New Americans in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigrants are integral to Texas’s economy as students.

Naturalized citizens excel educationally.

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

 

Published On: Fri, Jan 11, 2013

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


What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?

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

What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?
By stacey On May 20, 2013 · Add Comment

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The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 sets the framework for Congress to address many immigration issues that have been suspended in a gridlock for several years in Washington. The proposed bill, crafted jointly by a group of four Democrats and four Republicans, together known as the Gang of Eight, was crafted to address four major immigration issues. If approved, this Act would: (i) tighten border controls, (ii) allow greater numbers of workers to immigrate legally, (iii) require employers to verify that all workers have legal status, and (iv) create an opportunity for those who are in the U.S. illegally to gain citizenship by following a detailed legal process.

Background

The U.S. is currently in its fourth and largest immigration wave. This wave began in 1965 reflecting the end of immigration limits based on nationality. According to Nancy Benac of the Associated Press in her April 8, 2013, article on the proposed act, the foreign-born population now accounts for approximately 1 in 8 U.S. residents, or approximately 13% of the population. Ms. Benac also states that out of the record 40.4 million immigrants who live in the United States, more than 18 million are naturalized citizens, 11 million are legal permanent or temporary residents, and more than 11 million are in the country without legal permission. (AP article published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/gang-of-eight)

Under present laws, the U.S. permits the granting of a significantly larger proportion of permanent green cards to family members of citizens and current permanent residents than to foreigners with job or other prospects here. About two-thirds of permanent legal immigration to the U.S. is family-based, compared to about the 15% that is employment based. Many members of Congress are interested in boosting employment-based immigration to help the U.S. economy, and to help the U.S. to compete more effectively with other countries around the world by attracting talent to the domestic workplace.

Business owners, entrepreneurs and business lobbying organizations are keenly interested in Congress changing the immigration system to allow the U.S. to attract foreign-born workers with various skill sets. Advocates also wish for workers who have legally worked in the U.S. for an extended period of time to qualify for permanent resident status with fewer obstacles. Despite guarded opposition by labor unions, language in the 2013 bill addresses these issues.

How Will the Bill Affect Business-Related Immigration?

The bill proposes a migration to a more merit-based immigration system by eliminating certain categories of family preferences that promote chain migration, while wholly eliminating the diversity visa lottery. The bill would prevent citizens from bringing in siblings while allowing citizens to sponsor married sons and daughters only if those children are under the age of 31. These changes set the stage for more business-based visas.

The bill would raise the cap on visas for highly-skilled workers seeking H1-B visa status from 65,000 to 110,000, which would be a huge coup and certainly appreciated by the immigration bar – few of us were immune to the frenetic rush to file before the April 1 deadline, and even then far too many legitimate prospective beneficiaries simply missed the boat due to the unreasonable limitations in this critical area.

The bill also proposes to increase the current cap for H-1B STEM graduates with advanced degrees from 20,000 to 25,000. STEM graduates possess degrees based around the natural sciences.

All of these proposed changes to the H-1B visa will allow students who have gone to universities in the U.S. to study and receive advanced degrees to stay in this country to work, and the U.S. will lose less of this pool of talent to foreign competitors. All of these proposed changes are expected to produce positive economic results.

Additionally, the bill creates a start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs. Under the INVEST program, two new types of visas, one for non-immigrant visas and the other for immigrant visas, have been proposed for entrepreneurs as detailed below:

(1) The non-immigrant INVEST visa is a renewable 3-year visa for investors who can show at least $100,000 in investment in his or her business from angel investors and/or other qualified investors over the past 3 years, and whose business has created no fewer than 3 jobs while generating at least $250,000 in annual revenues in the U.S. for the two years immediately prior to filing.

(2) The INVEST immigrant visa would be an entrepreneurial green card, the number of which would be capped at 10,000 per year. The INVEST immigrant visa would require that the applicant must:

Have significant ownership in a U.S. business (need not be majority interest);
Be employed as a senior executive in the U.S. business;
Have had a significant role in the founding/initial stages of the business;
Have resided for at least 2 years in the U.S. in lawful status;
and

Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs and which business must have received at least $500,000 in venture capital or other qualified investments; or
Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs, and the business has generated at least $750,000 in annual revenue for the 2 years immediately prior to filing.
Finally, the bill also proposes a guest worker visa program. This is among the more controversial aspects of the Gang of Eight bill and is known as “W visas.” This program would issue guest worker visas for low-skilled workers, defined in the bill as those whose jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Guest workers would serve three-year stints, renewable indefinitely, and would be allowed to bring their families with them. The program sets a first-year cap of 20,000 for the program, but the agency running it would be allowed to increase that to as high as 200,000 visas per year. This program could create a potentially huge source of future migration to the U.S., and raises the question of whether or not these foreign workers will be eligible for permanent residence or citizenship in later years.

Conclusion

Much of the proposed legislation in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is just an outline and framework that which the full Congress can refine and eventually act. Amendments and additional provisions will no doubt be included in any final version of the bill that is enacted by both houses. Congress has vowed to give this bill a long period of consideration and multiple hearings for comments and testimony. It will undoubtedly be many months before the final version of the bill is drafted and passed in any form. It is hoped that this detailed level of scrutiny will allow for a comprehensive and effective new immigration law that will have a positive effect on business and on the economy.

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House Immigration Group Resolves Dispute

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

Cesar Maxit, of Washington, who is originally from Argentina, hold a sign that says

ERICA WERNER  720 

WASHINGTON (AP) — House members writing a bipartisan immigration bill said Thursday they had patched over a dispute that threatened their efforts, even as they and the rest of Congress prepared to return home for a weeklong recess where many could confront voters’ questions on the issue.

The eight lawmakers in the House immigration group have struggled for months to come to agreement on a sweeping bill that would have a chance in the GOP-controlled House while satisfying Democrats’ objectives.

Talks almost broke down last week, only to resurrect and then break down again this week over the question of providing health care for those here illegally who would gain legal status under the bill, lawmakers and aides said.

Republicans in the group want to ensure that those immigrants don’t get taxpayer-funded care and could be subject to deportation if they don’t pay their health bills, said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of the group. But an agreement reached last week on that question apparently sparked concern among House Democratic leaders, causing Democrats in the group to back away.

After meeting Thursday afternoon in the Capitol, the lawmakers said they were back on track. Labrador said agreement remained that immigrants shouldn’t get taxpayer-funded care, but he said there had apparently been a misunderstanding that led Democrats to believe Republicans were trying to deny emergency care to immigrants.

“I think maybe there was some confusion about some details, but I think we’re all good,” Labrador told reporters.

“I’m very pleased,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., also part of the group. “We’re going to get there. There’s going to be justice done for our immigrant community.”

The developments with the House group came two days after the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a comprehensive bill with a bipartisan vote to remake immigration laws, enhance border security and put the estimated 11 million people living here illegally on a path to citizenship.

The full Senate is to take up the legislation in June. Supporters are hoping to see the bill pass by a wide margin, with as many as 70 votes in the 100-member Senate.

That’s seen as a way of pressuring the House to act. If the Senate does pass a bill, it’s likely to be more liberal than what the House group might produce and more to the liking of many liberals in the House, including some of the Democratic leadership.

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement along with his top lieutenants Thursday promising the House would act on the issue, but making clear House members would not accept any bill passed by the Senate.

“The House remains committed to fixing our broken immigration system, but we will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes,” the statement said.

“The House will work its will and produce its own legislation,” it said.

Officials said Boehner has privately said he hopes to have a bill through the House by August, though there is no strategy yet on what it would include. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Immigration and Fear

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

The New York Times
April 20, 2013
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Much of the country was still waking up to the mayhem and confusion outside Boston on Friday morning when Senator Charles Grassley decided to link the hunt for terrorist bombers to immigration reform.

“How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil?” asked Mr. Grassley, the Iowa Republican, at the beginning of a hearing on the Senate’s immigration bill. “How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.?”

The country is beginning to discuss seriously the most sweeping overhaul of immigration since 1986, with hearings in the Senate last week and this week, and a possible vote by early summer. After years of stalemate, the mood has shifted sharply, with bipartisan Congressional coalitions, business and labor leaders, law-enforcement and religious groups, and a majority of the public united behind a long-delayed overhaul of the crippled system.

Until the bombing came along, the antis were running out of arguments. They cannot rail against “illegals,” since the bill is all about making things legal and upright, with registration, fines and fees. They cannot argue seriously that reform is bad for business: turning a shadow population of anonymous, underpaid laborers into on-the-books employees and taxpayers, with papers and workplace protections, will only help the economy grow.

About all they have left is scary aliens.

There is a long tradition of raw fear fouling the immigration debate. Lou Dobbs ranted about superhighways from Mexico injecting Spanish speakers deep into the heartland. Gov. Jan Brewer told lies about headless bodies in the Arizona desert. And now Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, is warning of radical Islamists posing as Hispanics and infiltrating from the southern border.

But the Boston events have nothing to do with immigration reform. Even if we stop accepting refugees and asylum seekers, stop giving out green cards and devise a terror-profiling system that can bore into the hearts of 9-year-olds, which seems to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s age when he entered the United States, we will still face risks. And we will not have fixed immigration.

There is a better way to be safer: pass an immigration bill. If terrorists, drug traffickers and gangbangers are sharp needles in the immigrant haystack, then shrink the haystack. Get 11 million people on the books. Find out who they are.

The Senate bill includes no fewer than four separate background checks as immigrants move from the shadows to citizenship. It tightens the rules on employment verification and includes new ways to prevent misuse of Social Security numbers. It has an entry-exit visa system to monitor traffic at borders and ports.

And if we are serious about making America safer, why not divert some of the billions now lavished on the border to agencies fighting gangs, drugs, illegal guns and workplace abuse? Or to community policing and English-language classes, so immigrants can more readily cooperate with law enforcement? Why not make immigrants feel safer and invested in their neighborhoods, so they don’t fear and shun the police? Why not stop outsourcing immigration policing to local sheriffs who chase traffic offenders and janitors?

As we have seen with the failure of gun control, a determined minority wielding false arguments can kill the best ideas. The immigration debate will test the resilience of the reform coalition in Congress. Changes so ambitious require calm, thoughtful deliberation, and a fair amount of courage. They cannot be allowed to come undone with irrelevant appeals to paranoia and fear.


3 Leaked Immigration Reform Details You Need To Know

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

April 15, 2013

 

After months of negotiations, a group of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are poised to release a broad immigration reform bill within the next few days.

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for some of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and earmark billions for border security.

See Also: Border Security Focus Could Backfire for Republican

Although senators working on the bill have stressed that the document still isn’t finalized, some important details have leaked in the past week.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Border Security “Trigger” The bill creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications, but applicants would need to undergo a 10-year probationary period before being eligible for a green card.

The decade-long wait comes with another caveat: The federal government will need to meet certain border security benchmarks before any undocumented immigrants can receive a green card.

The benchmarks? An operational border security plan, a completed border fence, a mandatory employment verification system across the country and a system to track exits at airports and seaports, according toreports in several news outlets.

The border security plan would require surveillance of 100 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border and 90 percent effectiveness in border enforcement, The New York Times reported.

If those goals are met, immigrants who completed the 10-year waiting period would be eligible to apply for a green card.

2. The Cut-Off Date Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., hundreds of thousands may not be eligible for the path to citizenship being offered by the Senate, the AP reported on Friday.

The bill requires that applicants prove they were in the country before December 31, 2011, the AP reported. That means anyone who arrived after that date would be excluded.

There will be other requirements, too, like proving you have a clean criminal record and that you have enough job stability to stay off welfare. How the bill defines those things — criminality and financial stability — could decide the fate of thousands.

3. More Visas for Workers The majority of immigrants who receive legal permanent residence in the U.S. get their visas because of family ties.

But the Senate bill will add a major new “merit-based” program, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Here’s what will happen, according to the Times:

Over a 10-year period, the government will seek to clear the backlog of 4.7 million immigrants waiting to come to the U.S.

After that, the bill will create a new, merit-based visa program that will offer legal permanent residence based on work skills.

At the same time, some family-based visas will be eliminated. Siblings of U.S. citizens would no longer be eligible for green cards, the documents that show legal permanent residence.

The exact balance of family visas to employment visas in the Senate proposal isn’t clear, but the bill would focus on bringing in more workers of all skill levels.


Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

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

Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

By Vincent Bzdek, Updated: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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.”


Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in ‘Pieces’

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

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

Goodlatte040313 445x292 Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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