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Things to Consider for Asylum Applications

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Asylum, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, pathway to citizenship, Processing of Applications and Petitions Leave a comment

Powers Law Group, P.C.

October 3, 2016

By Board Certified Immigration Attorney Ruby L. Powers

Things to Consider for Asylum Applications

Asylum is the legal protection afforded by the United States government to a person who can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Many people do not know that asylum is an option to enter or remain in the United States when certain criteria are met. If asylum is a viable option for you, it is important to remember that timing is critical, as asylum applications must be filed within one year of your last entry. Although there are exceptions to this one year filing deadline, which include demonstrating changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances, keep in mind that it can take time to gather the appropriate documents and prepare a strong case for submission, so plan accordingly.

As an asylum applicant, you are eligible to apply for work authorization 150 days after submission of your aslyum application. After applying for work authorization, it could then take 1-3 months for adjudication for the work authorization. Upon receiving work authorization you will be able to apply for a social security number and a driver’s license or renew it.

The Houston Asylum Office is currently taking about two years to schedule interviews, and processes applications from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.   In Spring 2016, a sub-office of the Houston Asylum Office opened in New Orleans processing applications from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Powers Law Group has experience in both offices.

You should remember that not only is the application preparation process important, but your interview preparation is equally as important. Some attorneys do not include this service as part of their legal fees, so it is important to have your case assessed by an experienced asylum immigration attorney and upon hiring the attorney, know which services are included.

Powers Law Group has a long history of experience representing clients from various countries for US asylum affirmatively (with asylum office) and defensively (immigration court) including: Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Nepal, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, China and more. If you are interested in learning more about the asylum process, please schedule a consultation with us.


The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Consular Processing, Deportation, I-601 Waivers, I-601A Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

By Board Certified Immigration Attorney Ruby L. Powers

November 4, 2015

The Provisional Waiver (I-601A) process currently allows certain people who are present in the United States to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a provisional waiver for certain unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas—rather than applying for a waiver abroad after the immigrant visa interview using the Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories, including family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children.  It also proposes expanding who may be considered a qualifying relative for purpose of the extreme hardship determination to include legal permanent resident spouses and parents.  This has a far reaching scope and is a refreshing positive change in light of deadlocked reform and executive actions being held in litigation all year.

Before the existing and more limited provisional waiver rule was implemented in March 4, 2013, many families had to be separated for 4 to 18 months to complete a legal permanent residency process via consular processing due to an illegal entry or other grounds of inadmissibility. Before the provisional waiver, clients might have been able to stay in Mexico only 4 months due to the generous pilot program in Cd. Juarez, Mexico or in some cases wait 18 months in Honduras or longer, if an appeal was sought and in other countries there were inconsistent waiting times. Obviously, there were hesitations for families to proceed with this process for legalization.

Then the idea of the Provisional Waiver was formulated as a way to allow certain family members to apply for the waiver in the U.S., and prevent waiting and separation times abroad. The concept was proposed in January 2012 and initially opened for Federal Register comment period on January 9, 2012 and again April 2, 2012. The rule was announced January 3, 2013 and began 60 days later, on March 4, 2013.

After the Provisional Waiver program began, the Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has been able to help countless families gain legal permanent residency for family members who only need to remain out of the country for 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes for less time, to complete their consular processing. From fiscal years 2013 to 2015, 74,439 waivers were filed and of those 44,198 waivers were approved and 18,773 waivers were denied.  It was such a success that the DHS would like to expand it to people in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories and expand the qualifying member for the waiver to spouses and citizens of legal permanent residents as well.

On November 20, 2014, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum, “Expansion of the Provisional Waiver Program,” directing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to amend its regulations to expand access to the provisional waiver program, to provide additional guidance on the definition of “extreme hardship,” and to “consider criteria by which a presumption of extreme hardship may be determined to exist.”

Currently DHS is proposing to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include as qualifying relatives, who can establish extreme hardship, an LPR spouse or parent, not just to U.S. citizen spouses or parents, as it currently stands.  This would be in the interests of encouraging eligible aliens to complete the visa process abroad, promoting family unity, and improving administrative efficiency. The expansion of the provisional waiver program would be a welcome change. The hardships suffered by preference category families, who face the same lengthy separation from loved ones when they seek legal permanent resident status, are as equally compelling as those suffered by immediate relatives. Opening up the provisional waiver process to these individuals will offer more measurable benefits to USCIS and DOS, will further facilitate legal immigration by encouraging a more sizable group to come out of the shadows, and comports with USCIS’s goal of alleviating unnecessary familial hardships.                 On July 22, 2015, the Federal Register opened a 60-day public comment period on the expansion of the provisional waiver which ended September 21, 2015. As we see, the previous provisional waiver had two comment periods and took a year of discussion that was noted to the public. In this case, the expansion was noted nearly a year ago on November 20, 2014 and we greatly hope the rule will be in place in early 2016.

Additionally, the new rule may have a more concise definition of extreme hardship, the standard one must meet for a successful provisional waiver.  This will allow legal practitioners to save their clients time and money by telling them what specific type of evidence is required to prove extreme hardship and accordingly streamline the process and shorten the processing times for cases filed meeting the new guidelines. Currently there are only a few cases that hold guidance and a large room for discretion which can cause varying results in the applications and outcomes.

If you may know someone who could benefit from this expanded provisional waiver, although it is not a rule yet, it is helpful to have a consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.  Ideally, learn if the attorney and their firm have extensive experience with waivers. It is important to plan in advance in case freedom of information act requests, FBI background checks, and collection of other documents are necessary. Additionally, in many cases certain processes would need to be started with requisite wait times before the waiver process may begin. In some cases, preparation, research and strategy take time. Once this rule is in effect, many people will be searching for help to see how it could benefit them.

Furthermore, we would like to warn you and others about the use of people who practice law without a license. In Texas, people often called ‘notarios’ frequently persuade people needing immigration legal services that the process is simple and an attorney is not needed. In the process, they are acting illegally by providing legal advice without a license and many times put people in difficult situations that are hard to correct.

The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has had continued success with waiver and provisional waivers reuniting families from many countries.   I regularly speak locally and nationwide on the topic of waivers and am regularly consulted by other attorneys on problem cases. We have a team with many years of immigration, consular processing, and waiver experience specific to this article’s topic. We pride ourselves in quality service and helping guide clients through the arduous process to a reunification, peace of mind, greater financial and emotional stability and an improved life in the United States.


Immigration Reform and the State of the Union

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

January 28, 2014


Washington D.C. – Tonight, President Barack Obama pressed the reset button and laid out his priorities for 2014—and, ultimately, the final leg of his presidency. During the State of the Union address, the President discussed the need to create jobs and greater opportunity for all. He also made it clear that immigration reform and economic recovery go hand-in-hand, and he expects the House of Representatives to make the next move on immigration reform. The President said:
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.  And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The President’s inclusion of immigration as a matter of economic necessity reinforces efforts over the last few years to redefine how we think about immigration reform. Immigrants create jobs as consumers and entrepreneurs andspend their wages in U.S. businesses—buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc. This builds our economy as businesses respond to the presence of these new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. Also immigrants are 30 percent more likely than the native-born to start their own business. The end result is more jobs for more workers.
The President’s message on immigration extended beyond his speech. Immigrants and immigration activists attended as guests of Congress and the First Lady. Mrs. Obama invited two immigrants to attend as her guests: Cristian Avila, a DREAMer and DACA recipient who recently completed a 22-day fast on the National Mall in support of immigration reform and Carlos Arredondo, a Costa-Rican-American peace activist made famous by his heroic acts after the Boston Marathon bombing.

These guests remind us of the humanitarian nature of immigration reform that cannot, and should not be overlooked.  As we grapple with efforts to create a more just and equal system in which everyone has a fair shot at economic prosperity, we cannot forget the need for a fair and just immigration system.  Deportations that separate families, disrupt businesses, and destroy hopes and dreams help no one and ultimately do not reflect our tradition as a nation of immigrants.
Tonight, the President reiterated that he is prepared to use the authority of his office to push a range of initiatives forward. Thus, if 2014 is to truly be a year of action and opportunity, we encourage the president not only to support efforts to complete immigration reform, but to do all in his power to end needless costs—to families, to workers, and to the economy—of an immigration system that does not fulfill the promise of America.

 


U.S. citizens ditch passports in record numbers

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

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

By Lynnley Browning

Mahmood Karzai

Mahmood Karzai, no longer a U.S. citizen.

FORTUNE — Americans are ditching their U.S. passports in record numbers, a sign of growing frustration with a system that taxes U.S. citizens on their global wealth whether they live in Montana or Mongolia.

The latest bold-faced names to relinquish their U.S. citizenship include Mahmood Karzai, a brother of Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, according to federal data released Wednesday. Also on the list, published quarterly by the Internal Revenue Service, is Isabel Getty, the daughter of jet-setting socialite Pia Getty and Getty oil heir Christopher Getty.

In total, more than 670 U.S. passport holders gave up their citizenship — and with it, their U.S. tax bills — in the first three months of this year. That is the most in any quarter since the I.R.S. began publishing figures in 1998. And it is nearly three-quarters of the total number for all of 2012, a year in which the wealthy songwriter-socialite Denise Rich (christened “Lady Gatsby” by Yachtingmagazine) and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin joined more than 932 other Americans in tossing their passports.

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

MORE: Offshore account holders win a victory in government tax case

“It’s the cumulative effect of the I.R.S. ‘jihad’ against foreign bank accounts,” said Phil Hodgen, an international tax lawyer in Pasadena, Calif. He said growing numbers of Middle Eastern investors were ordering their dual-citizen children to dump their U.S. passports if they wanted to inherit family-owned companies without onerous U.S. estate taxes.

While dumping citizenship may seem unpatriotic or smack of tax avoidance to some critics, tax lawyers blame the byzantine complexity of American tax regulations.

The rules “are confusing, complex, and so complicated that even Americans with good intentions can easily find themselves running afoul of the law,” said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor who was involved in the government’s offshore banking probe and is now in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This very well may explain why we are seeing a record number of Americans renouncing their United States citizenship.”

The trend has swelled amid a widening crackdown by the U.S. Justice Department on offshore private banking services sold by Swiss and Swiss-style banks to wealthy Americans in recent years. Nearly a dozen foreign banks, include Israel’s Bank Leumi, HSBC, Credit Suisse (CS), Julius Baer and Swiss cantonal, or regional, banks are under criminal scrutiny; last year, Wegelin & Co, Switzerland’s oldest bank, was indicted and put out of business. More than four dozen wealthy Americans and their foreign bankers have been indicted or charged in recent years.

More than 39,000 Americans have come forward in recent years to declare their secret accounts to the I.R.S. in exchange for reduced fines and penalties, but officials suspect that is a fraction of the total number of people either deliberately hiding or unwittingly not reporting their foreign accounts. I.R.S. data for 2012 shows just over two million tax returns filed in 2012 by overseas Americans, compared with an estimated six million Americans living or working abroad. Only a fraction of Americans with foreign bank accounts are also filing required disclosures known as Fbars, according to federal data.

MORE: Cracks in objections to Internet sales taxes

Expatriations first picked up pace in 2010, when more than 1,530 Americans dumped their passports. Sparking that uptick, tax lawyers say, was a deal by UBS (UBS), the Swiss bank giant, the year before to disclose more than 4,000 American client names to the I.R.S. and pay a record $780 million for selling offshore services that violated U.S. tax laws.

In January, Karzai told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan that “the reason I gave up my U.S. passport and citizenship is that I have been working in Afghanistan for the past 12 years,” according to a transcript. He added that “I might become politically active, therefore I decided to give up my [U.S.] passport.” Karzai could not immediately be reached for comment.

Karzai is a shareholder of the scandal-plagued Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest bank that nearly collapsed due to fraud, according to global media reports in March. Getty, a student at New York University, according to her Facebook page, could not be immediately reached, and emails to her mother, a filmmaker in London, were not immediately returned.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the IRS began reporting this information in 2008. It began reporting it in 1998.


Obama: ‘This is the moment’ to get immigration reform done

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

Obama: ‘This is the moment’ to get immigration reform done

By Carrie Dann, NBC News

President Barack Obama tried to refocus attention on the incomplete comprehensive immigration reform push Thursday, saying that “this is the moment we should be able to finally get the job done.”

“Let’s not wait,” Obama said during a statement at the White House. “It doesn’t get easier to just put it off. Let’s do it now. Let’s not delay. Let’s get this done and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion.”

Charles Dharapak / AP

Vice President Joe Biden applauds as President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

The president’s remarks come as the rocky rollout of Obamacare’s online health insurance exchanges continues to dominate headlines. Earlier this month, major immigration protests were largely drowned out by the government shutdown and the ongoing fiscal crisis.

Thanking pro-reform activists who have maintained pressure on Congress despite waning chances for action this year, Obama dipped into campaign-like rhetoric to urge another salvo.

“You don’t look like folks who are going to give up,” he said. “You look fired up to make the next push.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner reiterated after the speech that the House GOP will not pursue one sweeping comprehensive immigration reform bill but will concentrate instead on the House’s “step by step” legislation. That’s an approach most Democrats reject.

“The Speaker agrees that America has a broken immigration system and we need reform that would boost our economy,” said spokesman Brendan Buck. “He’s also been clear that the House will not consider any massive, Obamacare-style legislation that no one understands. Instead, the House is committed to a common sense, step-by-step approach that gives Americans confidence that reform is done the right way.”

Acknowledging “disagreements” between the parties on major fiscal issues, Obama said he’s not giving up on the bill he has called the top domestic priority of his second term, even as the number of legislative days left in the year dwindles.

Immigration advocates are hoping that House Republican leaders, alarmed at falling approval ratings and fearful of diminishing appeal to Hispanic voters, will take up legislation that would offer a path to citizenship – or at least legal status – for the nation’s undocumented immigrants.

Movement on the reform push has stalled since the House declined to take up a Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill earlier this summer. Now, several House Republicans have proposed separate legislation that would address the undocumented population, but it’s unclear if Democrats in the House will back legislation that stops well short of the Senate bill’s promise of the possibility for citizenship for most immigrants in the country illegally.

Obama did not specifically mention those separate Republican proposals, instead touting the Senate-passed legislation and a measure introduced by House Democrats that closely mirrors the upper chamber’s bill.

Proponents were optimistic Wednesday, when Boehner indicated that he is “hopeful” that the immigration issue will be taken up.

“I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I am hopeful,” he told reporters when asked if he will bring reform legislation up before the end of the year.

But Democrats are wary of GOP piecemeal efforts, which would stop short of the Senate bill’s promise of the possibility for citizenship for most undocumented immigrants at the end of a long probationary period.

And conservative Republicans in the House warn that if any legislation passes the House, it could be melded with the Senate bill and injected with more Democratic priorities.

This story was originally published on Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:55 AM EDT


House GOP divided on immigration but united against Senate, Obama

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

By Frank Thorp, Luke Russert and Carrie Dann, NBC News
Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:54 PM EDT
NBCNews.com

House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Wednesday in a long-awaited “special conference” to
discuss tactics, air grievances and plot the way forward – or out of – the national debate over
comprehensive immigration reform.

While the “lively” meeting didn’t yield any major breakthroughs among the deeply divided GOP
conference, Republican leaders made clear in a statement afterward that any legislation that gives
too much responsibility to the Obama administration is a non-starter in the House.

The American people “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the
president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than
pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem,” leaders wrote after
the meeting. “The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore
significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this
administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws
as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”

Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas put it more bluntly.

“Trusting Barack Obama with border security is like trusting my daughter with Bill Clinton,” he
said. “We just don’t trust him.”

The gathering served to offer members a spectrum of options for addressing an issue that has long
split the Republican Party and some say could permanently damage its standing with the rapidly
growing bloc of Latino voters.

At the beginning of the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated that the House will not take
up the “flawed” Senate-passed bill but urged some type of action. And Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the
high-profile former vice presidential nominee who supports the reform effort, presented an economic
argument for immigration legislation and noted the nation’s declining birthrate without the influx
of new residents, sources in the room said.

“I think we got consensus that the system is broken and needs to be fixed and I feel pretty good
about where we are,” Ryan told reporters after the meeting.

But many Republicans from ruby red districts have little incentive to support a reform effort
largely opposed by their conservative constituents. Some fear that any bill could result in
“amnesty” if it is conferenced or blended with the Senate-passed measure.

And even the leaders of the House GOP argue that the Senate bill’s reliance on federal agencies to
enforce border security members won’t sit well with Americans skeptical of the Obama
administration.

California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham was one of those in the meeting who advocated for a
comprehensive reform but said the Senate bill gave too much discretion for border security to the
Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s time for action,” he said, according to a participant in the meeting. “We need comprehensive
immigration reform, but we need a guarantee in this. We need to make sure that we are able to
secure the border by using our congressional oversight – not Janet Napolitano, but the power of
this body.”

One type of immigration action could take the form of legislation to address those who were brought
to the country illegally as children – or DREAMers – who have been among the most organized and
sympathetic advocates for reform.

Rep. Darrell Issa told reporters outside the meeting that members discussed the possibility of
offering a pathway to citizenship for the DREAMer group.

That’s an idea which seems to have measurable “consensus” from the GOP, said Rep. Raul Labrador,
R-Idaho, an influential conservative voice on the immigration issue who left the House’s group of
bipartisan reform negotiators because of disagreements with their approach.
But it seems that any movement is unlikely to happen before the House adjourns for August recess.
Some members are working on individual pieces of border security and visa regulation legislation
that could theoretically be bundled into a package that could pass the GOP-dominated lower chamber but
would likely be dead on arrival in the Senate. Others, mindful of the potential political
consequences of being blamed for the slow death of a bill important to the growing Latino voting
bloc, hope that group of bipartisan negotiators can finalize a product that could find middle
ground between both parties.

And some, like immigration opponent Rep. Steve King of Iowa, have vocally opposed the passage of
any measure at all, saying the conference process in the Senate would insert a pathway to
citizenship for some undocumented immigrants into any House-passed bill.

“I’m not going to support any kind of legalization because legalization is amnesty, is eventual
citizenship, if not instantaneous citizenship,” King told reporters Tuesday, “We don’t have a moral
obligation to solve that problem, the people who came here illegally came here to live in the shadows.

Several things were clear before the GOP gathered for the meeting Wednesday afternoon.

First, House leaders won’t bring up the Senate bill – which one GOP member said almost all members
in the meeting agreed was “inherently flawed” – for an up-or-down vote.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp tweeted after the meeting that the House couldn’t take up
the Senate bill if it wanted to because legislation that raises revenues must originate in the
House, according to the Constitution.

And second, the Democratic insistence on its long-held prioritization of a path to citizenship for
most undocumented immigrants is problematic.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Christopher Guitterez, 6, who was born in Fairfax, Va., joins his Salvadoran mother, not in picture, during a rally for citizenship
on Capitol Hill in in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013, coinciding with the GOP House Caucus
meeting. Gang of Eight leader and New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that must include a
pathway to citizenship in any House legislation or Democrats will kill it.

That didn’t sit well with GOP rank-and-file.
“For him to him to say basically, ‘If you can’t do my way then we’re not going anything at all,’ I
think would be very sad in the process,” said Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma.

Labrador said earlier Wednesday on MSNBC that the ultimatum means the burden will lie on Democrats
if the legislation stalls. “If Chuck Schumer is not going to accept anything unless he gets 100 percent of what he wants, then
he’s the one who’s killing immigration reform.”


On immigration, demographics and math

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

On immigration, demographics and math

By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News

With the immigration debate now moving over the Republican-led House of Representatives,MSNBC.com’s Benjy Sarlin writes how some conservatives believe that wooing Latino voters is less important than improving on their performance with white voters.

On election night, Fox News anchor Brit Hume called the “demographic” threat posed by Latino voters “absolutely real” and suggested Mitt Romney’s “hardline position on immigration” may be to blame for election losses. On Monday, Hume declared that argument “baloney.” The Hispanic vote, he said, “is not nearly as important, still, as the white vote.”

Sean Hannity, a reliable bellwether on the right, has been on a similar journey since the fall. He announced the day after President Obama’s re-election that he had “evolved” on immigration reform and now supported a “path to citizenship” in order to improve relations with Hispanic voters. Hannity has now flipped hard against the Senate’s bill.

“Not only do I doubt the current legislation will solve the immigration problem,” he wrote in a June column, “but it also won’t help the GOP in future elections.”

Hannity and Hume didn’t arrive at their latest destination by accident. They’re just the latest figures on the right to embrace the compelling new message that’s whipping Republicans against immigration reform while still promising a better tomorrow for the GOP’s presidential candidates.

It’s uncertain if Republicans supporting immigration reform will result in more Latinos who vote Republican in presidential contest, but this is pretty clear: White voters are only declining as a share of the electorate.

Consider: In 2000, whites made up more than 80% of all voters, according to the exit polls. In 2004, that share dropped to 77%. In 2008, it declined to 74%. And in 2012, white voters made up 72% of the electorate. At that current pace and because of demographic trends, you could expect — though it’s not a sure thing — that the white percentage could drop to 70% by 2016 and 68% by 2020.

Also consider: President Obama won just 39% of the white vote in 2012, which was the worst performance for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1984. But Obama carried more than 80% of the non-white vote, which gave him his 51%-47% popular-vote win over Mitt Romney.

So extrapolate that out to 2016 and 2020, given the demographic trends showing that the country is on pace to be a majority-minority nation 30 years from now. In 2016, a future Democratic presidential candidate — say Hillary Clinton? — who gets 40% of the white vote and 80% of the non-white vote could win 52% of the popular vote. In 2020, that overall percentage would jump up to nearly 53%.

Now it’s important to acknowledge the difference between presidential elections (where there’s greater minority participation) and midterm elections (where there’s less). It’s also important to state that it’s impossible to predict who, exactly, will turn out in an election. Indeed, RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende has cautioned that it’s very possible that future Democratic presidential candidates don’t get 80% of the non-white vote, especially when the nation’s first African-American president no longer remains on the top of the ticket. And that’s probably a good assumption.

But here’s the power of changing demographics: In 2004, John Kerry won 41% of the white vote and about 71% of the non-white vote, giving him 48% of the overall popular vote. But come 2016, if the white share is at 70% and non-white at 30%, then Kerry’s ’04 performance gets to you to 50% of the popular vote.

Let that sink in — Kerry goes from a losing 48% to a possibly winning 50%.

So while it’s debatable if the Republican Party can benefit from supporting the immigration legislation, it isn’t debatable that the white portion of the electorate is getting smaller — and that has consequences for future elections.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/02/19252850-on-immigration-demographics-and-math?lite


First Hurdle Cleared in Immigration, but Bigger Ones Remain

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

By 

Updated: May 21, 2013 | 8:50 p.m.
May 21, 2013 | 8:00 p.m.

An American flag, about 150 years old, is flown during an immigration-reform rally at the Capitol last month. (AP Photo)

The first step in passing major immigration legislation went pretty smoothly, all things considered. The Senate Judiciary Committee late Tuesday approved a bill that would give 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and require employers to electronically verify all new hires.

The bill offers the biggest changes to immigration law in almost 30 years.

The committee’s action clears the way for a full-fledged Senate to take up the bill after Memorial Day. But making progress toward passage will only get more difficult. The “Gang of Eight” Republican and Democratic sponsors are fighting for every additional Republican vote in the full Senate, hoping that the measure will pass with “yes” votes from almost all of the 55 members in the Democratic caucus and at least 15 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans.

The latest supporter of the bill is Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who voted for the bill out of committee after reaching a deal to ease access to H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. He is asking for a few more changes to the bill before a Senate vote, but his support in committee is significant.

Reform advocates are happy with the committee vote, even though they know there are many ways the bill could still die. After five arduous days of debate, with committee members slogging through hundreds of amendments, the immigration proposal emerged largely unchanged from the basic framework initially offered in April by the Gang of Eight.

The bill’s path to citizenship is still intact, despite attempts from some committee Republicans to remove the ability of newly legalized immigrants to become naturalized citizens. The electronic verification requirement is still being phased in over several years to accommodate small businesses, despite an attempt to speed up the mandate that would have threatened businesses’ support of the bill.

Advocates consider the legislation the answer to problems raised in 1986, when Congress passed legislation giving amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants and put in place a paper authorization system for employers.

America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry, an avid supporter of legalization for undocumented immigrants, noted that the 1986 bill didn’t allow for future immigrants to enter the country for low-skill jobs such as restaurant workers, roofers, or nannies. So those workers simply entered illegally. Now there are 11 million of them. The immigration legislation on the table would create several ways for employers who need those foreign workers to get them here and not be forced to pay them under the table.

“You have options where those immigration categories didn’t exist before,” Sharry said. “We now have a lever to turn. If the demand goes up, you can increase the visas because you have a visa category that didn’t exist before. You couldn’t do that.”

The final hours of the committee’s deliberation illustrated the deep emotional struggles that the bill’s sponsors grappled with in order to reach agreement with members of the opposing party and those with opposing viewpoints. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., waited until the bitter end of the hours-long session to discuss his controversial amendment that would give same-sex couples the same immigration benefits as heterosexual couples. The proposal was dubbed a deal-killer by Republicans, so Leahy did reluctantly withdrew it.

“I don’t want be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” Leahy said.

“There will be another day, Mr. Chairman,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a bill sponsor who said he would have voted against Leahy’s proposal because it upset the agreement from the Gang of Eight.

Another amendment offered by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to allow U.S. citizens to sponsor siblings or married adult children for green cards in cases of extreme hardship, was rejected with regrets from otherwise supportive Democrats. The ability to sponsor siblings and adult children for green cards, a right that exists under current law, was traded away in favor of merit-based visas to end so-called chain migration, at the request of Republicans.

If those amendments were difficult for Democrats to deal with, the Republicans on the Gang of Eight had their own problems. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., had been voting for days against amendments that they themselves wanted because they knew it would upset Gang Democrats. For example, Flake and Graham voted against proposals to increase the number of guest workers allowed in the bill, because Democrats did not want to upset unions that are vigorously attempting to keep the visa numbers low to protect American jobs.

As the bill moves to the full Senate, its sponsors got a huge boost on the Republican side from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Tuesday that he would not stand in the way of the legislation on the Senate floor. “The Judiciary Committee has not in any fundamental way undone the agreements that were reached by the eight senators. And so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate,” he said.

Even with a pass from McConnell, other Republicans are expected to make a fuss, and it will be an exercise in patience and political savvy to navigate their protests. Gang member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is not on the Judiciary Committee, says the bill won’t pass if all 100 senators don’t have their say. That’s going to mean a lot of floor time for senators to talk about everything from drones to chicken-processing plants to dairy workers.

For more information:http://www.nationaljournal.com/first-hurdle-cleared-in-immigration-but-bigger-ones-remain-20130521?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=6e48f3428c-AILA8_5_23_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-6e48f3428c-287739493


Immigration reform- Getting there

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

“EVERY major policy issue has been resolved,” declared Charles Schumer, one of eight senators seeking to draft a bipartisan bill to reform America’s immigration system. The “Gang of Eight”, he continued, would unveil their proposal in days; it would putter through the Judiciary Committee this month, and reach the Senate floor in May. “We’re on track,” he concluded, in a television interview this week. If he is right, an issue that has dogged American politics for a generation, left 11m people in limbo and steadily undermined the Republican Party’s prospects, is on the verge of resolution.

Not everyone, even within the Gang of Eight, seems quite so confident. Marco Rubio, the group’s most conservative member, says reports of success “are premature”. At least one element of the bill, a scheme to admit agricultural workers on a temporary basis, has proved especially thorny to negotiate. Many Republicans are still averse to any reprieve for America’s 11m illegal immigrants, despite the dreadful showing this stance earned them among Hispanic voters at last year’s elections. But the momentum in favour of reform is clearly building.

Mr Schumer’s crowing was prompted by a deal on visas for low-skilled workers between the two pressure groups to which the gang had delegated the subject: the AFL-CIO, America’s biggest confederation of trade unions, and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which represents business. Bickering on this topic contributed to the collapse of the last big push for immigration reform, in 2007. This time the two sides have agreed on an elaborate formula which would hand out more visas when the economy is strong and fewer when it is weaker. Businesses would benefit from the admission of as many as 200,000 workers a year when times are good (and as few as 20,000 when they are not). The unions, meanwhile, are pleased with wording intended to prevent an influx of new labour from depressing wages or undermining workers’ rights. The main beneficiaries, naturally, would be the visa recipients, who would be allowed to change jobs and apply for permanent residence after a year—as they cannot do now.

The gang’s bill is expected to boost the number of visas for skilled workers too, especially in high-tech fields, and to make it easier for foreign graduates of American universities to settle in America. The senators are also rewriting the rules on the admission of seasonal farm labourers, a job largely filled by illegal immigrants at the moment, thanks in part to the cumbersomeness of the official scheme. They had hoped to win the approval of both growers’ associations and the United Farm Workers (UFW), the biggest agricultural union. But the two sides are at an impasse. The farmers had wanted to adjust the official formula for setting the guest workers’ wages; the union complained that they were trying to suppress wages in general.

Nonetheless, the dispute is unlikely to derail the bill, because the main concern of both sides is not regulating the future flow of new farm workers, but normalising the status of those who are already in America. The country’s 11m “undocumented” immigrants represent a huge pool of recruits for the unions and new hires for business. Although most of them work, their shadowy status exposes employers to legal penalties and the immigrants themselves to exploitation. The Gang of Eight has agreed that their bill will provide these unfortunates not only with some sort of formal legal status, but also with the chance to become citizens eventually.

Just how arduous that process is will be the main point of contention when the bill is unveiled. Republicans have long resisted anything that smacks of amnesty. Democrats, meanwhile, warn against any requirements that are so onerous as to exclude large numbers of the undocumented. The Gang of Eight has already agreed that most illegal immigrants will have to prove that they have worked, pay back taxes and pass both a background check and a test of civics and English, among other requirements, before they can become permanent residents and, eventually, citizens.

The path to citizenship can be long, argues Angela Kelley of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank, as long as it is wide. Many immigrants would struggle to prove their employment history, she notes, since those who hire them are breaking the law and thus tend to avoid much of a paper trail. By the same token, fees or fines that might seem lenient to a middle-class Republican primary voter would be unaffordable for many illegal immigrants. $10,000, for example, would represent over a third of annual household income for half of those in America illegally, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration think-tank.

Another issue bound to provoke debate in the Senate is the policing of America’s borders. The Gang of Eight has agreed that security must get tighter before any illegals can receive green cards (the document conveying permanent residence), to prevent a wave of new immigrants seeking to exploit the reforms. In fact, security on the Mexican border is already fearsome, and unauthorised crossings are at their lowest levels in decades (although the weak economy on the northern side and declining birth rates on the southern one also play a part). Moreover, it is impossible to seal such a long and rugged frontier completely. That leaves Democrats fearful that Republicans will set an unreasonable standard, and Republicans suspicious of a Democratic fudge. A possible solution, suggests Ms Kelley, is to set objective goals, in terms of miles of fencing built, numbers of border-patrol agents deployed, and so on.

Immigration advocates seem confident that these hurdles will be overcome, because the political logic in favour of a deal is so strong. They point to the many Republicans who have moderated their opposition to immigration reform since the elections. Rand Paul, a libertarian senator with a big tea-party following, recently made positive noises. Eric Cantor, the number two in the Republican hierarchy in the House of Representatives, has dropped his opposition to a scheme to give green cards to certain illegal immigrants brought to America as children. The involvement of Mr Rubio, another darling of the tea party, gives the initiative credibility on the right. It is telling that opponents of reform have taken to complaining less about the substance of the proposals and more about the haste with which they are being pursued.

The overwhelming majority of the Senate’s 53 Democrats and two independents are expected to support the reforms, leaving only a handful of Republican votes needed to reach the 60 vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. At the very least, the four Republican members of the Gang of Eight are likely to support their own bill, along with a few other moderates. The mechanics in the House are more complicated: its Republican majority includes many fierce opponents of any leniency towards illegal immigrants. But the Republican leadership, says Jeff Hauser of the AFL-CIO, will not want to be seen as sabotaging the reforms. In the end, he predicts, they will allow a vote on any bill the Senate produces, in the expectation that it will pass mainly with Democratic support. Shepherding an immigration bill through Congress may be a daunting task, but snuffing one out is beginning to look more daunting still.


Former INS Chief Talks Politics of Immigration Reform

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

BY: KWAME HOLMAN

The fence that stands on the United States-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz. Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/ The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Doris Meissner sometimes gets accused of taking a pro-Democratic view in her current work as senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, which calls itself an “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit” analyzer of migration issues worldwide.

But Meissner, a former official in the Clinton administration, ends up talking a lot about politics when the subject is potentially landmark immigration reform legislation now gathering steam in Congress — a plan she said offers more benefits than deficits for the United States.

“This is now an issue of politics. The issues have been out there for a long time. This is an issue of coming to a political meeting of the minds,” Meissner told the NewsHour this week in her office eight blocks from the White House.

The importance of politics in the effort to make fundamental changes to the nation’s immigration policy comes as no surprise to Meissner, whose job it is to understand millions of Latino legal residents and the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States who could gain a path to citizenship under the proposal.

Meissner agrees with the prevailing analysis that Latino voters swung heavily toward President Barack Obama and other Democrats in November in large part because of a perceived anti-immigrant bent of former Gov. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

“Those of us working in this field have known for a long time the potential of the Latino vote being a pivotal election-changing vote has always been there,” she said. “But it has been one of those population groups that’s had lower voting rates.”

Polls show that Latino voters were energized by the Democrats’ support for immigration reform and the feeling that Republicans opposed it.

“We’re talking about U.S. citizens. They don’t have a stake in immigration reform in a way that people illegally in the county do, but they do have a stake in immigration reform because they are characterized as bad people in this political fracas, as people who somehow don’t have a right to be here and that has been deeply offensive to Latino voters,” Meissner said.

Meissner — who was commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Custom Enforcement) for most of President Bill Clinton’s two terms — said the actions of Latino voters suddenly turned immigration reform from “an issue that had been a complete third rail into the issue that both parties could come together on.”

And Meissner said the swing toward support for immigration reform extends to traditional Republican constituencies, notably in mid-Western and Southern states that have seen substantial increases in Latino immigrant residents in recent years.

“I think what’s going on now in the Christian right and the evangelical world is extraordinarily influential. Because evangelicals and those churches and pastors have taken up this issue of welcoming the stranger and the values in the Bible that believers should be following. They have really embraced this and they are doing very savvy and sophisticated media campaigns in states around the country that are heavily influenced by the evangelical vote, explaining why immigration reform, why citizenship for people who are in the country illegally is consistent with religious belief and the values of those churches,” said Meissner.

Meissner also notes the states immigrants have moved to have seen decreases in their own native populations, leaving many towns to rely on the new immigrants.

“Let’s look just at the pragmatic side of that, which is that the evangelical movement’s fastest-growing group are immigrants and Latino immigrants. So they’re finding this in their own churches, they’re finding in their own congregations people who do not have legal status. And they’re confronting the hardships that that creates in their church community. That’s powerful,” she said.

But even if the political stars seem to continue to align for immigration reform, Meissner can imagine at least two scenarios that could impede the legislation – governors may balk at the costs of applying legal status to millions of undocumented people, or the sheer size of the undertaking.

“It’s the quintessential devil in the details. The sweep of this kind of a bill is enormous. If a bill like this passes, this is going to be a project for our country for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond. This is [a] very substantial set of changes,” she said. “So any of the particular features of it could — because it then involves so many constituencies, so many political interests — could bring it to unravel.”


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