undocumented

workers to provide basic services “while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

“It is not beneficial to this country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows,” added McCain, whose own

experience on the issue of immigration provides an instructive example of why immigration reform has been so

elusive for Congress.

McCain had long been one of the most vocal advocates of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but

tempered his opinions in recent years amid conservative scrutiny. As he was fighting off a conservative primary

challenger in 2010, McCain appeared in a television ad saying it was time to “build the danged fence” — a reference

to the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is favored by a number of Republicans.

The senators’ announcement on Monday comes a day before President Barack Obama was set to make a major

policy address on Tuesday in Nevada on the topic of immigration. While Obama had not been expected to outline

any formal legislation during his remarks, lawmakers from both parties will carefully parse the president’s words for

their impact on the immigration debate. Schumer said that he had spoken to the president about the Senate

framework, and that the president was “delighted” by it.

Obama himself had vowed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, but his efforts were

stymied. That failure invited a degree of consternation from the Latino community during last year’s presidential

campaign, even though Obama had taken executive action to halt the deportation of individuals who were illegally

brought to the United States as children.

(That order, made by Obama last summer, sought to effectively enact much of the DREAM Act, a piece of

legislation that failed in the Senate as recently as 2010, when some Republicans who’d previously supported the law

flipped, and voted against it.)

Indeed, the success of this push in the Senate may well hinge on Republicans’ willingness to go along with a plan

that gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, an influential House

Republican, already labeled the Senate framework as “amnesty” in a statement on Monday.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/28/16741007-senators-hope-to-approve-bipartisan-immigration-reform-within-Page 2 of 2 07/02/2013 09:44 AM

House GOP leaders were otherwise mum on Monday toward the Senate proposal, though top Republicans have

previously expressed a preference for tackling immigration in a piecemeal manner.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the eight-member group and a favorite of conservatives, has worked to

gather conservative support for the proposal. He said at Monday’s press conference that while no one is happy about

the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, “We have an obligation and need to address

the reality that we face.”

The other factor weighing upon Republicans involves their poor performance among Hispanic voters — a bloc that is

growing in importance in a variety of key battleground states — during last fall’s election.

“The Republican Party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said Monday in a nod toward a variable

that could convince more GOP lawmakers to support this bipartisan proposal. But, McCain noted, “We’re not going

to get everybody onboard.”

In the meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to “do everything in [his] power as the

majority leader to get a bill across the finish line.”


Senator Look at Past Failures for Lessons on Immigration Overhaul

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
January 31, 2013- The New York Times

Senators Look at Past Failures for Lessons on Immigration Overhaul

 

By 

 

WASHINGTON — As eight senators in a bipartisan group look ahead to a broad immigration overhaul, they are also looking back to 2006 and 2007 — the last time a major immigration measure was considered — as something of a reverse playbook.

Lesson 1? “Make sure you get out there and define what you’re trying to do,” said former Senator Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who, in 2007, was the minority whip when his chamber’s immigration efforts imploded. “Don’t forget to pay attention to the message, and don’t let the media define what you’re trying to do.”

It is a tip that Mr. Lott says he has communicated to the staff of Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican involved in the current effort, and so far Mr. Rubio seems to be heeding the advice. In recent weeks, he has focused on conservative media powerhouses, tirelessly wooing influential voices on the right like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.

“The outreach by Marco Rubio has been very positive,” Mr. Lott said. “He’s very good at explaining what he wants to do.”

Getting out ahead by articulating their immigration principles, as the group did in a Monday news conference, is only one of the ways the senators hope to learn from the mistakes of the past. This time, they said, they are capitalizing on a promising political environment, using more conciliatory language, and trying to harness media outlets to their advantage. They also plan to move their legislation through the Judiciary Committee, a step not taken in 2007 and one that helped doom the bill, and are working more closely with businesses and labor unions to make sure the two can also reach a compromise.

“Our timing is right,” said Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “The election results are still fresh in the minds of my Republican colleagues and they don’t want to go through this again.”

President George W. Bush said in 2009 that it was “a mistake” to have pushed for changes to Social Security, rather than immigration, immediately after the 2004 election. By the time he took on immigration late in his second term, he was a lame duck president, weakened by the war in Iraq and facing dissent within his party.

“By his own admission, President Bush made a strategic error in not pushing the issue right after his re-election,” said Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “President Obama is not making the same mistake. He still has a lot of political capital to spend.”

In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, where Mr. Obama’s defeat of Mitt Romney came with the help of 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, those on all sides of the immigration effort believe the climate is ripe for another attempt.

And, at least in the early stages, they are taking steps to reach across the aisle, even with the words they choose.

“The most important lesson I took way from 2006 and 2007 is that people had no faith that there wouldn’t be future waves of illegal immigrants,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat of New York in the Senate’s bipartisan immigration group.

To show that he is serious about an overhaul, he explained, he is especially conscious of the language he uses; Mr. Schumer now refers to “illegal immigrants,” a term preferred by the right and an acknowledgment that the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country did, in fact, break the law.

In a similar linguistic concession, Mr. Rubio, during Monday’s immigration news conference, referred to the “undocumented” workers, a term generally preferred by Democrats and loathed by his party’s conservative wing.

In 2007, in an attempt to save time and reach a deal, the Senate bypassed the Judiciary Committee and brought the legislation straight to the floor. At the time, the senators who drafted the bill tried to band together to vote down any amendments that changed the substance of their compromise, an agreement that broke down. Several controversial amendments, including one that then-Senator Obama supported, ultimately led to the bill’s collapse.

“What we’re doing now is we’re going to put it through committee,” Mr. Schumer said. “When the bill gets through committee, it will be battle-tested and we will be prepared for the floor in a better way.”

The group is also considering again trying to maintain a large voting bloc, to squash any amendments they believe could kill their bill.

“I think we have to unless there’s something that we both agree to,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said when asked about such a possibility at an immigration panel on Wednesday. “It’s going to be fragile, as these kinds of things are, and so we will have to take some tough votes in order to keep it intact.”

Finally, even business and labor interests — who historically come down on opposite sides of how to handle the future flow of legal immigrants — are currently working among themselves and with the Senate in an attempt to reach a compromise.

“We have had discussions with both labor — the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the S.E.I.U. — and business,” including with Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of other groups, Mr. Schumer said Monday.

“And in fact while we’ve been negotiating these principles, they’ve been sitting talking to one another,” he added. “They are making really good progress, much better than in 2009.”

Mr. Lott said that the collapse of an immigration overhaul in 2007 was “one of the most embarrassing moments that I experienced in the Senate,” and that the memories were still vivid — the way conservative talk radio turned on him, the angry phone calls flooding his office from around the country every morning, the handful of death threats.

Watching the immigration debate take shape now, he said, he is heartened to watch Mr. Rubio and others aggressively make their case in the press — something he wishes he had done better six years ago.

“I’d been in the Congress 34 years by then — I should have known better,” Mr. Lott said. “I was just trying to help move this thing along, but I should have paid better attention to the message part of it.”

 

 

 


Obama embraces Senate immigration plan in call for reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Updated 3:34 p.m. ET – President Barack Obama hailed the Senate’s bipartisan immigration framework at a major speech on that topic this afternoon in Nevada, but threatened to send his own alternative legislation to Capitol Hill if Congress fails to act.

The president embraced of a statement of principles offered Monday by four Democratic and four Republican senators, which would strengthen border security and employment verification in exchange for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“The good news is that — for the first time in many years — Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together,” Obama said in his speech in Las Vegas, according to prepared excerpts.

Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama arrives in Las Vegas, Jan. 29. Obama arrived in Nevada to deliver remarks on immigration reform.

“And yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years,” the president also said. “At this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that’s very encouraging.”

But in a speech in Nevada — a Southwestern state that has experienced a boom in its Hispanic population — the president said he refused to allow comprehensive immigration reform “to get bogged down in an endless debate.”

“It’s important for us to realize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place,” he said. If lawmakers fail to advance their own proposal, Obama said he would send legislation to Congress based on his own principles “and insist that they vote on it right away.”

He said at the top of his speech: “I’m here because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.”

The president used Tuesday’s speech in Nevada to outline many of those principles, which rest on four pillars: strengthening border security, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, streamlining legal immigration and — most importantly — offering undocumented workers an earned path to citizenship.

Those pillars mostly resemble the bipartisan Senate framework unveiled on Monday by lawmakers, which has prompted hopes that Congress would finally be able to advance a comprehensive immigration reform law, a priority that eluded Obama during his first term, and President George W. Bush before him.

The primary sticking point in those fights has been the pathway to citizenship, which conservatives deride as “amnesty” for those who have broken the law. Already, some prominent conservatives have expressed their skepticism of the Senate framework for exactly that reason.

“Yes, they broke the rules,” Obama said of those undocumented immigrants. “They crossed the border illegally. Maybe they overstayed their visas. But these 11 million men and women are now here.”

President Obama lays out his plan for a sweeping immigration reform at a campaign-style event in Las Vegas. Watch his entire speech.

Republicans in particular had been closely watching Obama’s actions for cues as to how the administration might handle immigration, and the emerging Senate deal. Republican lawmakers have openly worried that the president might stake out stark positions and oppose some of the enforcement measures included in the Senate framework, namely the trigger that would only allow a pathway to citizenship once the border enforcement mechanisms had been verified.

“There are a lot of ideas about how best to fix our broken immigration system,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Any solution should be a bipartisan one, and we hope the President is careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate.”

But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rock star to conservatives who’s seen as eyeing a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, has taken an active lead in selling this proposal to the right. Rubio has appeared in conservative media to both discourage Obama from opposing enforcement provisions, but also talk up the proposal as the best chance at compromise for Republicans.

“If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there — in essence, if there’s not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else happens unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place — then I won’t support it,” Rubio, a member of the bipartisan gang of eight, told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday. “But the principles clearly call for that.”

But the president generally spoke in broad terms, and did not draw any bright lines as it relates to the Senate proposal.

“I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is finally within our grasp,” he said.


READ: President Obama’s immigration proposal

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Posted by Ezra Klein on January 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Here’s the White House’s immigration framework, which is similar to the Senate’s Gang of 8 framework, and to the White House’s May 2011 plan. If anything, their May 2011 plan was more detailed.

In his speech in Las Vegas this afternoon, President Obama warned that ”If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send them a bill based on my proposal and insist they vote on it right away.” The text of White House’s proposal follows:

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

· Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

· Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

· Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

· Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

· Strengthen border security and infrastructure. The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.

· Combat transnational crime. The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.

· Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement. The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are keys to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.

· Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling. The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.

· Deporting Criminals. The President’s proposal expands smart enforcement efforts that target convicted criminals in federal or state correctional facilities, allowing us to remove them from the United States at the end of their sentences without re-entering our communities. At the same time, it protects those with a credible fear of returning to their home countries.

· Streamline removal of nonimmigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.

· Improve our nation’s immigration courts. The President’s proposal invests in our immigration courts. By increasing the number of immigration judges and their staff, investing in training for court personnel, and improving access to legal information for immigrants, these reforms will improve court efficiency. It allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs. It also provides greater protections for those least able to represent themselves.

Cracking Down on Employers Who Hire Undocumented Workers

· Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President’s proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses.

· Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud‐and tamper‐resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.

· Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

Pathway to Earned Citizenship

· Create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Agricultural workers and those who entered the United States as children would be eligible for the same program. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits, including subsidies or tax credits under the new health care law.

· Create strict requirements to qualify for lawful permanent resident status. Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident.

· Earned citizenship for DREAMers. Children brought here illegally through no fault of their own by their parents will be eligible for earned citizenship. By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship. The President’s proposal brings these undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

· Create administrative and judicial review. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

· Provide new resources to combat fraud. The President’s proposal authorizes funding to enable DHS, the Department of State, and other relevant federal agencies to establish fraud prevention programs that will provide training for adjudicators, allow regular audits of applications to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, and incorporate other proven fraud prevention measures.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

· Keep Families Together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.

· Cut Red Tape for Employers. The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations.

· Enhance travel and tourism. The Administration is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our nation’s security. Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on travel and tourism, the President’s proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa. And finally it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

· “Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas. The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States. It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

· Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs. The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.

· Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S. economic development. The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; provides incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds new measures to combat fraud and national security threats; includes data collection on economic impact; and creates a pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

· Create a new visa category for employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories. The proposal creates a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs after being in the United States. for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

· Better addresses humanitarian concerns. The proposal streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence. It also better protects those fleeing persecution by eliminating the existing limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum.

· Encourage integration. The proposal promotes earned citizenship and efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically.


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

A bipartisan group of senators formally unveiled an immigration reform framework that they hope the Senate could pass “in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion” by late spring or early summer.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday on Capitol Hill, five of the eight members of a bipartisan working group announced the contours of their agreement, which would shore up America’s borders and provide an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican John McCain, have reached agreement on a framework to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan grouping is a major breakthrough,” New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democratic member of the group of eight, said Monday afternoon.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, set an ambitious goal of translating the statement of principles released Sunday evening by the senators into legislation by March. He said the Senate would try to approve the legislation for consideration in the House by the end of spring, or early summer.

The major development involves the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers that would be established under the Senate plan. Conservatives have resisted similar proposals — even when they were proposed by President George W. Bush — and labeled them as “amnesty” for individuals who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Americans “have been too content for too long” to allow many undocumented workers to provide basic services “while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

Key Democrats and Republicans are joining forces to strengthen security and develop new rules for illegal immigrants who fill special needs. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

“It is not beneficial to this country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows,” added McCain, whose own experience on the issue of immigration provides an instructive example of why immigration reform has been so elusive for Congress.

McCain had long been one of the most vocal advocates of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but tempered his opinions in recent years amid conservative scrutiny. As he was fighting off a conservative primary challenger in 2010, McCain appeared in a television ad saying it was time to “build the danged fence” — a reference to the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is favored by a number of Republicans.

The senators’ announcement on Monday comes a day before President Barack Obama was set to make a major policy address on Tuesday in Nevada on the topic of immigration. While Obama had not been expected to outline any formal legislation during his remarks, lawmakers from both parties will carefully parse the president’s words for their impact on the immigration debate. Schumer said that he had spoken to the president about the Senate framework, and that the president was “delighted” by it.

Obama himself had vowed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, but his efforts were stymied. That failure invited a degree of consternation from the Latino community during last year’s presidential campaign, even though Obama had taken executive action to halt the deportation of individuals who were illegally brought to the United States as children.

(That order, made by Obama last summer, sought to effectively enact much of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that failed in the Senate as recently as 2010, when some Republicans who’d previously supported the law flipped, and voted against it.)

Indeed, the success of this push in the Senate may well hinge on Republicans’ willingness to go along with a plan that gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, an influential House Republican, already labeled the Senate framework as “amnesty” in a statement on Monday.

House GOP leaders were otherwise mum on Monday toward the Senate proposal, though top Republicans have previously expressed a preference for tackling immigration in a piecemeal manner.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the eight-member group and a favorite of conservatives, has worked to gather conservative support for the proposal. He said at Monday’s press conference that while no one is happy about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, “We have an obligation and need to address the reality that we face.”

The other factor weighing upon Republicans involves their poor performance among Hispanic voters — a bloc that is growing in importance in a variety of key battleground states — during last fall’s election.

“The Republican Party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said Monday in a nod toward a variable that could convince more GOP lawmakers to support this bipartisan proposal. But, McCain noted, “We’re not going to get everybody onboard.”

In the meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to “do everything in [his] power as the majority leader to get a bill across the finish line.”

“Nothing short of bipartisan success is acceptable to me,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor preceding the group of eight’s press conference.

 


Barack Obama to unveil immigration plan next week: White House

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

26 JAN, 2013, 12.17PM IST,

Article here

US President Barack Obama will unveil his plans for a comprehensive immigration reform next week which is expected to spell out the legalisation procedure for lakhs of illegal immigrants and lay down steps to attract global talents, including from India.

US President Barack Obama will unveil his plans for a comprehensive immigration reform next week which is expected to spell out the legalisation procedure for lakhs of illegal immigrants and lay down steps to attract global talents, including from India.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will unveil his plans for a comprehensive immigration reform next week which is expected to spell out thelegalisation procedure for lakhs of illegal immigrantsand lay down steps to attract global talents, including from India.

“There are certainly indications now that what was once a bipartisan effort to push forward with comprehensive immigration reform will again be a bipartisan effort to do so, because the President firmly believes that it should be. This is not a partisan or ideological pursuit. It’s the right thing to do for oureconomy,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, told reporters today.

Obama’s plan is expected to not only to spell out the legalisation procedure for lakhs of illegal immigrants, but also steps to attract the global talents, which would benefit people from countries like India.

He is scheduled to spell out his plan for a comprehensive immigration reform in Nevada next week, Carney said.

Ahead of his announcement, Obama and senior administration officials met yesterday morning with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss a need to make things fairer for and grow the middle class by fixing the broken immigration system so that everyone plays by the same rules.

During the meeting, Obama noted that any legislation must include a path to earned citizenship.

“The President further noted that there is no excuse for stalling or delay. The President made it clear that he will continue to lead on this issue and that he looks forward to working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other key members of Congress in a bipartisan process, as I mentioned earlier, to move this debate forward at the earliest possible opportunity,” he said.

The White House announcement comes in less than a week after Obama, in his inaugural address, vowed for a comprehensive immigration reform, which would attract the engineers from countries like India rather than being expelled from the country.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country,” Obama said in his inaugural speech.

Addressing the nation moments after being sworn in for his second term by the Chief Justice of the US, on January 21, Obama without giving the specifics, promised that immigration reform would be one of his top priorities for his second term.

While mentioning the talented engineers, the US President was apparently referring to the large number of engineers and technology graduates who are now being forced to go back to their countries either because of the long waiting period for legal permanent residency, popular as Green Card or those not getting H-1B visas.

People from India are the worst affected by the current system.

 


Next up: Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
By Shawna Thomas, White House producer, NBC News
Article here

The president is taking his second-term agenda on the road next week.

However, the topic of Tuesday’s trip is immigration and not gun control. While event details are still being sorted out, the White House has confirmed that “the president will be traveling to Nevada on Tuesday to redouble the Administration’s efforts to work with Congress to fix the broken immigration system this year.”

This comes after an unannounced meeting at the White House with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Friday morning. Members of the caucus and the White House expressed a “sense of urgency” when it came to tackling the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.

Since his re-election,President Obama has said that he would attempt to tackle the issue in his second term and the topic was given prominence by being included in his inaugural address.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,” he said Monday.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who has been an outspoken supporter of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform said after the meeting, “We all need to work together — the president and Congress, Republicans and Democrats — to get something done right away.”

In an interview late last year, House Speaker John Boehner said, “I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

But while there has been acknowledgement and even some optimism on both sides of the aisle that there needs to be some type of reform to the country’s immigration system, it is still unclear how any kind of large-scale reform would move through Congress, what the details would be, and who would spearhead it.

President Obama’s push for comprehensive immigration reform comes after his sweeping advantage with Latinos in his re-election. Obama won 71 percent of Latinos, up from 67% in 2008. They made up 10 percent of the electorate, up from 9 percent in 2008, which underperforms their population nationally — 16 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

In Nevada, those shares are even higher. Obama won 74 percent of Hispanics in Nevada, and made up 19 percent of the electorate (but are 27 percent of the overall population). They were crucial in helping Obama to a 52-46% win in the Silver State, as well as victories in Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida.


Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

 

The Miami Herald

Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

BY THOMAS WENSKI
Miamiarch.org

Now that the elections are over, perhaps a new bipartisan consensus can be forged to finally fix our broken immigration system.Both Democrats and Republicans can read the demographic tea leaves — in the last election the president’s perceived support for immigration reform gained for him wide support from both Hispanic and Asian voters. Lawmakers in both parties have made strong statements about “fixing” immigration in 2013.This is good news. Of course, any immigration reform legislation would need to address the legal status of the 11 million undocumented in our nation. But instead of providing this population a chance to earn their citizenship, some in Washington are suggesting that these immigrants should receive legal status but not an opportunity to become citizens.

They propose something like President Obama’s administrative action to grant “deferred departure” to the “Dreamers” — those who were brought here without legal status by their parents. In other words, these policy makers would extend protection from deportation and perhaps work authorization, but would not provide this population an earned path to citizenship.

An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them.

A bill introduced in the last Congress by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Hutchinson, R-Texas, modeled somewhat after the DREAM Act would not provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants. A similar proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida never put in bill form, would have done the same thing. Both proposals essentially addressed a situation that was already partially addressed by President Obama’s deferred action last year.

And like President Obama’s measure their proposal still leaves this population in limbo — with a quasi-legal status but no chance to upgrade to citizenship.

Even President Obama has given credence to the idea of legal status but not citizenship. In his first press conference after the election, he used the term “path to legal status” to describe a potential legalization program for the 11 million. It might have been a slip of the tongue, but words matter in Washington.

While perhaps better than no status, such an arrangement risks creating in our country a permanent underclass of persons who would never enjoy the rights of U.S. citizens. The lingering social costs of another era’s Jim Crow legislation show us that this is not the way to go. A path to citizenship is the best way to ensure that immigrants integrate fully into American society by allowing their civic participation and assuring them of access to full due process rights. It is, after all, the American way.

If the administration and Congress are serious about fixing our broken immigration system, they should fix it correctly, and not create more problems. A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream. Both the party of Jefferson as well as the party of Lincoln should be able to embrace that.

Thomas Wenski is Archbishop of Miami.


© 2013 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/16/v-print/3185886/path-to-citizenship-best-way-to.html#storylink=cpy

 


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