White House Official Says Immigration Reform Vote Not Likely Until October

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

Originally Published: Fox News, August 28, 2013

The Obama administration’s domestic policy director urged supporters of comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday to do as the civil rights leaders of the 1960s did – not let opponents defeat them.

Cecilia Muñoz, one of the most senior Latino officials in the White House, linked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with today’s fight for immigration reform in an interview with Fox News Latino.

“Today is about celebrating how far we’ve come and recommitting to the work that is ahead,” Muñoz said, adding that just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s addressed jobs, so does immigration reform.

“Immigration reform is just one piece of the agenda,” she said, “we can now quantify what it means for creating jobs, not just for immigrants, but for the rest of us.”

Muñoz, who has been a point person for Obama on immigration policy, said that significant movement on an immigration reform measure, or measures, was unlikely to happen before October. She said there are few legislative days in September, when members of Congress are to return from summer recess, and that their focus will be the debt ceiling and the budget.

That is later than the August deadline that President Obama had hoped for earlier this year, expressing concern that delays could hurt the chances of an immigration reform bill passing by December.

And in an interview with Fox News Latino a few weeks ago, Muñoz had said she hoped there would be a vote on a reform bill before October.  But on Monday Treasury Secretary Jack Lew set a mid-October debt-ceiling deadline, and some Republicans in the House are saying that it makes major action on immigration bills unlikely in that month, according to Politico.com

Muñoz said there’s no valid reason for more delays on House action on immigration.

The Senate, which passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in June, showed that “it’s possible to get this job done well and it’s possible to get it done in a bipartisan bill,” she said.

House Republican leaders have said they will not vote on the Senate’s sweeping immigration bill, and that they prefer to address the issue in a piecemeal fashion, through several separate measures.

“It looks like the House will bring [for a vote] some portion of five bills that have been ready since July,” she said.

“They’ve already been through the committee.”

Muñoz said the president is not trying to rush reform legislation.

“We would like a debate” on the House floor, she said. “We think there’s bipartisan support for a reform bill.”

Some Republican leaders who are key to what happens to immigration bills in the House have been particularly vocal in recent weeks about their opposition to the general concept of allowing some undocumented immigrants to legalize their status.

As recently as Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, assailed Obama for issuing a directive that calls on immigration officials to use discretion when considering detaining immigrants who have minor children.

Goodlatte said the directive undermines the efforts in Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the flawed immigration system. Many conservative members of Congress have criticized efforts by the Obama administration to loosen penalties for certain undocumented immigrants, including a 2012 directive suspending deportation for those who were brought to the United States as minors.

Muñoz balked at the criticism.

She said such directives are part of  “a series of building blocks” that were laid out a few years ago in a memo by John Morton, the then-director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calling for prosecutorial discretion in the case of undocumented immigrants who were not criminals or tied to terrorism.

“We’re maximizing the law enforcement impact of what we do,” she said, by prioritizing enforcement actions according to categories of undocumented immigrants.

As for Goodlatte, she said, “You could argue with the congressman, or anyone else, who is dissatisfied with our broken immigration system, that is a great argument for fixing it. It’s now abundantly clear. . .the depth and breadth of the constituents who support immigration reform is [now] greater than anyone has ever seen.”

 

 

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2013/08/28/white-house-domestic-policy-official-says-immigration-reform-vote-not-likely/#ixzz2dqMAqIJB


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.


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.”


Senator Look at Past Failures for Lessons on Immigration Overhaul

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
January 31, 2013- The New York Times

Senators Look at Past Failures for Lessons on Immigration Overhaul

 

By 

 

WASHINGTON — As eight senators in a bipartisan group look ahead to a broad immigration overhaul, they are also looking back to 2006 and 2007 — the last time a major immigration measure was considered — as something of a reverse playbook.

Lesson 1? “Make sure you get out there and define what you’re trying to do,” said former Senator Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who, in 2007, was the minority whip when his chamber’s immigration efforts imploded. “Don’t forget to pay attention to the message, and don’t let the media define what you’re trying to do.”

It is a tip that Mr. Lott says he has communicated to the staff of Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican involved in the current effort, and so far Mr. Rubio seems to be heeding the advice. In recent weeks, he has focused on conservative media powerhouses, tirelessly wooing influential voices on the right like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.

“The outreach by Marco Rubio has been very positive,” Mr. Lott said. “He’s very good at explaining what he wants to do.”

Getting out ahead by articulating their immigration principles, as the group did in a Monday news conference, is only one of the ways the senators hope to learn from the mistakes of the past. This time, they said, they are capitalizing on a promising political environment, using more conciliatory language, and trying to harness media outlets to their advantage. They also plan to move their legislation through the Judiciary Committee, a step not taken in 2007 and one that helped doom the bill, and are working more closely with businesses and labor unions to make sure the two can also reach a compromise.

“Our timing is right,” said Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “The election results are still fresh in the minds of my Republican colleagues and they don’t want to go through this again.”

President George W. Bush said in 2009 that it was “a mistake” to have pushed for changes to Social Security, rather than immigration, immediately after the 2004 election. By the time he took on immigration late in his second term, he was a lame duck president, weakened by the war in Iraq and facing dissent within his party.

“By his own admission, President Bush made a strategic error in not pushing the issue right after his re-election,” said Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “President Obama is not making the same mistake. He still has a lot of political capital to spend.”

In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, where Mr. Obama’s defeat of Mitt Romney came with the help of 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, those on all sides of the immigration effort believe the climate is ripe for another attempt.

And, at least in the early stages, they are taking steps to reach across the aisle, even with the words they choose.

“The most important lesson I took way from 2006 and 2007 is that people had no faith that there wouldn’t be future waves of illegal immigrants,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat of New York in the Senate’s bipartisan immigration group.

To show that he is serious about an overhaul, he explained, he is especially conscious of the language he uses; Mr. Schumer now refers to “illegal immigrants,” a term preferred by the right and an acknowledgment that the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country did, in fact, break the law.

In a similar linguistic concession, Mr. Rubio, during Monday’s immigration news conference, referred to the “undocumented” workers, a term generally preferred by Democrats and loathed by his party’s conservative wing.

In 2007, in an attempt to save time and reach a deal, the Senate bypassed the Judiciary Committee and brought the legislation straight to the floor. At the time, the senators who drafted the bill tried to band together to vote down any amendments that changed the substance of their compromise, an agreement that broke down. Several controversial amendments, including one that then-Senator Obama supported, ultimately led to the bill’s collapse.

“What we’re doing now is we’re going to put it through committee,” Mr. Schumer said. “When the bill gets through committee, it will be battle-tested and we will be prepared for the floor in a better way.”

The group is also considering again trying to maintain a large voting bloc, to squash any amendments they believe could kill their bill.

“I think we have to unless there’s something that we both agree to,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said when asked about such a possibility at an immigration panel on Wednesday. “It’s going to be fragile, as these kinds of things are, and so we will have to take some tough votes in order to keep it intact.”

Finally, even business and labor interests — who historically come down on opposite sides of how to handle the future flow of legal immigrants — are currently working among themselves and with the Senate in an attempt to reach a compromise.

“We have had discussions with both labor — the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the S.E.I.U. — and business,” including with Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of other groups, Mr. Schumer said Monday.

“And in fact while we’ve been negotiating these principles, they’ve been sitting talking to one another,” he added. “They are making really good progress, much better than in 2009.”

Mr. Lott said that the collapse of an immigration overhaul in 2007 was “one of the most embarrassing moments that I experienced in the Senate,” and that the memories were still vivid — the way conservative talk radio turned on him, the angry phone calls flooding his office from around the country every morning, the handful of death threats.

Watching the immigration debate take shape now, he said, he is heartened to watch Mr. Rubio and others aggressively make their case in the press — something he wishes he had done better six years ago.

“I’d been in the Congress 34 years by then — I should have known better,” Mr. Lott said. “I was just trying to help move this thing along, but I should have paid better attention to the message part of it.”

 

 

 


READ: President Obama’s immigration proposal

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

Posted by Ezra Klein on January 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Here’s the White House’s immigration framework, which is similar to the Senate’s Gang of 8 framework, and to the White House’s May 2011 plan. If anything, their May 2011 plan was more detailed.

In his speech in Las Vegas this afternoon, President Obama warned that ”If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send them a bill based on my proposal and insist they vote on it right away.” The text of White House’s proposal follows:

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

· Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

· Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

· Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

· Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

· Strengthen border security and infrastructure. The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.

· Combat transnational crime. The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.

· Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement. The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are keys to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.

· Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling. The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.

· Deporting Criminals. The President’s proposal expands smart enforcement efforts that target convicted criminals in federal or state correctional facilities, allowing us to remove them from the United States at the end of their sentences without re-entering our communities. At the same time, it protects those with a credible fear of returning to their home countries.

· Streamline removal of nonimmigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.

· Improve our nation’s immigration courts. The President’s proposal invests in our immigration courts. By increasing the number of immigration judges and their staff, investing in training for court personnel, and improving access to legal information for immigrants, these reforms will improve court efficiency. It allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs. It also provides greater protections for those least able to represent themselves.

Cracking Down on Employers Who Hire Undocumented Workers

· Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President’s proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses.

· Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud‐and tamper‐resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.

· Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

Pathway to Earned Citizenship

· Create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Agricultural workers and those who entered the United States as children would be eligible for the same program. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits, including subsidies or tax credits under the new health care law.

· Create strict requirements to qualify for lawful permanent resident status. Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident.

· Earned citizenship for DREAMers. Children brought here illegally through no fault of their own by their parents will be eligible for earned citizenship. By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship. The President’s proposal brings these undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

· Create administrative and judicial review. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

· Provide new resources to combat fraud. The President’s proposal authorizes funding to enable DHS, the Department of State, and other relevant federal agencies to establish fraud prevention programs that will provide training for adjudicators, allow regular audits of applications to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, and incorporate other proven fraud prevention measures.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

· Keep Families Together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.

· Cut Red Tape for Employers. The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations.

· Enhance travel and tourism. The Administration is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our nation’s security. Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on travel and tourism, the President’s proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa. And finally it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

· “Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas. The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States. It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

· Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs. The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.

· Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S. economic development. The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; provides incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds new measures to combat fraud and national security threats; includes data collection on economic impact; and creates a pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

· Create a new visa category for employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories. The proposal creates a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs after being in the United States. for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

· Better addresses humanitarian concerns. The proposal streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence. It also better protects those fleeing persecution by eliminating the existing limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum.

· Encourage integration. The proposal promotes earned citizenship and efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically.


Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

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

 

The Miami Herald

Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

BY THOMAS WENSKI
Miamiarch.org

Now that the elections are over, perhaps a new bipartisan consensus can be forged to finally fix our broken immigration system.Both Democrats and Republicans can read the demographic tea leaves — in the last election the president’s perceived support for immigration reform gained for him wide support from both Hispanic and Asian voters. Lawmakers in both parties have made strong statements about “fixing” immigration in 2013.This is good news. Of course, any immigration reform legislation would need to address the legal status of the 11 million undocumented in our nation. But instead of providing this population a chance to earn their citizenship, some in Washington are suggesting that these immigrants should receive legal status but not an opportunity to become citizens.

They propose something like President Obama’s administrative action to grant “deferred departure” to the “Dreamers” — those who were brought here without legal status by their parents. In other words, these policy makers would extend protection from deportation and perhaps work authorization, but would not provide this population an earned path to citizenship.

An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them.

A bill introduced in the last Congress by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Hutchinson, R-Texas, modeled somewhat after the DREAM Act would not provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants. A similar proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida never put in bill form, would have done the same thing. Both proposals essentially addressed a situation that was already partially addressed by President Obama’s deferred action last year.

And like President Obama’s measure their proposal still leaves this population in limbo — with a quasi-legal status but no chance to upgrade to citizenship.

Even President Obama has given credence to the idea of legal status but not citizenship. In his first press conference after the election, he used the term “path to legal status” to describe a potential legalization program for the 11 million. It might have been a slip of the tongue, but words matter in Washington.

While perhaps better than no status, such an arrangement risks creating in our country a permanent underclass of persons who would never enjoy the rights of U.S. citizens. The lingering social costs of another era’s Jim Crow legislation show us that this is not the way to go. A path to citizenship is the best way to ensure that immigrants integrate fully into American society by allowing their civic participation and assuring them of access to full due process rights. It is, after all, the American way.

If the administration and Congress are serious about fixing our broken immigration system, they should fix it correctly, and not create more problems. A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream. Both the party of Jefferson as well as the party of Lincoln should be able to embrace that.

Thomas Wenski is Archbishop of Miami.


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Immigration Reform – This time, it’s different An election drubbing changes minds

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

November 24, 2012 Economist

Article here

WHEN Congress last wrestled with immigration reform, in 2007, John Boehner, then the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, denounced the bill under consideration as “a piece of shit”. George W. Bush, the president of the day, supported it, but many Republicans opposed it, mainly because it granted an amnesty of sorts to some of America’s 12m or so illegal immigrants. Over the next five years immigration reform languished in Congress, a victim of Democratic distraction and Republican opposition. Yet earlier this month Mr Boehner, now speaker of the House, declared himself “confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Barack Obama also seems optimistic. He recently said he expected a bill on the subject, including a mechanism to normalise the status of illegal immigrants, along with tougher penalties for hiring them and even-tighter border security, to be taken up in Congress early in the new year. Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer, respectively a Republican senator and a Democratic one, have resumed talks on a bill they abandoned two years ago. Several conservative pundits who had been implacably opposed to anything that smacked of lenience towards illegal immigrants are suddenly declaring themselves untroubled by the idea. This week two prominent Republican strategists set up an outfit called Republicans for Immigration Reform.

The impetus for all this activity was the drubbing Hispanic voters have just given to Republican candidates with a hard line on immigration. Hispanics made up 10% of the electorate this year, up from 9% in 2008. They are almost certain to account for an ever bigger slice of voters at each successive election for decades to come. Mitt Romney, who had suggested making life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they would “self-deport”, mustered only 27% of Hispanic votes. Meanwhile Mr Obama, who had lifted the threat of deportation and offered work permits to certain young immigrants brought to America as children, won 71%.

Mr Romney was hardly the only offender. Republican legislatures and governors around the country championed harsh local laws in an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly obstructed the DREAM Act, a formal version of Mr Obama’s reprieve for young illegals. During the primaries the Republican presidential candidates competed to sound toughest on illegal immigrants. “We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration,” Mr Graham said this week. Janet Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic pressure group, agrees: “If Republicans care about getting into the White House again, they’re going to have to engage with the Hispanic electorate.”

Not all Republicans are convinced. Steve King, an obstreperous congressman from Iowa, plans a lawsuit to try to get the president’s initiative on young illegals rescinded. Many Republicans doubt that they would win over many Hispanics even if they changed their stripes on immigration. Ronald Reagan, for example, signed an amnesty in 1986 but the Republican candidate at the next election, George Bush senior, still got just 30% of the Hispanic vote. Indeed, if reforms include granting citizenship for illegals, Republicans risk creating more Democrats, while alienating white working-class supporters who worry that outsiders are taking their jobs. Abandoning the party’s stance on immigration in the hope of winning over some Hispanics “is like jumping off a cliff to see if someone catches you”, says Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates reduced immigration and opposes an amnesty.

Angie Kelley of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank, acknowledges that it will be hard to find many Republican votes for any deal that involves an amnesty. Most Republican representatives, in particular, occupy safe seats, and thus serve at the pleasure of Republican primary voters, whose views on the subject are much more rigid than those of the electorate as a whole. But Ms Murguía argues that enough Republican votes can be picked off to form a majority coalition along with the bulk of Democrats. There are strong economic arguments to be made in favour of reform, she points out, and the business lobby is keen. Some other typically Republican constituencies are also coming round, including law-enforcement groups and some evangelical Christians. And even if immigration reform does not make it through the incoming Congress, Ms Murguía insists, the fact that it has returned to the agenda so quickly and with support from such unexpected quarters is a clear sign of things to come.


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