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Immigration bill filed in Senate; opponents hope to use delays to kill it

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

By ,

A bipartisan group of lawmakers formally filed an 844-page immigration bill on the Senate floor early Wednesday, setting the stage for months of public debate over the proposal.

Leading Capitol Hill opponents of the proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration systemare coalescing around a strategy to kill the bill by delaying the legislative process as long as possible, providing time to offer “poison pill” amendments aimed at breaking apart the fragile bipartisan group that developed the plan, according to lawmakers and legislative aides.

Read the bill

Gang of 8

 

Senate immigration proposal

Read the full text of the proposal, with key sections annotated by Washington Post reporters.

Should Congress create a path to citizenship?

Yes
53%

No
47%

CAST YOUR VOTE

Results from an unscientific survey of Washington Post readers

The tactics, used successfully by opponents of an immigration bill during a 2007 debate in the Senate, are part of an effort to exploit public fissures over core components of the comprehensive legislation introduced Tuesday by eight lawmakers who spent months negotiating the details.

The authors of the bill are considering whether to formally embrace it at a news conference Thursday, a move designed to build momentum for the plan. Conservative critics cautioned Tuesday that the legislative process must not be rushed.

An open process “is essential to gaining public confidence in the content of the bill. We know it’s complicated,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the top GOP member on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. “I can’t see any reason to undermine confidence by trying to jam it through without adequate time for people to read it and to hear from their constituents.”

Cornyn aides said the senator is not necessarily against the bill. They said he is encouraged by the bipartisan progress but wants adequate time for debate.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called the pace of the legislative process — with Judiciary Committee hearings set for Friday and Monday — a “serious problem.” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) suggested to the conservative National Review that caution on immigration is important in light of early speculation that the Boston Marathonbombings might have been carried out by a foreign national with a student visa — speculation that authorities said is not based on any specific finding.

The highly anticipated legislation crafted by the eight Democratic and Republican senators is divided into four sections: border security, immigrant visas, interior enforcement and reforms to nonimmigrant visas (workplace programs).

“We have always welcomed newcomers to the United States and will continue to do so,” reads the introduction. “But in order to qualify for the honor and privilege of eventual citizenship, our laws must be followed.”

The bill states that illegal immigration has, in some cases, become a threat to national security and that strengthening the laws will help improve the nation economically, militarily and ethically.

Aides said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) filed the bill after 1:30 a.m. on behalf of himself and his seven colleagues in the working group, known as the “Gang of Eight”: Democrats Robert Menendez (N.J), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), and Republicans Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.)Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

The bill has several major components, including a 13-year pathway to citizenship — predicated on new border-control measures — for up to 11 million immigrants in the country illegally; new visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers; reductions to some categories of family-based visas; and a greater emphasis on employment and education skills.

Lessons from ’07

Read the bill

Gang of 8

Senate immigration proposal

Read the full text of the proposal, with key sections annotated by Washington Post reporters.

Should Congress create a path to citizenship?

Yes
53%

No
47%

CAST YOUR VOTE

Results from an unscientific survey of Washington Post readers

Democrats and immigration advocates, along with some GOP supporters, say they have learned from the failed immigration push in 2007, when a flurry of amendments on border control and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants helped sink the legislation before it came to the floor for a vote.

Although the 2007 bipartisan legislation had support from President George W. Bush, the effort failed after an amendment to eliminate a new visa program for low-skilled foreign workers after five years was approved by a single vote, angering business groups and costing GOP support. Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), at the time a presidential candidate vying for labor unions’ support, voted in favor of that amendment.

Schumer and McCain briefed President Obama at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“One thing he made clear is he wants to have an open process, but he doesn’t want to delay and drag this out because that’s the way bills get killed,” Schumer said. “That’s one of the most important points he made.”

Schumer said the goal is to have the Judiciary Committee open the bill for amendments in early May and get it to the Senate floor by early June. In a statement, Obama urged the Senate “to quickly move this bill forward” and pledged to “do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible.”

Opponents take aim

Members of the Senate working group have agreed to band together to oppose any amendments of the core provisions.

But conservatives are taking aim, arguing that allowing undocumented workers to remain in the country amounts to “amnesty,” that the border-control steps are not strong enough, that the guest-worker program will undercut Americans at a time of high unemployment, and that the bill will amount to trillions of dollars in new federal costs.

Those factors make immigration reform “a heavy lift,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a lawyer who helped Arizona draft one of the nation’s strictest immigration laws in 2008. “Twenty million Americans are unemployed or under­employed. At any other normal time, no one would breathe about amnesty.”

But supporters say the political landscape has changed dramatically since 2007. Latinos overwhelmingly supported Obama’s reelection, and GOP leaders have said the party must do more to appeal to them.

Rubio has received tacit support from conservative talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity after promising the tough border-control measures will be in place before undocumented immigrants earn green cards.

“The theory in 2007 was the longer they could draw it out, a populist upsurge would bring down the bill,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the liberal Center for Community Change. “But this time, we’ll match them toe to toe.”


An Immigration Blueprint

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

April 16, 2013
By  (The New York Times)

 

Huge news from the scorched desert of immigration reform: germination!

At last there is a bill, the product of a bipartisan group of senators who have been working on it for months, that promises at least the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It is complicated, full of mechanisms and formulas meant to tackle border security, the allocation of visas, methods of employment verification and the much-debated citizenship path.

Twitter analysts spent all day Tuesday parsing just the 17-page outline that was unveiled ahead of the actual bill. There will be much to chew on in coming weeks, but it is worth a moment to marvel at the bill’s mere existence, and at the delicate balancing of competing interests that coaxed this broad set of compromises into being.

Without, however, celebrating too much too soon. The first part of the bill is a dreary reassertion of the doctrine that an insufficiently militarized border is the source of all our immigration problems — as if inefficiencies in the labor market and the ill effects of unjust laws can be fixed with more drones and fences. It throws $6.5 billion over 10 years at the southern border, and envisions the creation of a commission of border governors telling the Homeland Security Department how to spend more billions on “manpower, technology and infrastructure.”

Though foolishly costly, this border fixation will be tolerable as long as it is not fatal to the heart and soul of the bill: legalization for 11 million. The bill includes arbitrary benchmarks, or triggers, that have to be achieved before legalization kicks in. These cannot be allowed to justify delay in getting immigrants right with the law.

Here is where things get interesting. The bill gets around the “amnesty” stalemate by turning the undocumented into Registered Provisional Immigrants — not citizens or green-card holders, but not illegal, either. They will wait in that anteroom for a decade at least before they can get green cards. But they will also work, and travel freely. The importance of legalizing them, erasing the crippling fear of deportation, cannot be overstated.

That said, a decade-plus path is too long and expensive. The fees and penalties stack up: $500 to apply for the first six years of legal status, $500 to renew, then a $1,000 fine. If the goal is to get people on the books and the economy moving, then shackling them for years to fees and debt makes no sense.

The means of ejection from the legalization path, too, cannot be arbitrary and unjust — people should not be disqualified for minor crimes or failure to meet unfair work requirements. It should not take superhuman strength and rectitude, plus luck and lots of money, for an immigrant to march the 10 years to a green card.

Then there is the mere two years set aside for taking legalization applications, which is crazy: you cannot fit 11 million people through a window that small. The coming debate will be fierce. Lobbyists for business say there are far too few temporary worker visas. Advocates for families will lament the loss of visas for siblings and adult children. Environmentalists will not like giving Homeland Security unfettered access to all federal borderlands.

While there is a lot to worry about, our quick read of a fresh bill finds other encouraging things besides the opening of the pathway. It includes a good version of the Dream Act, to help young people who were brought here illegally as children speedily become citizens. It allows, amazingly, some deportees to re-enter the country to join their spouses and young children.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 will not win prizes for brevity or eloquence. But it exists; it is a starting point, something to be nurtured and improved. It will be judged by how it unlocks the potential of the immigration system, now choked by inefficiency and illegality, with companies that scoff at the law and employees who work outside it. The system has gears that fail to mesh — business with labor, parents with children, the promise of America with the people who would fulfill it. Time to start repairs.

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Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

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

Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

By Vincent Bzdek, Updated: 

Look for Marco Rubio to throw his full support — and star power — behind the bipartisan immigration compromise bill that could be announced in the next several days. The question is, will his support for the far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s immigration system alienate the conservative wing of the party and damage Rubio’s chances at higher office, or will it help cement his position as a leading Republican candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination?

According to Politico, the Republican Florida senator is planning to promote the bill on political talk shows starting this weekend, and will reach out to conservative radio hosts and lobby for the plan on Spanish-language news outlets.

One Senate Democratic aide told Politico Thursday: “In poker terms, he has gone all in.”

Members of the so-called bipartisan “Group of Eight” said they are close to finalizing an agreement on the comprehensive proposal that is expected to include a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and could serve as the template for a deal between Congress and the White House.

The Post’s Paul Kane and David Nakamura reported just a couple days ago that Rubio appeared to be cautious about the proposal, anxious for plenty of hearings on the legislation.

“Senator Rubio has said from the outset that we will not rush this process, and that begins at the committee level,” said Alex Conant, Rubio’s spokesman. “The Judiciary Committee must have plenty of time to debate and improve the bipartisan group’s proposal. . . . Senator Rubio will be requesting that his Senate colleagues arrange multiple public hearings on the immigration bill. We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become.”

It now looks as though Rubio wants to own the process now that he is preparing to sign off on the release of the bill this coming Tuesday. Yet he’s also still pushing for more hearings and a slower pace than Democrats and the White House want.

“Obviously, we’ll be informing the public, and we’ll want everyone to know everything that’s in the bill,” Rubio told Politico. “We want everyone to know as much of what’s in the bill as possible, and we will use every opportunity we have to communicate that.”

Many Republicans are unwilling to back any measure that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, so Rubio’s strategy carries some risks. Some Republicans have expressed openness to some form of legalization that stops short of a citizenship plan, but such a compromise would draw opposition from many Democrats and immigrant advocates.

His ability to bring conservative Republicans on board will be a real test of his leadership skills in the coming days and weeks.

 

 


Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in ‘Pieces’

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

By David M. DruckerPosted at 4:56 p.m. on April 3

Goodlatte040313 445x292 Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in Pieces

Goodlatte, the Judiciary chairman, is a key player in the effort to get immigration legislation passed in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte on Wednesday floated the possibility that the House could eschew a comprehensive approach to overhauling the nation’s immigration system in favor of a step-by-step legislative strategy.

Discussing the matter during an online telecast with Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt, the Virginia Republican appeared committed to most aspects of an immigration overhaul currently being discussed. Goodlatte said legislation must be passed to address the millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., fill the need for more high- and low-skilled workers in the high technology and agriculture industries and to upgrade border security.

But Goodlatte, who runs the key committee of jurisdiction in the House for immigration legislation, said Republicans have “definitely left [the] option open” to addressing those and other issues through multiple bills, rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation that includes every component. He praised the bipartisan working groups in the House and Senate that are attempting to reach an agreement on comprehensive legislation.

“Whether we take pieces of this and then put them together later on, or whether we pass something that’s more broad-based remains to be seen, but it’s just going to be what the will of the House will be, this needs to come from the bottom up,” Goodlatte told Stirewalt. “It’s not how fast or slow you go; it’s getting it right.”

 

Goodlatte, who once worked as an immigration attorney, said hearings on the immigration overhaul have been ongoing, as have weekly briefings with members and staff to educate them on the issues.

There has been some speculation that GOP leaders might bypass committee hearings to avoid Democratic attempts to cause Republicans political problems during any extended debate over immigration. But knowledgeable GOP sources maintain that there is virtually no way that strategy would be adopted on an issue as sensitive and potentially explosive as immigration, particularly in light of Speaker John A. Boehner’s guarantee to switch gears from the last Congress and move major legislation through “regular order.”

It’s unclear if all three committees of jurisdiction will get a crack at the eventual immigration legislation or set of bills, but Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee was described by one GOP sources as a “lock” to exercise oversight of the overhaul.

Goodlatte praised Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for his demand that the Senate engage in a methodical approach to considering a comprehensive immigration rewrite. Rubio, a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” that is currently crafting a bill, has urged the majority Democrats to allow the Senate whatever time is required to fully vet and amend the legislation his group produces. Goodlatte suggested that he favors a similar process in the House.

“Marco Rubio is well to say let’s make sure we are completely and carefully examining this. They should do that over in the Senate and hold additional hearings after they have a product. We are definitely going to be doing that in the House,” Goodlatte said. “It’s my hope that we’ll be producing legislation in the House very soon.”


Four key points on why business and labor reached a deal on immigration

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

by Sandra Lilley, @sandralilley
2:56 pm on 04/01/2013
The recent agreement between labor and business groups on a guest worker program for low-skilled labor has really carved a space for the Senate to proceed with an immigration reform bill, mainly because it did what no other talks succeeded in doing in years past.
“The agreement is huge,” says Ana Avendaño, Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action for the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union, which recently reached the agreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The momentum is unstoppable; and we have no doubt we are going to have an immigration bill,” adds Avendaño.
Here are four reasons why.
Agreement on visa number increase
“First, what is significant is the way both groups have reached an agreement on how to structure the number of visas,” says Kristian Ramos, Policy Director for the New Policy Institute’s (NPI) 21st Border Initiative. ”In 2007, one of the reasons legislation died is that business had one number and labor had another,” Ramos explained, adding, “the fact they were able to come to terms on numbers was pragmatic, clever and an indication these guys are serious.”
Under the deal proposed by the groups, a “W Visa program” could go into effect on April of 2015, and it would allow employers to petition for lesser-skilled foreign workers for jobs in construction, as well as janitorial or retail services. The program would start at 20,000 visas, then go up to 35,000 the next year, 55,000 the next, 75,000 the following and continue until 200,000.
Independent Bureau to determine immigrant labor needs
A second reason labor and business agreed to this, says AFL-CIO’s Avendaño, is because determining what sector of industry needs additional workers will be determined by a new entity, the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research. This is an independent, non-partisan group of experts, such as demographers and economists, who will study and determine labor needs. ”Congress on the House side is currently responsible for setting the number of visas, and the cap hasn’t changed in more than a decade,” says Ramos.
“Right now we don’t even know who is here on work visas or when people leave,” adds Avendaño. ”This will bring transparency, and it will be scientific – there is a shortage of elder care workers, you address it, same with nannies or other positions,” she adds.
Guest worker visa not limited to one employer
For workers themselves, the third reason is one of the most important. Unlike now, immigrants under this proposed guest worker visa will not be limited to one employer. “This is a huge change; as long as employers held the power, it was impossible for workers to exercise their rights to fair pay or expose worker violations,” says Avendaño. “Portability is a big deal for labor,” adds Ramos. In addition, guest worker wages must be equal to those of U.S. workers, so this will not undercut the wages of current employees.
Workers request own green cards
And last but certainly not least, a fourth component on this deal is that workers will be able to self-petition for a green card after one year, and will not be dependent on employers. ”The creation of an entire new visa system is a significant undertaking,” says Ramos.
For immigration reform advocates such as Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, this agreement between labor and business is “a historic breakthrough.”
“This breakthrough significantly increases the likelihood of reform with a new roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants,” said Sharry.


Seven Democratic Senators Push to Maintain Family Visas

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, Processing of Applications and Petitions Leave a comment

Seven Democratic senators are asking a bipartisan group of colleagues to reconsider plans to eliminate some categories of family visas as the group finalizes a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
In a letter to the eight-member group, Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Al Franken (Minn.) praised the bipartisan effort but cautioned that the senators should maintain visas reserved specifically for foreign brothers, sisters and married children of U.S. citizens.
The Washington Post reported last week that the senators are planning to eliminate those categories to help clear a back load of 4.3 million family visa applications, while also making it easier for some foreign workers to enter the country. Those family members could still apply for visas but would need other qualifications such as work skills and English proficiency to increase their chances. Senate aides said no decisions have been finalized.

“This is very troubling,” the Democratic senators write in their letter. “Different types of family members can play an important role in each other’s lives, and for some Americans, a brother or sister is the only family they have.”
The letter is the latest push-back against the plan. In the House, two dozen members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote to the Senate group in support of the family visa program. Caucus Chair Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said family visas have long been a core part of the nation’s immigration system. She and other caucus members are scheduled to speak to some Senate members involved in the bipartisan immigration talks Thursday.
Currently, about two-thirds of visas are issued for family reasons, with 14 percent for employment reasons. Republicans have said increasing work visas will balance the country’s economic needs with family ties.
“Family-based immigration is important not only to individual citizens, but to the social and economic well-being of the country as a whole,” the senators wrote. “The available evidence suggests that family-based immigrants add to the economy directly and through their support of other working family members. Family-based immigrants bring vital skills and new ideas to this country, increase the likelihood of successful integration of new immigrants through family support networks, and over time show more upward mobility than any other immigrant group. In other words, family-based immigration should not be considered less important than employment-based immigration. Both are vital to our country’s future.”
The bipartisan Senate group of four Republicans and four Democrats is expected to unveil their bill next month, and it will include a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. The legislation is expected to serve as a template for a potential deal between Congress and the White House.
This post has been updated.


The Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Wait Continues

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

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Wait Continues  

The wait for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) has been long and is not quite over. President Obama has promised to make it a priority for his second term and both sides have finally agreed to negotiate possibilities of relief for unlawfully present immigrants in the US. Yet still, we are nowhere near a concrete comprehensive reform. It could be a long time before we see a detailed final version for it to pass and even longer before it is implemented and we don’t even know what it will look like.

The immigration reform proposals are vague and imprecise. Many questions are unresolved in regards to the legalization portion of the plan. We do not know how complex the process will be, the qualifications for admissibility, if there will be fines, the overall costs, etc. Most importantly, once enacted, we do not know how long the process will take. Because all cases and time frames are different, this could take many years and a lot longer than expected. Overall, there is only one thing we are certain about: the Comprehensive Immigration Reform is only in its beginning stage.

In the midst of uncertainty, the smart thing to do is to focus on what we do know and what we do have, the Provisional Waiver. Unlike the CIR, the waiver rules are clear certain and will begin accepting applications on March 4th, 2013. We have concrete dates for its implementation; we know the costs, the requirements and the results. We do not know what to expect of the CIR and rather than waiting around for answers we should take action, move forward and focus on what we know works.

The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers specializes strictly on immigration law with a particular focus on family-based immigration and I-601/I-601A waivers. Contact us to make a consultation and discuss your particular case.

Daniella Romero (Ruby L.Powers Law)

 

 

 

 


President Obama: Get immigration reform done by summer

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
President Obama: Get immigration reform done by summer
By: Jennifer Epstein
January 30, 2013 06:52 PM EST
President Barack Obama hopes to see Congress to pass a major immigration reform bill by early summer, he said Wednesday, as he blamed resistance on Capitol Hill for the failure to get the reforms done during his first term.

“I’m not a king,” he told Telemundo, as he followed up on his Tuesday trip to Las Vegas to unveil his proposals for reform with interviews with Spanish-language television networks. “You know, my job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law. And, you know, when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law.”

Obama took executive action last year to change the federal enforcement of immigration laws, helping young adults avoid deportation if serving in the military or pursuing higher education.

He said he would push for legislation to make further changes. Though he’s left it to Congress to work out the details, the president said the White House has already written its own that he’ll send for an up or down vote if lawmakers are too slow.

“I’ve got a bill drafted. We’ve got language,” he said.

But he said that he hoped Congress would not force things to come to that.

“I think this is something we should be able to get done certainly this year and I’d like to see if we could get it done sooner, in the first half of the year if possible,” Obama said.

In an interview with Univision also taped Wednesday, Obama said he’s confident that immigration reform will pass before the end of the year. “Si, se puede,” he said at the prompting of interviewer Maria Elena Salinas, repurposing the slogan used by farm workers that was then turned into the English-language rallying cry for his 2008 campaign as “Yes we can.”

What’s still holding back action “is not so much technical as it’s political,” Obama said in his interview with Telemundo, which was conducted by Jose Diaz-Balart. “It’s a matter of Republicans and Democrats coming together and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case. I’m hopeful that this can get done, and I don’t think that it should take many, many months.”

Diaz-Balart said he’d checked with the offices of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans supportive of the immigration reform proposal put out by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday, and that none of them reported having heard from Obama on the issue.

Obama said he was open to talking to anyone, but indicated that the outreach had to come from Capitol Hill. “I am happy to meet with anybody, anytime, anywhere to make sure that this thing happens,” he said. “You know, the truth is oftentimes what happens is members of Congress prefer meeting among themselves to build trust between Democrats and Republicans there.”

“They want assistance from us but sometimes they want it through back channels,” he added. “And, you know, if they want a public meeting, if they want private meetings, anything that is necessary to move this thing forward, we’re happy to.”

Some immigrants-rights groups have urged Obama to put a moratorium on all deportations until Congress works through its current reform push. But Obama said it’s his responsibility to continue overseeing the enforcement of existing federal laws.

“There are still going to be stories that are heartbreaking with respect to deportations until we get comprehensive immigration reform,” he said in his interview with Univision. “That’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important for us to go ahead and get this action done.”

Though both interviews focused on Obama’s new push on immigration reform, there were some questions on other issues, including gun control and the gun violence in Chicago that left dead a teenager who performed in Obama’s inaugural parade barely a week before her murder.

Obama didn’t speak specifically to the Tuesday killing of Nadiya Pendleton, 15, but he did address the rash of gun violence plaguing his hometown of Chicago. The city, where his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is mayor, has strict gun laws yet high levels of violence. That’s led some pro-gun advocates to argue that gun control laws don’t work.

But Obama said the problem is that the laws aren’t widespread. “The problem is that a huge proportion of those guns come in from outside Chicago,” he told Telemundo. “What is absolutely true is that if you are just creating a bunch of pockets of gun laws without having sort of a unified, integrated system — for example of background checks — then, you know, it’s gonna be a lot harder for an individual community, a single community to protect itself from this kind of gun violence. That’s precisely why we think it’s important for Congress to act.”

Obama listed implementing a universal background check system, limiting the size of magazines and cracking down on gun trafficking as key priorities, but didn’t mention renewing the assault weapons ban, something he’s said he supports. His omission of the ban comes after Vice President Joe Biden left it out during remarks on guns he last week in Virginia.


Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

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

Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

By  and , Published: January 29

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

Now the hard part begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dozens of other similar pitfalls abound.

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

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

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


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

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

 

Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

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

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

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

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

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

citizenship for undocumented workers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

elusive for Congress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brought to the United States as children.

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

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

flipped, and voted against it.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the reality that we face.”

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

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

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

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

to get everybody onboard.”

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

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


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