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Mark Zuckerberg group launches TV blitz

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

By ALEXANDER BURNS

4/23/13 3:15 PM EDT

POLITICO

The Mark Zuckerberg-backed organization pressing for immigration reform will launch its first wave of television ads Tuesday, in a move aimed at shoring up support for a large-scale immigration deal on the right, strategists for the group told POLITICO.

FWD.us, the organization formed to push Silicon Valley’s priorities in Washington, will advocate for a new immigration law through a subsidiary group created specifically to court conservatives. Americans for a Conservative Direction will spend seven figures to run ads in more than half a dozen states, according to strategists who sketched out the organization’s plans.

The sales pitch leans heavily on clips of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to make its case to skeptical Republican-leaning voters. The ad campaign is the first wave of advocacy advertising from FWD.us, and an early test of the group’s ability to move the political debate.

The conservative-oriented FWD.us affiliate running the ads has assembled its own blue-chip board of advisers, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sally Bradshaw, the former chief of staff to Jeb Bush; Dan Senor and Joel Kaplan, the former George W. Bush advisers; and Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who serves as the campaign manager for FWD.us.

Brian Walsh, the former NRSC communications director, is working closely with the group on communications and strategy.

In a statement, Jesmer said the TV offensive was aimed at giving air support to Republicans in Washington who have gone out on a limb to forge an immigration deal.

“Conservative leaders in Congress have put forward a bold plan with the toughest enforcement measures to secure our broken borders and hold those who have broken our laws accountable. Americans for a Conservative Direction is committed to supporting this effort as Congress gets to work on the real solutions that will fix our broken immigration system, secure our borders and help grow our economy,” the GOP strategist said.

FWD.us, a registered not-for-profit, will also have an arm focused on reaching out to progressive and independent voters, dubbed the Council for American Job Growth. Both affiliate groups are incorporated as LLCs.

And while both entities will be funded through the FWD.us umbrella organization, strategists said they will have independent boards to shape their political activity.

In six states – Texas, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky – the Americans for a Conservative Direction commercials will feature clips of Rubio extolling the virtues of a tough-but-fair immigration compromise. Voters in a seventh state, South Carolina, will see 60-second ads praising the conservative credentials of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Republican advocate for immigration reform.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/mark-zuckerberg-immigration-group-launches-tv-blitz-90511.html#ixzz2Rs5ToiWP


The Dream is Now’—Steve Jobs’ widow launches new Dream Act push

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, DREAM Act, education, Immigration Law Leave a comment

The Dream is Now’—Steve Jobs’ widow launches new Dream Act push

By Beth Fouhy | The Lookout – Tue, Jan 22, 2013

CendyCendy (screengrab from www.thedreamisnow.org)

The teenage girl peers into the camera, ready to divulge a secret.

“All my siblings are documented except me,” says the girl, identified onscreen as Cendy. “I know I have a lot of potential but that I might not get there because my status will hold me back.”

Cendy is one of millions of immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children—a group known as “DREAMers” by advocates of the Dream Act, a federal bill first introduced in the Senate in 2001 to allow them a pathway to permanent residency. To push for passage of the provisions in the Dream Act, Cendy and others agreed to share their stories on www.thedreamisnow.org, a website launched Tuesday by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth” ) and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

 

The project allows young undocumented immigrants to submit videos describing how their lives would change if the Dream Act were passed. Others can also submit posts, including teachers, relatives and friends of the young immigrants, as well as those involved in developing policy around immigration.

The videos will be posted on the website, and Guggenheim will compile them into a documentary film.

“The documentary becomes a living, breathing petition,” Guggenheim told Yahoo News. “These DREAMers are putting everything on the line. When they come out like this, they are saying, ‘I’m ready to risk it all for what I believe.’”

Immigration reform looms large as a legislative priority for President Barack Obama and for Republicans hoping to improve the party’s status among Hispanic voters.

Powell Jobs told Yahoo News the new project was an effort to harness the momentum around the issue and give visibility to the young people who would benefit from the Dream Act.

“There needed to be a demystification—to put a face to these people, to hear the individual stories,” Powell Jobs said in one of the few interviews she has granted since Steve Jobs’ death in 2011.

Powell Jobs told Yahoo News her interest in the Dream Act had been sparked through College Track, an initiative she founded to help low-income and minority students attend college. Many of the students in the program are undocumented.

“They’re our children’s friends. They are people we know. This is a huge national problem that needs resolution,” Powell Jobs said.

The Dream Act would legalize young people under the age of 30 who entered the U.S. before they were 15 and have lived in the country continuously for five years. To earn legal status and eventually a path to citizenship, applicants would have to prove they have no criminal record and either enlist in the military or attend at least two years of college. (Some versions of the bill would require only a high-school degree for the legal status.)

The Dream Act has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats since its introduction even as the two parties have been sharply divided over other aspects of immigration reform. But the bill has never been enacted—the closest it came was in December 2010, when it passed the House but fell 5 votes short in the Senate of the 60 needed to avert a filibuster.

Despite criticism by some immigration rights activists for a record number of deportations during his administration, Obama took other steps last June to offer young undocumented immigrants some legal protections.

Obama announced a program of “deferred action,” directing his administration to stop deporting those under 30 who came to the U.S. before age 16 and have a high-school diploma or have enlisted in the military. Those who qualify can also apply for a renewable two-year work permit.

“They pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” Obama said when he announced the plan in July.

The action did not confer a path to citizenship and was considered only a partial remedy for young immigrants seeking legal status. But it was praised as a step in the right direction by immigration rights activists, even as Republicans claimed it was baldly political and circumvented the legislative process.

After Obama soundly won re-election in November in part by taking 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republicans have begun to reassess their position on immigration and, in particular, the provisions of the Dream Act.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a GOP rising star, has indicated he will introduce some immigration reform measures that could include expedited legal status for young undocumented immigrants. But Rubio’s earlier proposal to legalize DREAMers did not include a path to citizenship, making it a nonstarter for most immigration rights activists.

Powell Jobs said Rubio’s latest discussion of granting expedited status to young immigrants seemed “reasonable and principled,” but that she wanted to learn more. “The key is to see the legislation once it’s written,” she said.

The young people taping their stories for thedreamisnow.org are unlikely to face legal backlash or deportation because of Obama’s deferred action directive. But they could face other repercussions, like potentially losing their jobs if they don’t yet have work permits.

Cendy, a 16-year-old high-school sophomore from Aurora, Colo., said she was willing to take her chances.

Cendy, who declined to give her last name to Yahoo News to protect her parents, said she agreed to be part of the project in part to dispense with her secret.

“It was a little scary at first,” she said. “But the benefit of coming out, not being afraid anymore, got a lot of weight off my shoulders.”


Details of sweeping Senate immigration plan revealed

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law Leave a comment
By Kelly O’Donnell and Carrie Dann , NBC News
Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:00 AM EDT
NBCNews.com

John Moore / Getty Images, file A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks into Mexico on the border near Sonoita, Arizona. A new proposal suggests allocating $3 billion for increased surveillance and manpower along the country’s southern border.

After months of negotiations, a bipartisan Senate group on Tuesday will unveil sweeping legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, an effort that has been a major focus of President Barack Obama’s second term agenda and one that some Republicans view as a political necessity.

The plan outlines an emphasis on shifting legal immigration towards more skilled workers; sets ambitious goals for surveillance and security along the nation’s southern border; and offers qualifying undocumented immigrants a decade-long process – dependent on external border security triggers — towards legalization and eventual citizenship in the United States.

Included in the bill are the following provisions, according to a summary memo provided to NBC News:

  • Allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States continually since before December 31, 2011 to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant Status” if they pay back taxes and $500 in fines, and if they have not been convicted of a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors or voted illegally. Individuals with this status can work for any employer and travel outside the country but are not eligible to receive means-tested federal public benefits.
  •  After 10 years in Registered Provisional Immigrant Status, individuals will be eligible – pending border security measures and a clearing of existing backlogs for legal immigrants – to earn a merit-based green card if they have worked in the United States, demonstrated knowledge of the English language and paid an additional fine of $1000.
  • Allow eligible DREAM act applicants and certain agricultural workers to apply for green cards within five years
  • Regarding border security, the bill would set a goal of “90% effectiveness” – meaning the rate of apprehensions and turnbacks of potential entrants – per fiscal year in the most high-risk areas of the southern border. If that goal is not met within five years, a bipartisan “Border Commission” made up of border state governors and experts will be formed to issue new recommendations on how to achieve it.
  • Allocate $3 billion for increased surveillance and manpower along the country’s southern border and an additional $1.5 billion for fencing.
  • Include a border security “trigger” requiring that no undocumented immigrant can achieve legal “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status until strategies for border security have been submitted by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress.
  •  Require an additional “trigger” that prevents those with “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status from becoming eligible to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status until the Department of Homeland Security and the Comptroller General certify that border security strategies are operational and a mandatory employment verification system has been implemented.
  • Create a new “W” visa program to allow non-agricultural temporary workers to come to the United States to work for registered employers.
  •  Eliminate family-based visas for siblings of United States citizens as well as the Diversity Visa program while eliminating caps on visas for certain employment-based categories.
  •  Use a point system for a new “merit based” visa, of which 120,000 would initially be awarded per year, with a maximum cap of 250,000 annually. Points will be awarded based on criteria including education, employment and length of residence in the U.S.
  • Require an “enhanced E-Verify” system to prevent ineligible workers from taking jobs in the United States. Employers with more than 5,000 employees will be phased in within two years; employers with more than 500 employees will be phased in within three years.
  • Raise the annual cap on H1-B visas for high-skilled workers from 65,000 to 110,000, with provisions to prevent such workers from undercutting American wages. Set a maximum cap at 180,000 such visas.

While events in Boston Monday caused organizers to postpone a planned Tuesday press conference to roll out the bill, the legislation will be formally filed in the Senate later today. Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and John McCain of Arizona will visit the White House to brief the president on the plan.

Related:
Revealed — a path to citizenship, shift to employment-based visas

10 things you need to know about the Senate immigration bill

Once filed, the process of examining the bill will begin in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where panel members will hold two hearings in the next week. The group is expected to continue its markup of the legislation into the month of May.

The proposal, drafted by four Democrats and four Republicans, represents the first major attempt to comprehensively address illegal immigration, border security, and the existing backlog for legal immigrants to the United States since a bipartisan bill stalled in the Senate in 2007.


An Immigration Blueprint

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

April 16, 2013
By  (The New York Times)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 things you need to know about the Senate immigration bill

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

by Raul A. Reyes

1:00 am on 04/16/2013

The path to comprehensive immigration reform has never been smooth. Coming the day before the Senate’s “Gang of 8” were to present their immigration proposal, the tragic events in Boston may have delayed its official announcement. It is a long-awaited proposal that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called “a starting point” on Sunday’s Meet The Press. In anticipation of its imminent unveiling, here are the major takeaways of the Senate plan.

Illegal Immigration

1. The Senate plan includes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented that will take 13 years. Undocumented immigrants who can prove continuous presence in the country before December 31, 2011 will be eligible to adjust their status. They must have clean records and pay taxes and a $500 fine, in addition to any fees. Then they can apply for “Registered Provision Immigrant” status.

2. People with Registered Provision Immigrant status can live and work legally in the U.S., and travel outside the country. Another $500 fine will kick in after six years as a Registered Provision Immigrant. After 10 years, a Registered Provision Immigrant may apply for a green card if they know English, pay taxes, and pay a $1,000 fine. It will take an additional three years for a green card to be converted into citizenship. However, these provisions are all dependent upon the Department of Homeland Security meeting their border security goals.

3. DREAMers and agricultural workers will have a shorter path to citizenship. People who were brought illegally to the U.S as children and would otherwise qualify for the DREAM Act can obtain green cards in five years (and are exempted from the $500 fine). They will then be eligible for citizenship immediately. The Senate plan also includes the AgJobs Act, which will allow current agricultural workers to obtain legal status through the Agricultural Card Program.

4. Some deportees will be allowed to legally re-enter the U.S. Undocumented immigrants who were here before December 31, 2011 and were deported for non-criminal reasons can apply to re-enter the country if they are the spouse or a parent of a citizen or lawful permanent resident. This is good news for many of the nearly 250,000 deportees with citizen children; they will have a chance to reunite with their families.

Legal Immigration

5. More visas will be allocated on a merit-based system. Our current system allows roughly two-thirds of legal immigration on the basis of family unification, and 14 percent based on employment. Now the allotment for employment visas for skilled workers and professionals will gradually rise.

6. The number of H1B visas will be increased. H1B visas are for workers with college degrees or in skilled occupations. They are capped at 65,000 per year, with an additional exemption of 20,000 for people with advanced degrees. This has often proved inadequate for the number of applicants; the 2014 cap was reached in only 5 days. The Senate plan raises the yearly cap to 110,000, and the advanced degree exemption to 25,000. To prevent employers from seeking to undercut American workers, employers will be required to pay H1B workers higher wages. Employers will face additional scrutiny from the government in order to prevent abuse of the H1B program.

7. Family-sponsored immigration will be somewhat curtailed. Within eighteen months of the bill’s enactment, citizens may no longer petition for visas for their siblings. Still, clearing the existing backlog of family-based visa petitions is a key goal of this proposal. And the existing V-visa program will expand to cover sponsorship of single adult children and married adult children under age 31.

8. Lower-skilled immigrant workers will be eligible for the new W-Visa. The W- Visa will cover people working in the service sectors as well as agriculture. Employers can petition the government to allow 20,000 such workers beginning in 2015, with this number rising as high as 75,000 within four years (The construction industry is limited to 15,000 workers a year).Immigrants on W-visas can move to other employers if they choose, and will be eligible for residency and citizenship. W-Visa immigrants may not be hired to replace striking American workers. Once the W-Visa program is operational, the much-maligned H2A visa program forseasonal agricultural workers will end.

9. No more Diversity Visas. The Senate proposal will end the “Diversity Lottery,” which allots 55,000 random visas to countries that are underrepresented in our immigration system. But people who were selected for the 2013 or 2014 Diversity Visas will still be eligible to receive them.

10. No immigration equality for same-sex couples. To the almost certain disappointment of the LGBT community and their allies, the Senate plan contains no provisions for immigration equality for same-sex couples.


Through the obstacle course of immigration, many paths to citizenship

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

 

By Erin McClam, Staff Writer, NBC News

 

This is the first story in NBC News’ series “Immigration Nation,” an in-depth examination of immigration in America.

The talk about reforming the American immigration system has focused on getting 11 million undocumented workers on the path to citizenship. It’s a simple idea that obscures a thorny truth.

There is no single path to citizenship. There are hundreds.

Which path you take can depend on who your relatives are, whether you are safe in your homeland or how good you are at your job — in the case of one Canadian burlesque dancer, whether you can prove that you twirl your tassels in a truly unique way.

Which path you take can depend on where you come from and how you’re trying to get here, on the whims of the federal government and on the laws of supply and demand.

You can set out on a path through your family or your job, as most immigrants do — hitching your hopes to a citizen brother or sister, or to an employer willing to be a sponsor.

You can take up arms for what you hope will one day be your country. Or you can win the lottery: Up to 55,000 spots each year go to people who line up for hours in far-flung places like Bangladesh or Kazakhstan to enter a drawing and try their luck at a new life.

So what happens once you choose your path? There are at least 4.4 million people whose first-step visa petitions have been approved and are waiting for a green card that would grant them permanent residency, the vast majority trying to enter with help from relatives in the United States, according to the State Department.

But that hardly means the path to citizenship is clear. Any number of obstacles can block the way. You can fall in love with an American citizen and move to a different path. You can be kicked off the path. Or the path can shift on you.

That is what happened to Sergio Garcia of Mexico, who has been waiting 19 years.

His father, a retired California farm worker, sponsored him for an immigration visa in 1994. At that point, the father had a green card, and the son had crossed the border without documentation, in the back of a truck.

For Garcia, Nov. 18, 1994, is what is known in the system as a priority date. To would-be immigrants, it means everything. When enough of the backlog has been cleared and your date comes up, you can take the final steps toward a green card.

More than a decade ago, enough of the backlog had been cleared for Mexicans in his immigration category that the priority date was Nov. 12, 1994 — just six days from his date.

Then the line jumped back three years, as it can when immigration officials work through a glut of cases. Since then, on the 15th of each month, Garcia has logged on to a State Department website to read the latest visa bulletin, to see whether he is any closer.

Garcia said that if he had known at the beginning that it would take two decades to get his green card, not the three to five years he was told, then he would have returned to Mexico.

“It’s probably been a month or two since I last ended up crying, because sometimes this life does get to you,” he said. “It’s not living, it’s surviving.”

The United States admits up to 675,000 immigrants legally each year, including up to 480,000 who are related to American citizens but are not spouses, minor children or parents, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

That figure includes 47,250 slots for each of the countries with the highest demand, including Mexico, the Philippines and India. Demand from these places far outstrips the supply of immigration slots.

From Mexico alone, the theoretical line is 1.3 million people long. If you are emigrating from the Philippines through a brother or sister who is a U.S. citizen, and you are getting your green card today, you got “in line” about the time the Berlin Wall came down.

And the green card is only the first step, entitling you to a five-year wait for full citizenship. In the interim, you can be rejected for a variety of reasons, including bounced checks, clerical errors on your application or adultery

“The system is just way too complicated,” said Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer from Alaska who has testified before Congress on the issue. “It’s so complicated and difficult that people can’t absorb it. They think: There’s no way I can navigate that.”

You can pay to get on a path: 10,000 visas — and ultimately green cards — are reserved for foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in an American business, though the program has never reached that number in the two decades it has existed.

Some paths are shorter than others. Qualified immigrants who have temporary visas can join the military and become naturalized citizens as soon as the end of basic training. President George W. Bush expedited the military path after the Sept. 11 attacks.

And about one in 10 people legally admitted to this country every year is granted entry because of asylum or refugee status, and a one-year path to a green card, after proving a legitimate fear of persecution at home.

That happened to Parvaneh Vahidmanesh, who was in the United States on a visa when Iran was engulfed by violent protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election.

In an open letter in The Wall Street Journal addressed to Iran’s supreme leader, Vahidmanesh demanded to know why a bullet was the answer to peaceful cries of opposition. The United States deemed it too dangerous for her to return home.

Vahidmanesh applied for asylum after the Journal letter was published, was granted asylum in September 2009, got a green card a year later and is waiting to become a citizen.

She said that she feels accepted in the United States, never like a foreigner or even a guest.

“Now, I have a future,” she said. “Most important thing is freedom. I just feel freedom with all of my self here in the U.S. In Iran, I never felt that I am a free person.”

The immigration reform plan being devised in Washington, chiefly by four senators from each party, is expected to provide a means for the estimated 11 million who entered the United States illegally eventually to become citizens.

Precisely how is far from clear, as is whether the plan would include an unspecified “trigger” requiring that the U.S.-Mexican border is declared secure before any citizenship program for the undocumented can begin.

It is also expected to include some kind of guest-worker program allowing low-skilled workers to remain in the United States.

Supporters of tighter immigration controls have concerns about both elements, but most acknowledge that the country needs far more clarity on who should and should not be eligible to become an American citizen.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file Candidates wave U.S. flags during a naturalization ceremony to become citizens in Los Angeles in February.

Some advocates of a more permissive immigration system say that the central problem is that the United States does not issue nearly enough visas.

Even if the United States stopped approving new requests for family-based immigration visas today, it would take 19 years to clear the backlog of people waiting to join a relative in the United States, according to theMigration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research center.

“We haven’t changed our legal immigration numbers since 1990,” said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, part of a Washington group that supports immigration. “Think about the cellphone that they were carrying in ‘The Wedding Singer.’ Now think about your iPhone today.”

As Garcia waits for his priority date, his shot at citizenship, he figures there is no turning back. As strange is it may sound, he said, he believes that his father was right to encourage him to embark on the path to citizenship.

“I still think this country is a great country, and I think it will give me, in the end, a better future than I could have had in Mexico,” he said. “I still truly believe in the American dream.”

Petra Cahill, Tracy Connor and Miranda Leitsinger of NBC News contributed to this report.


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.


Outrage after ICE officers detain undocumented immigrants bringing their kids to school

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, DREAM Act, education, Immigration Law Leave a comment

by Alessandra Hickson
1:22 pm on 10/20/2012

Members of the Latino community and immigration activists are calling for the resignation of the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit after officers stopped and detained two undocumented immigrants as they dropped their children off at school.
Both immigrants, from Mexico, were followed by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement as they left their homes in southwest Detroit on Tuesday morning. Both men had their children in their vehicles. One of the men, Jorge Hernandez, says he was pulled over by agents in unmarked cars just across the street from his four year-old daughter’s school. He claims he was threatened with arrest in front of his wife and son.
“I was very scared,” said Jorge through an interpreter to The Detroit News. “My children were saying, ‘Don’t take my dad away.’”
Hernandez and his wife went into the Manuel Reyes Vistas Nuevas Head Start Center and stayed there until members of the Alliance for Immigrations Rights & Reform Michigan were able to help them. The other man, Hector Orozco Villa, told immigrant advocates he was detained by agents near the elementary school of two of his children, Cesar Chavez Academy, a few blocks from the Head Start center. Orozco Villa remains in the agency’s custody. Parents and children in the predominantly Latino neighborhood were alarmed by the agents, according to the New York Times.
On Wednesday, more than 100 people from Latino and church groups, including Hernandez and state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, rallied outside the Cesar Chavez Academy on Waterman Street. Demonstrators called for ICE Enforcement Director Rebecca Adducci to resign.
According to The Detroit News, ICE national director John Morton pledged in October 2011 that agents would no longer patrol around schools or stop residents on their way to drop off or pick up their children. Parents and school officials feel that ICE has broken it’s promise.
“It is very alarming to me to have this happen during the rush hour of people taking their children to school,” said Rep. Tlaib to the New York Times. “We are really worried about the impact on these United States citizen children.” Many of the children of both Hernandez and Orozco Villa were born in the United States.
But ICE says they’ve done nothing wrong.
“After a thorough review of facts, the arrest of a priority target today in the Detroit metro area adhered to, and was in full compliance of, the stated policies and procedures of the agency,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the agency. “This includes ICE policy regarding enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations.”
According to immigration officials, Orozco Villa was arrested because of a criminal conviction in 2008 for driving under the influence and he had also returned to the United States after being formally deported, which is a felony.
For now, immigration activists and Latino residents continue to press for answers and dialogue.


U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone
Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration
by Walter Ewing

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, the bulk of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.
These are among the findings of a new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.
The report highlights the pointlessly inhumane treatment of non-violent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. But one in particular is Operation Streamline, which is basically a mass trial for border-crossers that convicts between 40 and 80 people per hearing for “illegal entry”—a misdemeanor offense. A group lawyer is provided for defendants, but limited time and the challenge of representing scores of defendants at once have raised concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel in this setting is apparent from the survey interviews. When asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?” recent deportees answered as follows:
40% said they were instructed to sign the form admitting guilt and not fight the charges against them.
40% were informed that they have legal rights.
7% were told nothing or could not understand what was said to them.
2% were asked to report any abuses against them.
1% were checked for their actual legal status.
No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.
As the report emphasizes, a first offense for unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence. But those who are convicted have a criminal record based solely on an immigration offense that will exclude them from legal residence or entry. If they are apprehended again, they will be charged with a felony for illegal re-entry and sentenced to a maximum two-year sentence. However, upon asking recent deportees what they understood about their sentence, only 71% mentioned that they would face some amount of jail time if they returned to the United States.
Operation Streamline accounts for much of the increase in deportations of “criminal aliens” in recent years, simply because of the rise in immigration offenders whose activities were previously considered administrative offenses. Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry increased from 3,900 cases to 43,700 between Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and FY 2010. During the same period prosecutions for illegal re-entry increased from 7,900 to 35,800. Roughly 48% of all immigration prosecutions now come from illegal entry and 44% from illegal re-entry.
And yet, despite the harsh consequences, many of the people ensnared by Operation Streamline and other immigration-enforcement programs continue trying to return to the United States because that is where their homes are. As the New York Times noted in a recent discussion of the report:
“…about 60 percent of the respondents said they planned to try crossing the border again in the near future. The reasons were clear: of the 1,113 recently deported migrants who were interviewed at ports of entry and in shelters in six border communities in Mexico, roughly 300 of them had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.”
The report concludes that border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders. The authors call for a reexamination of why we as a nation allocate so many resources to imposing criminal sentences and punishments on people with no previous criminal history or who have committed only minor legal infractions. Moreover, we must make distinctions among different categories of criminal offenses and provide relief for people who have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations. Otherwise, we are needlessly destroying the lives and families of people who call the United States home.


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