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Growing Number of Republicans for Immigration Change

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Originally Published: September 2, 2013, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — As Congress wrestles with immigration legislation, a central question is whether the 11 million immigrants already in the United States illegally should get a path to citizenship.

The answer from a small but growing number of House Republicans is “yes,” just as long as it’s not the “special” path advocated by Democrats and passed by the Senate.

“There should be a pathway to citizenship — not a special pathway and not no pathway,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told ABC 4 Utah after speaking at a recent town hall meeting in his district. “But there has to be a legal, lawful way to go through this process that works, and right now it doesn’t.”

Many House Republicans said people who illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas should not be rewarded with a special, tailor-made solution that awards them a prize of American citizenship, especially when millions are waiting in line to attempt the process through current legal channels.

It’s far from clear, however, what a path to citizenship that’s not a special path to citizenship might look like, or how many people it might help.

The phrase means different things to different people, and a large number of House Republicans oppose any approach that results in citizenship for people now in the country illegally. Some lawmakers said such immigrants should be permitted to attain legal-worker status, but stop there and never progress to citizenship. That’s a solution Democrats reject.

Nonetheless, advocates searching for a way ahead on one of President Barack Obama’s second-term priorities see in the “no special path to citizenship” formulation the potential for compromise.

“I think there’s a lot of space there,” said Clarissa Martinez, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza. “And that’s why I’m optimistic that once they start grappling more with details, that’s when things start getting more real.”

Once Congress returns from its summer break the week of Sept. 9, the focus will be on the GOP-led House. The Democratic-controlled Senate in June passed a far-reaching bill that includes a big, new investment in border security and remakes the system for legal immigration system, in addition to creating a 13-year path to citizenship for those already here illegally.

House Republicans have rejected the Senate approach, promising to proceed instead with narrowly focused bills, starting with border security. No action is expected on the House floor until late fall, at earliest, because of pressing fiscal deadlines that must be dealt with first.

The timing crunch, along with the significant policy and process disagreements, has left some supporters pessimistic about the future of immigration legislation. They find hope, however, in some recent comments from House Republicans around the country suggesting they could support a solution that ends in citizenship at least for some who now lack legal status.

Democrats, some Republicans and most outside immigration advocates are pushing for a relatively straightforward path to citizenship like the one in the Senate.

It imposes certain restrictions, seeks payment of fees, fines and taxes, and requires that prospective immigrants attempting the process legally are dealt with first. Once those criteria are met, most people here illegally could get permanent resident green cards in 10 years, and citizenship in three more. Agriculture workers and immigrants brought to this country as children would have a quicker path.

That approach is rejected by most House Republicans as a “special” path to citizenship.

“It’s not a bill I can support,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said at a Verona, Va., town hall meeting recently. “We think a legal status in the United States, but not a special pathway to citizenship, might be appropriate.”

Goodlatte has said that after attaining legal status, immigrants could potentially use the existing avenues toward naturalization, such as family or employment ties.

He and others also argue that many immigrants would be satisfied with legalization alone, without getting citizenship. That’s something many advocates dispute, though studies show that a significant number of immigrants who are eligible for citizenship haven’t taken that step — about 40 percent in a Pew Hispanic Center study in February.

Goodlatte has not provided much detail on how he foresees immigrants moving through existing channels from legalization to citizenship. Depending on its design, such an approach could touch anywhere from hundreds of thousands to many millions of the 11 million people here illegally. So if House Republicans end up taking that approach, how they craft it would help determine whether Democrats and the advocacy groups could go along.

For now, advocates said that making immigrants here illegally go through the existing system would help relatively few of them.

Current law says that if you’ve been in the country illegally for more than a year, you have to return to your home country for 10 years before you can re-enter legally, which would likely dissuade many people.

Moreover, existing family sponsorship channels are badly backlogged, and many are capped. People applying for citizenship through their siblings face waits of more than 20 years in some cases, for example. On the employment side, existing visa programs are difficult to use and inadequate to meet demand, and also face long backlogs.

Waiving the requirement for people to exit the country and adding visas to reduce backlogs could take in a substantial number of the 11 million here illegally, arguably without being a “special” pathway, advocates said.

It’s a long shot, but the result could be an immigration deal between the House and the Senate, and a bill for Obama to sign.

“If the House wants to dis the Senate bill and come up with their own approach to the 11 million that has no special pathway to citizenship, we would be happy to work with them on a way that would meet with our bottom line, which is an inclusive, immediate path to legal status for the 11 million, and an achievable and clear path to eventual citizenship,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant group. “They can preserve the sound bite and we can have the policies that we want.”


Obama concedes Congress won’t meet August deadline on immigration overhaul

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

Obama concedes Congress won’t meet August deadline on immigration overhaul

By Associated Press, Published: July 15 | Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 8:23 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday conceded that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline. With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall — though even that goal may be overly optimistic.

The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president’s top second-term legislative priority.

“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he said during an interview with Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.

The White House sees the president’s outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.

Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party’s national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative — and largely white — districts see little incentive to back legislation.

The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation’s fractured laws.

“That was originally my hope and my goal,” Obama said. “But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform.”

Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight — the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill — met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.

The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed honing a message for Congress’ monthlong August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.

“When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody’s working hard and trying to make our case,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.

The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fines, learning English and taking other steps.

During his interview with Univision’s New York affiliate, Obama said the citizenship pathway “needs to be part of the bill.”

House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.

House Republicans are considering other options, including proposals to give priority for legalization to the so-called Dreamers — those who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Allowing only those individuals to obtain citizenship could shield Republicans from attacks by conservatives that they’re giving a free pass to those who voluntarily broke the law.

“I think that group of people — some call Dreamers — is a group that deserves perhaps the highest priority attention,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at an immigration-related conference in California Monday. “They know no other country.”

Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Virginia Republicans, are working on a bill to address the status of those immigrants, although the timing is uncertain. And Goodlatte cautioned that any such measure should hinge on completion of enforcement measures to prevent parents from smuggling their children into the U.S. in the future.

The House is not expected to act on any legislation before the August recess, though the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on the bill dealing with people brought to the U.S. when they were young.

Obama also spoke with the Telemundo station in Dallas and the Univision station in Los Angeles.

_

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.


Fixing America’s broken immigration system would be good for the country–and for the Republican Party

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

The Economist

Immigration

Of fences and good sense

Fixing America’s broken immigration system would be good for the country—and for the Republican Party

SOME of the first English words that Mario Rubio learned were “I am looking for work.” A penniless Cuban immigrant, he asked a friend to write them out phonetically on a piece of paper so he could memorise them. He worked hard and eventually became an American citizen. Perhaps his greatest reward was that his children had a better start in life. His son Marco is now a Republican senator.

His family’s story helps illustrate why the immigration reform Senator Rubio backs would increase the sum of human happiness, by freeing more people to pursue it. But like the sea between Cuba and Miami, the route to reform is rough.

On June 27th, by a convincing 68 votes to 32, the Senate passed an immigration bill co-sponsored by Mr Rubio. Now the action moves to the House of Representatives, where its passage is far from certain (see article). The Senate bill passed with support from both parties: all the Democrats voted for it, as did nearly a third of Republicans. House members would probably pass something similar, if allowed. But John Boehner, the Speaker, says he will not allow a vote on any bill unless a “majority of the majority” (ie, a majority of House Republicans) approve of it. That is a steep hurdle.

The Senate bill, were it to become law, would go a long way towards fixing America’s broken immigration system. It would increase the number of visas for skilled workers, grant visas for entrepreneurs and establish a guest-worker programme for manual labourers. It would give the estimated 11m illegal immigrants in America a chance to come in from the shadows: after paying a fine and back taxes, working hard and staying out of trouble, they would eventually be eligible to apply for citizenship. And in a last-minute deal the bill added another $46 billion (up from $8 billion in the original version) to fortify the Mexican border, which is already bristling with fences, armed guards and drones, and to beef up systems for checking that firms do not hire illegal workers. This “border surge” managed to lure in wavering Republican senators. But it is not enough for House Republicans.

Many of them insist on a bill that “secures the border first”. That is, they do not want any of the illegal immigrants now in America to be granted legal status until the border is so militarised that the flow of new ones slows almost to nothing. This would cost a fortune—America already spends more on border security than on all the main federal criminal law-enforcement agencies combined. And it would make only a marginal difference. So long as the supply of legal foreign workers falls far short of demand for their services, people will find a way in. It would be far better, for the immigrants themselves and for America, if they were allowed in legally.

More highly skilled immigrants would make America more innovative. More foreign entrepreneurs would create jobs for the native-born. More young, energetic newcomers would slow the rate at which America is ageing. More immigrants would mean more connections with fast-growing places such as China and India—connections that would accelerate trade and the exchange of ideas. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill would raise GDP, reduce the budget deficit and slightly increase the wages of the native-born. Countries built on immigration tend to be rich and dynamic: think of Australia, Canada and Singapore.

From “Tear down this wall” to “Build a fence”

Passing immigration reform would also be good for the Republican Party. Granted, to many in the House, it does not seem that way. Many represent districts gerrymandered to be whiter than a starlet’s teeth. For such congressmen, the biggest worry is a primary challenge from a more conservative fellow Republican. Many will doubtless hear, at barbecues over the July 4th weekend, that voters want landmines in the Yuma desert and crocodiles in the Rio Grande. Pandering to such demands will help some Republicans hang on to their seats in 2014.

But if the Grand Old Party wants to retake the Senate or the White House, it cannot afford to alienate ethnic minorities. They will reject a party that rejects them, and they will one day be a majority. Half of the babies born in America today are non-white. By 2060 non-Hispanic whites will be only 43% of the population, predicts the Census Bureau. Long before then, a party that attracts barely a quarter of the Hispanic and Asian vote, as Mitt Romney did, will be incapable of winning national elections. Mr Rubio, who would like to be president one day, understands this. If his party does not, it will be swept aside not by Democrats, but by demography.


Pass the Bill!

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

Pass the Bill!

 

By 

 

It’s beginning to look as though we’re not going to get an immigration reform law this year. House Republicans are moving in a direction that will probably be unacceptable to the Senate majority and the White House. Conservative commentators like my friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry are arguing that the status quo is better than the comprehensive approach passed by the Senate. The whole effort is in peril.

This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.

After all, the Senate bill fulfills the four biggest conservative objectives. Conservatives say they want economic growth. The Senate immigration bill is the biggest pro-growth item on the agenda today. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years.

Conservatives say they want to bring down debt. According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years. The Senate bill reduces the 75-year Social Security fund shortfall by half-a-trillion dollars.

Conservatives say they want to reduce illegal immigration. The Senate bill spends huge amounts of money to secure the border. According to the C.B.O., the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent. True, it would not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but it would do a lot better than current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent.

Conservatives say they want to avoid a European-style demographic collapse. But without more immigrants, and the higher fertility rates they bring, that is exactly what the U.S. faces. Plus, this bill radically increases the number of high-skilled immigrants. It takes millions of long-term resident families out of the shadows so they can lead more mainstream lives.

These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.

The first conservative complaint is that, as Kristol and Lowry put it, “the enforcement provisions are riddled with exceptions, loopholes and waivers.” If Obama can waive the parts of Obamacare he finds inconvenient, why won’t he end up waiving a requirement for the use of E-Verify.

There’s some truth to this critique, and maybe the House should pass a version of the Senate bill that has fewer waivers and loopholes. But, at some point, this argument just becomes an excuse to oppose every piece of legislation, ever. All legislation allows the executive branch to have some discretion. It’s always possible to imagine ways in which a law may be distorted in violation of its intent. But if you are going to use that logic to oppose something, you are going to end up opposing tax reform, welfare reform, the Civil Rights Act and everything else.

The second conservative complaint is that the bill would flood the country with more low-skilled workers, driving down wages. This is an argument borrowed from the reactionary left, and it shows. In the first place, the recent research suggests that increased immigration drives down wages far less than expected. Low-skilled immigrants don’t directly compete with the native-born. They do entry-level work, create wealth and push natives into better jobs.

Furthermore, conservatives are not supposed to take a static, protectionist view of economics. They’re not supposed to believe that growth can be created or even preserved if government protects favored groups from competition. Conservatives are supposed to believe in the logic of capitalism; that if you encourage the movement of goods, ideas and people, then you increase dynamism, you increase creative destruction and you end up creating more wealth that improves lives over all.

The final conservative point of opposition is a political one. Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration reform; they should do it with a working-class agenda.

This argument would be slightly plausible if Republicans had even a hint of such an agenda, but they don’t. Even then it would fail. Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard.

Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.

That’s what’s at stake.


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.”


Deals for industries, immigrants tucked in Senate bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More changes are expected during the weeks of debate ahead.

Among the measures inserted in the bill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

immigration deport immigrantsAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For Immediate Release

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

June 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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