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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.


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.


RNC Report Gives House Republicans Cover On Immigration Bill, Activists Say

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

The call to “embrace and champion” immigration reform in the GOP’s new blueprint gives Boehner the legroom to ignore the Hastert rule and bring a bill to the floor. “Most Republicans get it,” says Sharry.
posted on March 18, 2013 at 3:21pm EDT

Immigration activists voiced their approval for the Republican National Committee’s new roadmap, a 97-page report on the future of the party, which calls on conservatives to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
Support from the Republican establishment for immigration legislation clears the way, advocates argued Monday afternoon on a press call, for Speaker of the Republican-controlled House John Boehner to bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to the floor without support from the majority of his party, skirting the unofficial “Hastert rule” that traditionally blocks such legislation from seeing a vote.
“The report this morning provides really important political cover for the Speaker to bring a bill to floor,” said Gary Segura, professor at Stanford University and a principal at the polling firm, Latino Decisions. “It may not convene the support of the majority of the party, but it would convene the majority of support of Congress overall.”
Because the RNC report, released Monday morning, highlights immigration reform as key to the future of the party, conservatives dissenters would “understand the need for the party to do it,” said Segura.
“We applaud the Republican National Committee for endorseing comprehensive immigration reform,” added Clarissa Martinez de Castro, a director at the National Council of La Raza. “It’s a solid step forward.”
Asked if the report should have specifically endorsed a pathway to citizenship — which 70 percent of Latino voters want included in new immigration legislation, according to a poll released Monday by Latino Decisions — Segura said the Hispanic community doesn’t need “lock-step conversion among all aspects of the Republican Party.”
“We’re pretty confident that we will end up with comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
“The RNC report signifies that Republicans have made a decision that the party needs to get this issue behind them,” he said. “At the end of the day, it will help them get a new hearing from many new voters who can’t hear them now because their tone and their policies have been so anti-Latino.”
Sharry acknowledged that “hardliners” in the Republican party will “continue to make stupid comments,” he said, citing pundits like conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. But the positions outlined in the RNC report, he said, make clear that “most Republicans get it.”


Seven Democratic Senators Push to Maintain Family Visas

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

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

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


Sen. Patrick J. Leahy: Judiciary likely to take up immigration after recess

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

By David Sherfinski – The Washington Times
March 12, 2013, 12:09PM

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that after gun legislation, immigration will likely be on the committee’s docket following a two-week Easter break.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the committee did not take up Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to ban so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines at its Tuesday meeting, but could do so Thursday.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Immigration Reform
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said he’ll try to make the Thursday meeting but pointed out that debate on the Senate budget proposal is scheduled for the same time.
Mr. Leahy said he hopes the committee will be able to finish marking up Mrs. Feinstein’s bill sooner rather than later.
“Once we come back from recess, we’ll probably be looking at immigration,” he said at the close of Tuesday’s meeting.
“Let’s hope,” added Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. Mr. Schumer is one of eight senators working to craft bipartisan legislation on immigration reform, another issue high on President Obama’s second-term priority list.
The Senate is scheduled to recess from March 25 to April 5.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/mar/12/sen-patrick-j-leahy-judiciary-likely-take-immigrat/#ixzz2NiVFkb5g
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter


Judges asked to close some immigration cases

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Processing of Applications and Petitions Leave a comment

Thursday, March 14, 2013- ABC NEWS

HOUSTON (KTRK) — A backlog of immigration cases across the country has courts clogged and now immigration judges are being told to do something about it. They’re being told to close the cases, even without consent from government prosecutors.

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Some immigration lawyers say a memo some judges received last week could mean wrapping up cases a lot sooner for some of their clients who are non-violent offenders.

It all has to do with a memo issued to courts addressing immigration case backlogs by the chief immigration judge at the U.S. Department of Justice last week. Attorney’s across Houston have been buzzing about the memo and some are calling it good news.

“We welcome it as a positive sign to remove or administratively close some cases,” immigration lawyer Baldomero Garza III said.

Garza is also the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Vice President for the southwest. He’s reviewed the memo, which reminds judges court resources are too limited to allow some immigration cases to drag on and on.

Garza says the memo reminds judges they have the power to manage their dockets by resolving many low-priority cases without a prosecutor.

“Ultimately, we all must be reassured that the judges will exercise discretion in terms of you are not going to release somebody that’s been convicted of a violent crime, drug trafficking — something serious that’s going to put the public in jeopardy,” Garza said.

Immigration attorneys say some cases drag on, allowing clients to find a lawyer or investigators to gather evidence. Judges are being reminded they can also control those continuances to better manage their courtroom.

“Yes you can delay it as long as you can, but in the end, you are using court resources that really should be going to the people that really do need to be removed,” Garza said.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it will offer immigration judges guidance to better manage their dockets.

There were a total of 42,573 cases pending in immigration courts across Texas at the end of last month. The Executive Office of Immigration Review’s records also show Houston had the most pending cases, a total of 13,711.


Sequestration May Lead to Release of Detained Illegal Immigrants in Houston

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law 2 Comments

Sequestration May Lead to Release of Detained Illegal Immigrants in Houston
Feb 27, 2013 By News 92 FM

Some illegal immigrants facing deportation are instead being released on their own recognizance as Immigration and Customs Enforcement braces for budgets cuts as a result of sequestration.
Local immigration authorities contacted by NEWS 92 FM said they were not authorized to speak about how many of those immigrants might be released in the Houston area. But local immigration attorney Charles Foster says the people eligible for this release are low risk individuals with no criminal history.


The Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Wait Continues

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

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Wait Continues  

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

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

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

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

Daniella Romero (Ruby L.Powers Law)

 

 

 

 


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