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Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

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

Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

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

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

The final vote was 68-32.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Deals for industries, immigrants tucked in Senate bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More changes are expected during the weeks of debate ahead.

Among the measures inserted in the bill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IT’S OVER: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Going To Pass

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

IT’S OVER: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Going To Pass

JOSH BARRO JUN. 11, 2013, 11:29 AM 12,555 74

 

immigration deport immigrantsAP

This Congress only acts when it absolutely has to. We got a resolution to the fiscal cliff and a debt ceiling increase because those were necessary. We won’t get tax reform or a sequestration replacement because those are optional.

This week, we learned that Republicans really do view passing comprehensive immigration reform as an imperative. I’m ready to call this: It’s going to pass.

There have been two big developments. One is that House Speaker John Boehner won’t rule out passing a bill that lacks majority support from the Republican caucus — likely the only way a bill with a path to citizenship can pass the House.

The other is that Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) announced her support for the comprehensive Senate bill. Crucially, the Huffington Post reports that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the pro-reform Gang of Eight, was actually urging Ayotte to delay announcing her support.

This is weird, but there’s a reason. Rubio and other pro-reform conservatives want changes to the bill. Roughly, these are the proposals that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is going to put forward in an amendment to spend more on border security and delay the normalization of status for unauthorized immigrants until border agents are apprehending at least 90 percent of people trying to cross the border illegally.

Democrats view this as a poison pill that will delay legalization indefinitely, and they really don’t want it in the bill. To get it, Rubio and Cornyn have to convince them that the only way to get enough Republican votes for passage is to include such a provision. They need people like Ayotte to hold out. But the forces within the GOP that favor immigration reform are too strong for that to happen.

Establishment Republican forces in Washington desperately want comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship and an increase in legal immigration. Business interests view reform as something that will grow the economy and create opportunities for investment; they may also hope that it will push wages down.

Republican operatives believe that passing immigration reform is a necessary step to improve the party’s standing with the growing Hispanic demographic.

Not only do these constituencies really want a bill, they don’t care about border security and so they don’t even view the Cornyn Amendment as a bonus. Rubio and Cornyn’s meddling with the bill is all downside.

A comprehensive bill will pass the Senate with the votes of enough Republicans to get past 60 votes. When it gets to the House, Boehner will be in an uncomfortable position: There will be enough votes for passage, but most of his caucus will vote against it, and some will be angry that he brought it up.

But that would be true even if the Senate bill were amended to Rubio and Cornyn’s liking. Most House Republicans won’t vote for any bill with a path to citizenship. And there is a key difference between not wanting to vote for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and not wanting one to pass.

For many, many House Republicans, the ideal situation is for a reform bill to pass over their objections. Business interests will get the bill they want, Democrats will be deprived of a powerful talking point with Hispanic voters, and individual house members will be able to tell conservative primary voters that they tried to “stop amnesty.” Win, win, win.

This is why Boehner isn’t as “embattled” as you often hear. He’s a useful punching bag for the conservatives in his own caucus, who know that Republicans must agree to various things that conservative primary voters hate. That’s the role he’s preparing to play again on immigration.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/its-over-comprehensive-immigration-reform-is-going-to-pass-2013-6#ixzz2W8hkLG7I


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

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

For Immediate Release

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

June 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Boehner begins to sketch immigration plan

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
By SEUNG MIN KIM and JAKE SHERMAN | 6/9/13 11:12 PM EDT

Speaker John Boehner has been stunningly silent about his plans to move immigration reform through the House.

But privately, the Ohio Republican is beginning to sketch out a road map to try to pass some version of an overhaul in his chamber — a welcome sign for proponents of immigration reform.

If his goal is met, it’ll be a busy few weeks.

The speaker wants House committees — Judiciary has primary jurisdiction — to wrap up their work on a version of immigration legislation before the July 4 recess. And he would like immigration reform to see a House vote before Congress breaks in August.

His goal is to begin moving either bite-size immigration bills or the bipartisan House immigration group’s legislation through committees before the Senate passes its bill, which could happen by the end of this month. The Senate Gang of Eight plan is on the Senate floor this week and is expected to get a vote before the July 4 recess.

It’s an ambitious plan, considering House leadership has not yet settled on what bill it will advance.

Boehner’s thinking, and the fact that Republican leadership is willing to discuss the process for immigration reform, represents a significant shift and suggests a new urgency for Republican leadership. It is a moderately good sign for the prospects of immigration reform in the House. After months of coy talk from Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), any sign of planning for legislation is a positive development for reform proponents.

The leadership’s plan is to allow the bipartisan group to release its legislation and closely monitor how it is received by House Republicans. If it’s decried as too lenient, leadership could fall back on Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) small-bore proposals, which he has been slowly considering in committee. They so far include measures governing E-Verify, and changing the high-skilled and agricultural worker visa programs.

Republican leadership prefers to move immigration reform in pieces, rather than a large bill. But that’s pure procedural calculation, since a House-passed bill would have to be meshed with any Senate bill before it is sent to the White House.

Passing an immigration overhaul will be difficult in the House. The wide gap between the two parties has been on display recently, as the bipartisan immigration working group has experienced fits and starts in releasing its legislation. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), whose presence in the group was comforting for conservatives, recently dropped out. There is a pocket of conservatives that are opposed to a new process that would legalize the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

Another question will be how the House handles the Senate’s bill, should it pass the upper chamber. A senior GOP leadership aide said they would consider putting that measure into the committee process if it passed the Senate.

Of course, there are elements in leadership who think immigration reform will never pass the House. There is too much resistance to sweeping legislation, not to mention the charged issue of immigration reform splits the party in many directions.

Immigration reform is one piece of an increasingly busy summer on Capitol Hill. This week, the House will consider the National Defense Authorization Act. In the coming weeks, there will be a lengthy debate on the House floor on government spending. And there is sure to be healthy debate around intelligence reauthorization, after it was revealed that the National Security Agency is culling massive amounts of Internet data. Congress is also facing a stare down over student loan rates — the House and Senate have to come to an agreement with the president or rates will double.

Boehner’s timeline for immigration reform, and the fact that he is discussing it, also has skeptics.

Multiple Democratic aides familiar with the emerging legislation said Sunday that Boehner’s timetable is ambitious, but is feasible. A standoff over health care for undocumented immigrants was the final roadblock for House negotiators, but that was settled when Labrador dropped out of the negotiations over the dispute.

“Without any outstanding issues to resolve, our bill is nearly ready,” one Democratic aide familiar with the House discussions said Sunday.

That aide said the group — now down to seven members after Labrador’s exit — was still planning on releasing a single bill. Democrats and some Republicans have strongly advocated for a comprehensive approach because they say the components of immigration reform are too interconnected.

Meanwhile, the immigration bill moving through the Senate got a significant boost from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who announced on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and with a lengthy statement on her website that she was supporting the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

Ayotte was long considered one of the likeliest Republican votes for the Gang of Eight, and the former state attorney general is a frequent ally of Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona — two members of the Senate group.

In her statement Sunday, Ayotte said she wants amendments that would tighten border-security measures, which will be crucial in luring more Republican votes. She also defended the 13-year pathway to citizenship that has become a flash point for some conservatives, calling its requirements “strict” and “tough but fair.”

“We need to stop the flow of illegal immigrants,” Ayotte said in her statement. “And we need to bring undocumented people out of the shadows to separate those seeking economic opportunity from those seeking to harm us [who must be deported].”

Ayotte joins the four Republican senators in the Gang of Eight — McCain, Graham, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona — in supporting the bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) backed the bill in committee but is insisting on more changes to provisions involving taxes and benefits before the legislation earns his support on the floor.

Other leaders are eager to move comprehensive immigration reform along. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in May that she wanted Congress to pass an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws by August.

And in his weekly address on Saturday, President Barack Obama said there is “no reason” preventing lawmakers from sending him a bill by the end of this summer.

“We know the opponents of reform are going to do everything they can to prevent that,” Obama said in his address. “And if they succeed, we will lose this chance to finally fix an immigration system that is badly broken.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/john-boehner-immigration-plan-92471.html


New Americans in Texas

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Lone Star State (Updated May 2013)

Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of the economy and electorate in Texas. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up roughly 1 in 6 Texans, and one-third of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for more than 1 in 10 registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for billions of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $265 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $102.1 billion and employed more than 600,000 people at last count. At a time when the economy is still recovering, Texas can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.

Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Texas’s population and electorate.

  • The foreign-born share of Texas’s population rose from 9.0% in 1990, to 13.9% in 2000, to 16.4% in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Texas was home to 4,201,675 immigrants in 2011, which is more than the total population of Los Angeles, California.
  • 33.2% of immigrants (or 1,393,937 people) in Texas were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011[vi]—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 6.7% of the state’s population (or 1.7 million people) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • 11.8% (or 1,194,544) of registered voters in Texas were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2008 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.

More than 1 in 4 Texans are Latino or Asian—and they vote.

  • The Latino share of Texas’s population grew from 25.5% in 1990, to 32.0% in 2000, to 38.1% (or 9,791,628 people) in 2011.  The Asian share of the population grew from 1.8% in 1990, to 2.7% in 2000, to 3.9% (or 999,118 people) in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Latinos accounted for 20.1% (or 1,697,000) of Texas voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 1.4% (118,000), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • In Texas, 87.7% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
  • In 200986.2% of children in Asian families in Texas were U.S. citizens, as were 93.2% of children in Latino families.

Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs to Texas’s economy.

  • The 2012 purchasing power of Latinos in Texas totaled $216.2 billion—an increase of 560% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $48.8 billion—an increase of 969% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Texas’s 447,589 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $61.9 billion and employed 395,673 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available.  The state’s 114,297 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $40.2 billion and employed 206,545 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrants are integral to Texas’s economy as workers and taxpayers.

  • Immigrants comprised 21% of the state’s workforce in 2011 (or 2,645,538 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Immigrants accounted for 21% of total economic output in the Houston metropolitan area and 16% of economic output in the Dallas metropolitan area as of 2007, according to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute.
  • Unauthorized immigrants in Texas paid $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, which includes:
    • $177.8 million in property taxes.
    • $1.4 billion in sales taxes.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised 9% of the state’s workforce (or 1,100,000 workers) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Texas, the state would lose $69.3 billion in economic activity, $30.8 billion in gross state product, and approximately 403,174 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Immigrants are integral to Texas’s economy as students.

Naturalized citizens excel educationally.

  • In Texas, 28.9% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 15.2% of noncitizens. At the same time, only 29.3% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 53.7% of noncitizens.
  • The number of immigrants in Texas with a college degree increased by 91.5% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
  • In Texas, 75.2% of children with immigrant parents were considered “English proficient” as of 2009, to data from the Urban Institute.
  • The English proficiency rate among Asian children in Texas was 85.7%, while for Latino children it was 80.7%, as of 2009.

 

Published On: Fri, Jan 11, 2013

http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/new-americans-texas


How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Fare in the New Immigration Bill

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

How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Fare in the New Immigration Bill

shutterstock_64313536With the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote last week to pass S.744 on to the Senate floor, a new proposal for spurring immigrant entrepreneurship and innovation will be before Congress. Title IV, Subtitle H of the bill creates the INVEST visa (Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies) for immigrant entrepreneurs. This new visa program would allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States, start businesses, and create jobs in America. There would be two types of INVEST visas. A nonimmigrant INVEST visa would be renewable provided certain initial investment, annual revenue, and job creation criteria are met within an initial three-year period. The immigrant version of the INVEST visa would have basically the same criteria just at higher thresholds. The committee also adopted an amendment that permanently authorizes the EB-5 Regional Center Program, which has created tens of thousands of American jobs and attracted over $1 billion in investments since 2006.

 

While there is always room for improvement of proposed immigrant pathways, the INVEST visa represents progress for immigration and entrepreneurship.

While we’ve heard little about the proposed entrepreneur visa programs amid the broader comprehensive immigration reform conversation, they are important to include due to the substantial contributions immigrant entrepreneurs make to the United States. Immigrant entrepreneurs have founded some of the most successful large businesses in the United States. And immigrant small business owners operate establishments in local communities from coast to coast and throughout America’s heartland. 

The contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs and small business owners are clear. For example, the Fiscal Policy Institute reports that immigrant-owned small businesses employed 4.7 million people in 2007 and generated an estimated $776 billion in receipts. Immigrants make up 37 percent of restaurant owners and 43 percent of hotel and motel owners in communities across America. Furthermore, a report for the Partnership for a New American Economy shows that immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses in 2011 but only accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population, and the rate at which immigrants started new businesses grew by more than 50 percent from 1996 to 2011.

Amid the wealth of evidence on the positive benefits immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the United States, local places are beginning to take note and highlight these contributions. Cities across the Rust Belt and Midwest, for instance, are implementing various “welcoming” initiatives aimed at integrating immigrants and immigrant businesses into their communities. As these communities experience demographic change and native-born population decline, they’re seeking ways in which to attract immigrants to settle, start businesses, create jobs, and spur economic growth. Examples of such initiatives include Global DetroitWelcome DaytonGlobal ClevelandWelcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, and the Chicago Office of New Americans, among others. As these programs recognize, immigrant business owners often play a critical role in helping revitalize local communities that may otherwise have succumbed to blight and decay. Ultimately, places of welcome are places that thrive. Welcoming initiatives throughout the country – from small towns to large metropolitan areas – are poised to encourage an environment where immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs can help reinvigorate aging populations, renew communities, and revitalize local economies.

While there is always room for improvement of proposed immigrant pathways, the INVEST visa represents progress for immigration and entrepreneurship. And while immigrant business owners may come through all immigrant channels, a visa program that effectively encourages and facilitates more entrepreneurship and job creation is economically beneficial.

http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/05/28/how-immigrant-entrepreneurs-fare-in-the-new-immigration-bill/


Will Immigration Reform Correct the Immigration System’s Gender Bias?

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

Will Immigration Reform Correct the Immigration System’s Gender Bias?

shutterstock_29804098Within the current immigration system, many women confront systematic barriers when trying to gain legal status. This is one of the main conclusions drawn from a study conducted by social scientists Cecilia Menjivar and Olivia Salcido. Based on a 10-year-long research project on immigrant women in Arizona, the authors identify specific instances in which gender inequality is ingrained in the formulation, interpretation, and implementation of immigration laws.

 

Because of gender biased structural barriers, women who apply for permanent residence tend to rely on male relatives to petition for them in the legalization process.

According to the study, immigration law presumes and reinforces women’s status of dependency, hindering women’s legal incorporation in the host society. For example, for women, employment-based visas are very difficult to obtain. This is true even for many women who “support their families as heads of households by literally working day and night.” In part, this relates to the types of occupations that the law encodes as high-demand jobs. These occupations tend to be elusive for women, and the types of work typically performed by immigrant women are not adequately recognized in the current system. As a result, women who apply for permanent residence tend to rely on male relatives to petition for them in the legalization process. Because of additional structural barriers—such as access to education and skill acquisition in their countries of origin—women have fewer opportunities than men to apply as principal visa holders. 

Other problems identified by the study relate to the specific obstacles that women encounter when they seek protection through the Violence Against Women Act or petition for asylum. These hurdles range from burdensome and difficult-to-obtain paperwork (e.g. proof of abuse) to more structural issues concerning how “well-founded fear” of persecution is defined. In particular, the authors underscore that the standard interpretation of immigration and refugee law is based on male experiences and, therefore, does not adequately recognize the risks that women are exposed to in their home countries.

Moreover, the obstacles for women’s legal integration do not end with the petitioning phase. Even after a woman successfully begins the legalization process, it is sometimes difficult for her to secure employment outside the home because work authorizations often take a long time to be issued.

Reforms in immigration law that are currently being debated offer an opportune moment to address these issues. In particular, the recently introduced “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act’’has raised concerns regarding the potential gender bias in some provisions.  For example, evidentiary requirements for different steps in the legalization process (e.g., continuous employment or proof of work requirements) may put women who work at home at a disadvantage. Similarly, the merit-based point system may not offer realistic avenues for immigration for caregivers or women from countries with few opportunities for human-capital acquisition. As the bill continues to be debated, these issues cannot be overlooked if achieving greater gender equality is a goal.

http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/05/29/will-immigration-reform-correct-the-immigration-systems-gender-bias/


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