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.
By TED HESSON (@tedhesson)
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.”
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.
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.
Written by Laura Lichter, AILA President
By Ruby L. Powers – Provisional Waiver Attorney – January 4, 2013
LAS 12 COSAS MAS IMPORTANTES QUE DEBE SABER SOBRE LA REGLA DE PERDON PROVISIONAL – PERDON 1-601A
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.
The Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver has officially been approved and we expect it to be in motion no later than March 4, 2013. The public comment period on the regulation ended on June 1, 2012 and the final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 3, 2013. The Provisional Waiver Rule was announced by the Department of Homeland Security.
The waiver serves to substantially reduce the period of time that immigrants, who either entered without inspection or overstayed their visas, will have to spend apart from their families after applying for immigrant visas and a waiver of inadmissibility to the United States for unlawful presence. Prior to the most recent rule, the majority of immigrants who had been deemed ineligible for admissibility into the United States were required to return to their country of origin where they could possibly remain for months or even years while waiting for the approval of a waiver of inadmissibility, causing severe distress to family members left in the United States.
Now, via the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, immigrants who are inadmissible due to unlawful presence in the United States may remain in the United States while their request for a waiver of inadmissibility is being processed. According to USCIS regulation, “the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent.” Immigrants will not be required to return to their country of origin until, either their waiver has been approved, in which case they will need to return in order to attend their consular interview and obtain their visa, or that waiver is denied. Presently, immigrants deemed inadmissible for any reasons other than unlawful presence [fraud, criminal activity, etc…] are ineligible for the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver.
Further details on the process change can be found on the regulations website.
Ruby L. Powers
Immigration Attorney with a focus on I-601 and I-601A waivers
Law Office of Ruby L. Powers
Ley de Inmigración: Regla de Perdón Provisional efectiva a partir del 4 de Marzo del 2003
El Perdón Provisional por presencia ilegal ha sido oficialmente aprobado y se espera tome efecto a más tardar el 4 de Marzo del 2013. El periodo de comentarios públicos sobre esta norma terminó el 1ro de Junio del 2012 y la norma definitiva fue publicada en el Registro Federal el 3 de Enero del 2013. La Regla de Perdón Provisional fue anunciada por el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional.
El perdón sirve para reducir substancialmente el periodo de tiempo que un inmigrante que o bien ingreso al país sin inspección o permaneció en este con una visa expirada, debe permanecer lejos de su familia después de haber solicitado una visa de inmigrante y un perdón de inadmisibilidad en los Estados Unidos por presencia ilegal. Con anterioridad a la norma más reciente, la mayoría de los inmigrantes que habían sido considerados no elegibles para admisibilidad en los Estados Unidos estaban obligados a regresar a su país de origen, donde podrían permanecer durante meses o incluso años a la espera de la aprobación de un perdón de inadmisibilidad, causando grave sufrimiento a los miembros de la familia que permanecían en los Estados Unidos.
Ahora a través del Perdón Provisional por Presencia Ilegal, los inmigrantes inadmisibles por presencia ilegal a los Estados Unidos pueden permanecer en el país mientras su solicitud de perdón es procesada. De acuerdo con las reglas del USCIS, “el solicitante debe ser un familiar directo de un inadmisible en los Estados Unidos solo por causa de presencia ilegal y debe demostrar que la denegación del perdón resultaría en graves dificultades para su conyugué o padre ciudadano(a) de los Estados Unidos”.
Los inmigrantes no serán obligados a regresar a su país de origen hasta que, o bien sus perdones hayan sido aprobados, en cuyo caso deberán regresar para asistir a su entrevista consular y obtener su visa, o su perdón sea negado. En la actualidad, los inmigrantes considerados inadmisibles por cualquier otra razón que la presencia ilegal (fraude, actividad ilegal, etc…) no son ilegibles para un Perdón Provisional de Presencial Ilegal.
Para más detalles sobre el proceso de cambio favor de visitar el sitio web de regulaciones.
Ruby L. Powers
Abogada de Inmigración especialista en perdones I-601 y I-601A.
Oficina Jurídica de Ruby L. Powers
After a year of waiting all of 2012, we have it folks! The provisional unlawful presence waiver is being published today, January 3, 2013 and will become effective on March 4, 2013 (60 days later).
For more info
For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced the posting of a final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children and parents), who are in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances. The final rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. The process will be effective on March 4, 2013 and more information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks at http://www.uscis.gov/.
“This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa,” said Secretary Napolitano.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 4,000 comments in response to the April 2, 2012 proposed rule and considered all of them in preparing the final rule.
“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves,” USCIS Director Mayorkas said. “The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.”
Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the U.S. and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa. Under the existing waiver process, which remains available to those who do not qualify for the new process, immediate relatives cannot file a waiver application until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad and the Department of State has determined that they are inadmissible.
In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process.
Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives must still depart the United States for the consular immigrant visa process; however, they can apply for a provisional waiver before they depart for their immigrant visa interview abroad. Individuals who file the Form I-601A must notify the Department of State’s National Visa Center that they are or will be seeking a provisional waiver from USCIS. The new process will reduce the amount of time U.S. citizen are separated from their qualifying immediate relatives. Details on the process changes are available at http://www.regulations.gov/.
For more information, visit www.uscis.gov.
November 24, 2012 Economist
WHEN Congress last wrestled with immigration reform, in 2007, John Boehner, then the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, denounced the bill under consideration as “a piece of shit”. George W. Bush, the president of the day, supported it, but many Republicans opposed it, mainly because it granted an amnesty of sorts to some of America’s 12m or so illegal immigrants. Over the next five years immigration reform languished in Congress, a victim of Democratic distraction and Republican opposition. Yet earlier this month Mr Boehner, now speaker of the House, declared himself “confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”
Barack Obama also seems optimistic. He recently said he expected a bill on the subject, including a mechanism to normalise the status of illegal immigrants, along with tougher penalties for hiring them and even-tighter border security, to be taken up in Congress early in the new year. Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer, respectively a Republican senator and a Democratic one, have resumed talks on a bill they abandoned two years ago. Several conservative pundits who had been implacably opposed to anything that smacked of lenience towards illegal immigrants are suddenly declaring themselves untroubled by the idea. This week two prominent Republican strategists set up an outfit called Republicans for Immigration Reform.
The impetus for all this activity was the drubbing Hispanic voters have just given to Republican candidates with a hard line on immigration. Hispanics made up 10% of the electorate this year, up from 9% in 2008. They are almost certain to account for an ever bigger slice of voters at each successive election for decades to come. Mitt Romney, who had suggested making life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they would “self-deport”, mustered only 27% of Hispanic votes. Meanwhile Mr Obama, who had lifted the threat of deportation and offered work permits to certain young immigrants brought to America as children, won 71%.
Mr Romney was hardly the only offender. Republican legislatures and governors around the country championed harsh local laws in an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly obstructed the DREAM Act, a formal version of Mr Obama’s reprieve for young illegals. During the primaries the Republican presidential candidates competed to sound toughest on illegal immigrants. “We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration,” Mr Graham said this week. Janet Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic pressure group, agrees: “If Republicans care about getting into the White House again, they’re going to have to engage with the Hispanic electorate.”
Not all Republicans are convinced. Steve King, an obstreperous congressman from Iowa, plans a lawsuit to try to get the president’s initiative on young illegals rescinded. Many Republicans doubt that they would win over many Hispanics even if they changed their stripes on immigration. Ronald Reagan, for example, signed an amnesty in 1986 but the Republican candidate at the next election, George Bush senior, still got just 30% of the Hispanic vote. Indeed, if reforms include granting citizenship for illegals, Republicans risk creating more Democrats, while alienating white working-class supporters who worry that outsiders are taking their jobs. Abandoning the party’s stance on immigration in the hope of winning over some Hispanics “is like jumping off a cliff to see if someone catches you”, says Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates reduced immigration and opposes an amnesty.
Angie Kelley of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank, acknowledges that it will be hard to find many Republican votes for any deal that involves an amnesty. Most Republican representatives, in particular, occupy safe seats, and thus serve at the pleasure of Republican primary voters, whose views on the subject are much more rigid than those of the electorate as a whole. But Ms Murguía argues that enough Republican votes can be picked off to form a majority coalition along with the bulk of Democrats. There are strong economic arguments to be made in favour of reform, she points out, and the business lobby is keen. Some other typically Republican constituencies are also coming round, including law-enforcement groups and some evangelical Christians. And even if immigration reform does not make it through the incoming Congress, Ms Murguía insists, the fact that it has returned to the agenda so quickly and with support from such unexpected quarters is a clear sign of things to come.
By Cameron Joseph – 11/13/12 08:25 PM ET
Three key Senate Republican players on immigration returned to a lame-duck session of Congress on Tuesday offering optimism that a deal on immigration could be made next year.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he believes it’s “very likely” the Senate will come up with a comprehensive immigration bill that could include enforcement and a way of dealing with illegal immigrants in the country.
A pathway to residency or citizenship for those illegal immigrants was the major stumbling block to immigration reform efforts in the last decade.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said “everything ought to be on the table” in the immigration talks, while McCain said there’s a “sense of urgency” in the GOP to deal with the issue.
Sen. Marco Rubio said he was “hopeful” lawmakers would be able to work on something, but added his position remains that Congress should take action on strengthening border security first.
“As I’ve said, in my opinion, the first steps in all of this is to win the confidence of the American people by modernizing the legal immigration issue and by improving enforcements of the existing law,” he said. “And then, obviously, we’re going to have to deal with 11 million people who are here in undocumented status.
“I think it’ll be a lot easier to figure that out if we do those other steps first. But like I said, there are going to be a lot of opinions on this.”
Republican soul searching on immigration has stepped up after President Obama’s victory in last week’s presidential election. Obama soundly defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters.
In the wake of the election, conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity and pundit Charles Krauthhammer have both urged Republicans to work on an immigration plan that would include a pathway to residence for those in the country illegally.
“There’s a sense of urgency in the Republican Party for obvious reasons, and I’m sure that everybody’s ready to deal. But the specifics? Too early,” McCain said Tuesday when asked about a comprehensive bill that included a pathway to citizenship.
“There are a lot of very important legal considerations that have to be made, but I’ve always been empathetic towards resolving this problem one way or the other,” said Hatch.
McCain had abandoned his support for a comprehensive bill during a 2010 primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.).
But on Tuesday, he sounded more like the McCain who championed a comprehensive immigration reform plan backed by President George W. Bush.
“Oh, I think it’s very likely that we get it resolved, but there are going to be some tough negotiations,” he said.
Rubio, a Hispanic who is trusted and beloved by the GOP base, could be the most important player to watch in the negotiations.
He seemed more hesitant to embrace the concept of a big package than McCain or Hatch but didn’t close the door on a single, comprehensive bill. In the past, that’s usually meant a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S., stricter border enforcement, a temporary worker program for industries such as agriculture and a crackdown on those who hire undocumented immigrants.
“People are interested in it. It’s going to take some time,” he said. “It’s an important issue for the country economically, it behooves us to have a 21st century immigration policy.”
Rubio said he “didn’t have anything to announce today” on how involved he’ll be with the issue, but said he was “hopeful we’ll be able to work on something.”
The Florida senator had begun to work on a Republican version of the “DREAM Act” last year before President Obama ordered temporary visas be given to some undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
Hatch, an original sponsor of the DREAM Act, voted against it in 2010, largely because of concerns about a 2012 Tea Party primary challenge.
This story was posted at 8:25 p.m. Tuesday and updated at 9:13 a.m. Wednesday.
October 24, 2012
Washington – In an interview with the Des Moines Register, U.S. President Barack Obama said that if he wins the election in two weeks it will largely be thanks to his strong lead among Latino voters.