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

 


Obama Will Seek Citizenship Path in One Fast Push

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

By 

Published: January 12, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to push Congress to move quickly in the coming months on an ambitious overhaul of the immigration system that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, senior administration officials and lawmakers said last week.

Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats will propose the changes in one comprehensive bill, the officials said, resisting efforts by some Republicans to break the overhaul into smaller pieces — separately addressing young illegal immigrants, migrant farmworkers or highly skilled foreigners — which might be easier for reluctant members of their party to accept.

The president and Democrats will also oppose measures that do not allow immigrants who gain legal status to become American citizens one day, the officials said.

Even while Mr. Obama has been focused on fiscal negotiations and gun control, overhauling immigration remains a priority for him this year, White House officials said. Top officials there have been quietly working on a broad proposal. Mr. Obama and lawmakers from both parties believe that the early months of his second term offer the best prospects for passing substantial legislation on the issue.

Mr. Obama is expected to lay out his plan in the coming weeks, perhaps in his State of the Union address early next month, administration officials said. The White House will argue that its solution for illegal immigrants is not an amnesty, as many critics insist, because it would include fines, the payment of back taxes and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status, the officials said.

The president’s plan would also impose nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers; add visas to relieve backlogs and allow highly skilled immigrants to stay; and create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.

A bipartisan group of senators has also been meeting to write a comprehensive bill, with the goal of introducing legislation as early as March and holding a vote in the Senate before August. As a sign of the keen interest in starting action on immigration, White House officials and Democratic leaders in the Senate have been negotiating over which of them will first introduce a bill, Senate aides said.

“This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democrat who is a leader of the bipartisan discussions.

A similar attempt at bipartisan legislation early in Mr. Obama’s first term collapsed amid political divisions fueled by surging public wrath over illegal immigration in many states. But both supporters and opponents say conditions are significantly different now.

Memories of the results of the November election are still fresh here. Latinos, the nation’s fastest-growing electorate, turned out in record numbers and cast 71 percent of their ballots for Mr. Obama. Many Latinos said they were put off by Republicans’ harsh language and policies against illegal immigrants.

After the election, a host of Republicans, starting with Speaker John A. Boehner, said it was time for the party to find a more positive, practical approach to immigration. Many party leaders say electoral demographics are compelling them to move beyond policies based only on tough enforcement.

Supporters of comprehensive changes say that the elections were nothing less than a mandate in their favor, and that they are still optimistic that Mr. Obama is prepared to lead the fight.

“Republicans must demonstrate a reasoned approach to start to rebuild their relationship with Latino voters,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the director of immigration policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Latino organization. “Democrats must demonstrate they can deliver on a promise.”

Since the election, Mr. Obama has repeatedly pledged to act on immigration this year. In his weekly radio address on Saturday, he again referred to the urgency of fixing the immigration system, saying it was one of the “difficult missions” the country must take on.

Parallel to the White House effort, Mr. Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, have been meeting with a group of at least four other colleagues to write a bill. Republicans who have participated include John McCain of Arizona, who has supported comprehensive legislation in the past; Jeff Flake, also of Arizona, who is newly elected to the Senate; and Mike Lee of Utah. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida participated in one meeting last month.

Democrats in the meetings include Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat; Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Basic tenets for the bill, Mr. Schumer said, were that it would be comprehensive and would offer eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants who follow a prolonged process to correct their status.

“This is a bottom line,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview on Thursday. “The Democrats have made it clear we will not accept a bill without a direct path to earned citizenship.” He said senators from both parties had been “pleasantly surprised” at how rapidly the talks had proceeded.

Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American who has emerged as a star in his party, is making immigration one of his primary issues. He has advocated taking changes in pieces, arguing that lawmakers will get better results if the politically and practically tangled problems of the immigration system are handled separately.

Mr. Rubio has been preparing a bill that would provide legal status specifically for young illegal immigrants, known as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children.

Mr. Rubio said Thursday that the piecemeal approach was “not a line in the sand” for him. But he said he would insist that any legalization measure should not be unfair to immigrants who played by the rules and applied to become residents through legal channels.

His proposals would allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary status so that they could remain in the country and work. Then they would be sent to the back of the line in the existing system to apply to become permanent residents, without any special path to citizenship.

Mr. Rubio said he hoped to rally Republicans to support changes. Speaking of Latinos, he said, “We are going to have a struggle speaking to a whole segment of the population about our principles of limited government and free enterprise if they think we don’t want them here.”

In the Republican-controlled House, the future of a comprehensive bill remains unclear.

Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican who follows immigration issues, said he remained opposed to “amnesty of any kind.”

He said that the Obama administration had been lax on enforcement, and that he would “continue working to secure our borders and enforce existing immigration law.”

But groups backing the overhaul say they are bigger and better organized than in the past. Last month, the labor movement, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and other sometimes-warring factions, affirmed a common strategy. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it would work with labor, Latino and church organizations to pass the overhaul this year.


Obama and Rubio Immigration Plans: What’s the Difference?

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

By TED HESSON (@tedhesson)
Article
Jan. 14, 2013
Broad outlines describing how immigration reform could look in 2013 emerged this weekend. Officials from the White House spoke to The New York Times about possible tenets of reform while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) elaborated on his vision in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

What’s the difference between the Obama and Rubio plans? Here are some bullet points to get you up to speed:

What Obama Wants

Type of bill: Comprehensive. That will mean lots of immigration policy changes packaged into one piece of legislation, like the 2010 healthcare bill.

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants: The White House has said that it will reject any bill that doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people in the country without papers. The path to citizenship would be earned, meaning immigrants would need to pay back taxes along with “other hurdles,” according to The New York Times. The White House’s 2011 blueprint for reform says those other hurdles could involve criminal background checks, learning English and paying a processing fee.

Timeframe for citizenship: The most recent article by the Times didn’t cover this, but Obama’s 2011 blueprint shows a pathway that would take eight years to reach a green card and five additional years to earn citizenship.

Workplace enforcement: The president wants a national system to check the legal status of all workers. One such system, E-Verify, is already in place. Less than 10 percent of U.S. businesses use E-Verify but firms have increasingly begun to use the program in recent years. E-Verify has drawn criticism from immigrant rights and business groups for being unreliable and forcing employees further into the shadows.

Immigration backlogs: Getting a visa from certain countries, like the Philippines and Mexico, can take decades, and leaders in sectors like farming, technology and healthcare say they need more immigrant workers. The president plans to add more visas to reduce the overall wait time to obtain one, according to The New York Times, but hasn’t been specific about what he would do.

Guest worker program: One of the main reasons for illegal immigration is that there are no legal pathways that allow low-wage workers to come to the U.S. The president would like to create a guest-worker program to provide a way for those workers to enter the country legally.

What Rubio Wants

Type of bill: Piecemeal. Rubio told the Wall Street Journal that it would be better to have four or five separate immigration bills than one large legislative package. He cited the healthcare bill as an example of a big bill where bad policies got lost amid hundreds of pages. But on the piecemeal approach, he said, “it’s not a line in the sand for me.”

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented: Rubio supports legal status for the undocumented, but he hasn’t endorsed a special pathway to citizenship. The Journal calls his version of legal status “a form of temporary limbo.” According to Rubio, immigrants should earn legal status through a process similar to Obama’s approach to citizenship by paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check. After that, they could apply for a green card and potentially pursue citizenship.

Timeframe for citizenship: Rubio wouldn’t say how many years undocumented immigrants should have to wait for a green card, but he said it “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way.” He added that the wait shouldn’t be “indefinite,” either.

Pathway for DREAMers: Rubio said he favors a faster pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications. Earlier this year, Rubio was developing an alternative to the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer citizenship to undocumented youth who attend college or serve in the military. Rubio’s alternative would have granted DREAMers legal status but not citizenship. The senator’s efforts became moot, however, when President Obama circumvented Congress and used his executive power this June to allow qualifying DREAMers to stay in the country and work legally.

Workplace enforcement: Workplace enforcement appears to be a point of common ground in both early outlines for reform. Like the White House, Rubio believes there should be a national system to verify that workers are here legally, whether that system be E-Verify or something else.

Immigration backlogs: Compared with the reports coming out of the White House, Rubio has put forward a more detailed explanation of how he would change the visa system. His main goal is to increase the number of visas for highly-skilled workers. There are two ways that can happen: either changing the distribution of visas — to have more for skilled workers and less for family members — or by upping the number of skilled-worker visas. Rubio said he prefers the second approach. “I don’t think there’s a lot of concern in this country that we’ll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs,” Rubio told the Wall Street Journal.

Guest-worker program: Rubio also supports a guest-worker program, and he spoke to the Journal about how such a program would be particularly beneficial to farmers and farm workers. “The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well,” he said. “When someone is [undocumented] they’re vulnerable to being exploited.”

It’s important to keep in mind that these are just the early outlines of reform. The White House, for instance, hasn’t officially announced its plans (although reform could surface during the State of the Union address).

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen dubbed the “Gang of Eight” are working on their own bill. The group, led by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), haven’t gone public with what will be included in their legislation beyond the core commitment to an earned pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Sen. Schumer assured The New York Times that despite other legislative pushes, immigration is still a top priority: “This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way.”


Six Things You Need to Know about Stateside Processing of I-601A Waivers

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601A Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Author: Laura Lichter on 01/04/2013

 

Starting March 4, 2013, certain relatives of American citizens who are in the country illegally and need a waiver of unlawful presence before being eligible for a green card can get a decision on their casebefore leaving the United States.

For those who can take advantage of the new rule, this means peace of mind, knowing that their loved one is likely to successfully complete the immigration process and not be stranded in a foreign country for an unknown length of time.  For some, however, the new rule will do nothing to resolve their immigration issues.

1.      What is the new rule and how can it help my family?

Under current law, many immigrants who enter the country illegally or overstay their visas cannot apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) in the U.S., and instead must finish the immigration process abroad.  Unfortunately, just leaving the country—even to pick up a visa sponsored by a family member—automatically makes the intending immigrant subject to a penalty for their “unlawful presence,” potentially separating them from their family for up to ten years.

For some, but not all, the penalty can be waived.  Before this new rule, immigrants could be stranded outside the country for weeks, months or even years while waiting for a decision on whether they could return to their life in the United States. And all that time, the immigrant was stuck abroad, usually with no legal way to return.  Many families endured the emotional strain, financial hardship and dangerous conditions. Others simply were unwilling to take the risk.

The new rule means that many immigrants will leave the United States, knowing in advance that their case will probably be approved, and they could be back with their families—as a legal resident—in a matter of days.

2.      Who can apply under the new rule?

Only applicants who are an immediate relative of a US citizen (spouses, parents and certain children) can apply at this time, though the rule may later be expanded to other relatives.

The applicant must be physically present in the United States, and not already have a scheduled interview at a U.S. consulate abroad.  Also, the provisional waiver is only available if the sole issue holding up a case is unlawful presence.  Applicants who have criminal issues or other immigration violations cannot use the provisional procedure.

Individuals who are in immigration court or who have an order of removal or voluntary departure may not qualify unless they get special permission from the government and a court order resolving their case.

To be successful, applicants must show that denying the case would be an extreme hardship to their qualifying relative(s); the impact on the immigrant doesn’t count.  Hardship factors can include family separation, economic hardship, medical issues, country conditions abroad, and any other difficulty or harm faced by the qualifying relative(s), if the waiver isn’t granted.

3.      What does it mean that the waiver is “provisional?”

Even if a waiver is granted, the approval is “provisional.”  As a practical matter, this means that the government has reviewed the case and believes that the waiver should be granted, but there is no guarantee that a case will be successful if facts change or new information comes to light.  For example, if an applicant had previous immigration violations or criminal history, the provisional waiver will be revoked.

If any new issues arise, and the applicant is still eligible for a waiver, he or she will be able to re-apply using the existing process, but will have to wait abroad for a decision on their case.

4.      When can I apply?

The new rule goes into effect on March 4, 2013, and no filings will be accepted before that date. You can only apply for a provisional waiver after an immigrant petition has been approved.  If you haven’t filed yet or you’re still waiting for a decision on a pending petition, you can’t apply for the provisional waiver—yet.

5.      What else do I need to know about provisional waivers?

A provisional waiver is not a legal status, and even an approved waiver doesn’t provide work authorization, a social security number or a driver’s license. Having a provisional waiver will not protect you from deportation or any other consequences of being in the country illegally.

If an application for a provisional waiver is denied, there is no appeal.  If you have more or better evidence to prove your case, you can re-file, with a new filing fee. Remember, not everyone can be sponsored or qualify for a waiver, and just as importantly, not everyoneneeds a waiver.

6.      Do I need to work with an attorney?

The immigration process can take months, even years, and government filing fees and other expenses are significant—it’s best to know your options before investing time and money.  A thorough legal consultation should look at all aspects of your immigration history to find the best solution for your family, not just evaluate eligibility for a provisional waiver.

Always work with a licensed immigration attorney.  Never trust legal advice from an unregulated consultant or notario. Consider consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer before starting the process to make sure that you qualify, and that stateside waiver processing is the best solution for your immigration case.

Additional Resources

Always turn to reputable sources for immigration advice and information about new developments. Finding an AILA lawyer is a good place to start. Members listed on www.ailalawyer.com meet legal education and malpractice insurance requirements, and have been AILA members for at least two years.

AILA Immigration Lawyer Referral Service

AILA Resources for Stateside Waivers

USCIS Resources on Provisional Waivers

Consumer Protection for Victims of Immigration or Notario Fraud

Written by Laura Lichter, AILA President


TOP 12 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PROVISIONAL WAIVER RULE – I-601A WAIVER

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, I-601A Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration or Notario Fraud, Immigration Trends, Processing of Applications and Petitions 1 Comment

By Ruby L. Powers – Provisional Waiver Attorney – January 4, 2013

  1. Final rule published January 3, 2013 and USCIS will start accepting I-601A waiver (provisional waivers) on March 4, 2013
  2. Only applies if the applicant’s qualifying relative is a US citizen spouse or parent.
  3. Only applied if the applicant’s ground of inadmissibility will be unlawful presence.
  4. Applicants still have to leave the US to follow through with the consular processing and waiver. Please note: this rule doesn’t keep the applicant from leaving and triggering a bar but it does diminish the time abroad.
  5. As per the form and instructions, applicants can apply for the provisional waiver more than once.
  6. If an applicant is at the National Visa Center stage, they must notify NVC of plans to apply for the provisional waiver rule.  One must notify the NVC as soon as the fee bills have been paid, by emailing NVCi601a@state.gov.
  7. If an applicant has had a visa interview scheduled, to be able to still submit a provisional waiver a new visa petition ( a new I-130) must be filed and one must ask the Consulate to cancel the registration of the previous immigrant visa case.
  8. If an applicant is in removal proceedings,  has their case administratively closed, has no calendared hearing in the future,  AND otherwise qualify, an applicant can submit a provisional waiver
  9. Only USCIS can adjudicate the I-601A waiver (not immigration court)
  10. An applicant should only file a provisional waiver if they don’t have any criminal history that would make them inadmissible. Therefore, one must consult with an immigration attorney if the applicant has any criminal history and wants to pursue this.
  11. After the I-601A waiver is approved, it is expected that the visa appointment in the applicant’s home country will be 2-3 months afterwards.
  12. If the Consulate at the visa appointment determines the applicant has other grounds of inadmissibility, an approved provisional waiver is automatically revoked.

 

The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers is located in Houston, Texas helping clients around the US and world with their US Federal Immigration needs.
Please beware of ‘notarios’ unlawfully practicing law as it is illegal and they often do not suffer the consequences of their actions as much as the applicants do who use them. The author sees this time and time again via her legal consultations with clients who have cases made more difficult to solve by notario actions.Immigration attorneys and immigrants are grateful for this opportunity by DHS!

——-

LAS 12 COSAS MAS IMPORTANTES QUE DEBE SABER SOBRE LA REGLA DE PERDON PROVISIONAL – PERDON 1-601A

  1. La norma final fue publicada el 3 de Enero del 2013 y el USCIS comenzara a aceptar el perdón I-610A (perdón provisional) el 4 de Marzo del 2013. 
  2. Este perdón solo aplica si el pariente calificado (madre, padre o esposo(a)) es ciudadano(a) American(a).
  3. Este perdón solo aplica si el motivo de inadmisibilidad del cliente es la presencia ilegal.
  4. Los solicitantes deben salir de los EE.UU. para seguir adelante con el proceso consular y perdón. Nota: esta regla no impide que al quitar el país se active el “bar” por haber residido en este ilegalmente pero si disminuye el tiempo que el solicitante debe estar en el extranjero.
  5. De acuerdo con el formulario y sus instrucciones, los aspirantes pueden solicitar el perdón provisional más de una vez.
  6. Si el solicitante se encuentra en la fase de Centro Nacional de Visas, este debe notificar al CNV sobre sus planes de aplicar al perdón provisional. Se debe notificar al CNV tan pronto como las cuotas hayan sido pagadas, por correo electrónico a NVCi610@state.gov.
  7. Si el solicitante ya tiene una entrevista programada, este deberá presentar una nueva solicitud de visa (una I-130 nueva) para poder solicitar el perdón provisional, así como pedir al Consulado cancelar cualquier petición de visa previa.
  8. Si el solicitante se encuentra en proceso de deportación, tiene un caso admirativamente cerrado, no tiene una audiencia programada en el futuro, y califica de otra manera, este puede aplicar a un perdón provisional.
  9. Solo USCIS puede adjudicar el perdón I-601A (no la corte de inmigración).
  10. El solicitante debe presentar una exención provisional solamente si no tiene antecedentes penales que lo harían de otra forma inadmisible. Por lo tanto, se debe consultar con un abogado de inmigración si el solicitante tiene antecedentes penales y quiere continuar con el proceso.
  11. Una vez que el perdón I.601A sea aprobado, se espera que la cita para la visa sea programada para 2 o 3 meses después en el país de origen del solicitante.
  12. Si el Consulado, en la cita para la visa, determina que existen otros motivos para la inadmisibilidad del solicitante, el perdón provisional aprobado es automáticamente revocado.

 Escrito por Ruby L. Powers, Abogada de I-601A/ Perdón Provisional

Oficina Jurídica de  Ruby L. Powers

Houston, Texas ayudando a clientes alrededor de los EE.UU. y el mundo con sus necesidades Migratorias Federales en los Estados Unidos.

 

 


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