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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)

 

 

 

 


President Obama: Get immigration reform done by summer

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
President Obama: Get immigration reform done by summer
By: Jennifer Epstein
January 30, 2013 06:52 PM EST
President Barack Obama hopes to see Congress to pass a major immigration reform bill by early summer, he said Wednesday, as he blamed resistance on Capitol Hill for the failure to get the reforms done during his first term.

“I’m not a king,” he told Telemundo, as he followed up on his Tuesday trip to Las Vegas to unveil his proposals for reform with interviews with Spanish-language television networks. “You know, my job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law. And, you know, when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law.”

Obama took executive action last year to change the federal enforcement of immigration laws, helping young adults avoid deportation if serving in the military or pursuing higher education.

He said he would push for legislation to make further changes. Though he’s left it to Congress to work out the details, the president said the White House has already written its own that he’ll send for an up or down vote if lawmakers are too slow.

“I’ve got a bill drafted. We’ve got language,” he said.

But he said that he hoped Congress would not force things to come to that.

“I think this is something we should be able to get done certainly this year and I’d like to see if we could get it done sooner, in the first half of the year if possible,” Obama said.

In an interview with Univision also taped Wednesday, Obama said he’s confident that immigration reform will pass before the end of the year. “Si, se puede,” he said at the prompting of interviewer Maria Elena Salinas, repurposing the slogan used by farm workers that was then turned into the English-language rallying cry for his 2008 campaign as “Yes we can.”

What’s still holding back action “is not so much technical as it’s political,” Obama said in his interview with Telemundo, which was conducted by Jose Diaz-Balart. “It’s a matter of Republicans and Democrats coming together and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case. I’m hopeful that this can get done, and I don’t think that it should take many, many months.”

Diaz-Balart said he’d checked with the offices of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans supportive of the immigration reform proposal put out by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday, and that none of them reported having heard from Obama on the issue.

Obama said he was open to talking to anyone, but indicated that the outreach had to come from Capitol Hill. “I am happy to meet with anybody, anytime, anywhere to make sure that this thing happens,” he said. “You know, the truth is oftentimes what happens is members of Congress prefer meeting among themselves to build trust between Democrats and Republicans there.”

“They want assistance from us but sometimes they want it through back channels,” he added. “And, you know, if they want a public meeting, if they want private meetings, anything that is necessary to move this thing forward, we’re happy to.”

Some immigrants-rights groups have urged Obama to put a moratorium on all deportations until Congress works through its current reform push. But Obama said it’s his responsibility to continue overseeing the enforcement of existing federal laws.

“There are still going to be stories that are heartbreaking with respect to deportations until we get comprehensive immigration reform,” he said in his interview with Univision. “That’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important for us to go ahead and get this action done.”

Though both interviews focused on Obama’s new push on immigration reform, there were some questions on other issues, including gun control and the gun violence in Chicago that left dead a teenager who performed in Obama’s inaugural parade barely a week before her murder.

Obama didn’t speak specifically to the Tuesday killing of Nadiya Pendleton, 15, but he did address the rash of gun violence plaguing his hometown of Chicago. The city, where his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is mayor, has strict gun laws yet high levels of violence. That’s led some pro-gun advocates to argue that gun control laws don’t work.

But Obama said the problem is that the laws aren’t widespread. “The problem is that a huge proportion of those guns come in from outside Chicago,” he told Telemundo. “What is absolutely true is that if you are just creating a bunch of pockets of gun laws without having sort of a unified, integrated system — for example of background checks — then, you know, it’s gonna be a lot harder for an individual community, a single community to protect itself from this kind of gun violence. That’s precisely why we think it’s important for Congress to act.”

Obama listed implementing a universal background check system, limiting the size of magazines and cracking down on gun trafficking as key priorities, but didn’t mention renewing the assault weapons ban, something he’s said he supports. His omission of the ban comes after Vice President Joe Biden left it out during remarks on guns he last week in Virginia.


Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

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

Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

By  and , Published: January 29

The release of a new bipartisan Senate plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and a policy address expected Tuesday from President Obama have launched dramatic new momentum on a long-stalled issue.

Now the hard part begins.

The blueprint unveiled by senators Monday amid warm bipartisan unity settled some of the most difficult questions that have bedeviled efforts to change immigration laws, particularly by endorsing a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. But it left unanswered dozens of key questions, all of which must be meticulously negotiated in the coming weeks under competing political pressures. And nobody thinks that will be easy.

“We still have a long way to go,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday, while calling the broad framework a major breakthrough.

“A first step in what will continue to be difficult — but achievable,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The politics for passage are quite treacherous, with a number of key Republicans already labeling this latest iteration of immigration proposals as amnesty for the nation’s 11 million illegal residents. But even before the group of four Democrats and four Republicans can focus on the persistent GOP opposition, they must translate their broad statement of principles on the issue into a detailed bill that can withstand intense legislative scrutiny.

That means tackling a number of extremely difficult issues by the end of March, when the group has said it hopes to draft a bill. A bipartisan group is also working on legislation in the House, but most proponents believe legislative action will start in the Democratic-held Senate.

For instance, the Senate plan calls for offering illegal immigrants the chance to quickly achieve probationary legal residency, provided they register with the government and pay a fine and back taxes. But it does not outline how large a fine or how long the applicants would have to pay off their taxes.

“I think the question is, how broad will the road to citizenship be?” said Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We have to make sure that it’s not so expensive and onerous that it doesn’t leave millions of people in limbo for an extended period of time.”

More critical to the coming debate is the senators’ requirement that illegal immigrants could not seek a green card — the first step to full citizenship — until the U.S.-Mexican border is secure and other enforcement measures are in place. The measures include a system for employers to verify the legal status of workers and a new way to track legal visa holders.

But the framework is silent on how federal officials would certify that the border is secure. It envisions the creation of a commission of governors, attorneys general and others living along the border to “make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measure outlined in the legislation are completed.” But it is not clear whether that recommendation would be considered advisory or would by law allow those with probationary status to seek permanent residency.

The commission, which would probably include immigration hard-liners elected to statewide office in recent years in Arizona and elsewhere, has already emerged as a potential flash point, making immigrants’ advocates and some Democrats deeply nervous.

President Obama is expected Tuesday to unveil his own immigration reform proposal, which would not include such a delay and which otherwise supportive Republicans are warning could sap bipartisan backing for the effort.

“All these things must happen before — before — there’s a path to a green card,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News on Monday, in one of a series of interviews Rubio has been conducting to sell the senators’ plan to GOP opinion makers.

Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she was concerned that the proposal placed too much emphasis on border control.

She also questioned another key plank the Republicans had required: that illegal immigrants would be sent to the back of the green card line behind those who had legally applied for residency.

“It’s really not appropriate to create a group of second-class non-citizens,” she said. “Do people realize how long the lines are? The lines are 10 years and sometimes two decades. Putting someone behind the 30-year line is not going to work.”

Another potentially tricky issue is what is known as “future flow” — how many new legal visas to give out and in what fields.

On Monday, Schumer called that issue “one of the shoals upon which the good ship ‘Immigration Reform’ has floundered” because it pits big business — which wants access to cheap labor — against the unions, which seek to require businesses to hire Americans.

Schumer said the AFL-CIO has been quietly meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to work out an agreement that would link future immigration flow to unemployment rates. But details need to be fleshed out.

Dozens of other similar pitfalls abound.

The senators call for withholding federal benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid, from illegal immigrants who have met the demands to live and work in the country. But immigrant advocates question how, then, will often low-income immigrants get access to affordable health care?

The senators are silent, too, about whether same-sex partners would be eligible for the same benefits as married couples, a divisive question within more socially conservative portions of the immigrant community.

Obama will probably call for addressing the issue in his Las Vegas speech.


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

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

 

Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

February 7, 2013, 8:44 am NBCNews.com

A bipartisan group of senators formally unveiled an immigration reform framework that they hope the Senate could

pass “in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion” by late spring or early summer.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday on Capitol Hill, five of the eight members of a bipartisan working group

announced the contours of their agreement, which would shore up America’s borders and provide an eventual path to

citizenship for undocumented workers.

“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan grouping is a major breakthrough,” New York Sen. Charles

Schumer, a Democratic member of the group of eight, said Monday afternoon.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, set an ambitious goal of translating the statement of principles released

Sunday evening by the senators into legislation by March. He said the Senate would try to approve the legislation for

consideration in the House by the end of spring, or early summer.

The major development involves the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers that would be established

under the Senate plan. Conservatives have resisted similar proposals — even when they were proposed by President

George W. Bush — and labeled them as “amnesty” for individuals who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Americans “have been too content for too long” to allow many undocumented

workers to provide basic services “while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

“It is not beneficial to this country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows,” added McCain, whose own

experience on the issue of immigration provides an instructive example of why immigration reform has been so

elusive for Congress.

McCain had long been one of the most vocal advocates of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but

tempered his opinions in recent years amid conservative scrutiny. As he was fighting off a conservative primary

challenger in 2010, McCain appeared in a television ad saying it was time to “build the danged fence” — a reference

to the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is favored by a number of Republicans.

The senators’ announcement on Monday comes a day before President Barack Obama was set to make a major

policy address on Tuesday in Nevada on the topic of immigration. While Obama had not been expected to outline

any formal legislation during his remarks, lawmakers from both parties will carefully parse the president’s words for

their impact on the immigration debate. Schumer said that he had spoken to the president about the Senate

framework, and that the president was “delighted” by it.

Obama himself had vowed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, but his efforts were

stymied. That failure invited a degree of consternation from the Latino community during last year’s presidential

campaign, even though Obama had taken executive action to halt the deportation of individuals who were illegally

brought to the United States as children.

(That order, made by Obama last summer, sought to effectively enact much of the DREAM Act, a piece of

legislation that failed in the Senate as recently as 2010, when some Republicans who’d previously supported the law

flipped, and voted against it.)

Indeed, the success of this push in the Senate may well hinge on Republicans’ willingness to go along with a plan

that gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, an influential House

Republican, already labeled the Senate framework as “amnesty” in a statement on Monday.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/28/16741007-senators-hope-to-approve-bipartisan-immigration-reform-within-Page 2 of 2 07/02/2013 09:44 AM

House GOP leaders were otherwise mum on Monday toward the Senate proposal, though top Republicans have

previously expressed a preference for tackling immigration in a piecemeal manner.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the eight-member group and a favorite of conservatives, has worked to

gather conservative support for the proposal. He said at Monday’s press conference that while no one is happy about

the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, “We have an obligation and need to address

the reality that we face.”

The other factor weighing upon Republicans involves their poor performance among Hispanic voters — a bloc that is

growing in importance in a variety of key battleground states — during last fall’s election.

“The Republican Party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said Monday in a nod toward a variable

that could convince more GOP lawmakers to support this bipartisan proposal. But, McCain noted, “We’re not going

to get everybody onboard.”

In the meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to “do everything in [his] power as the

majority leader to get a bill across the finish line.”


Obama and Rubio Immigration Plans: What’s the Difference?

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

By TED HESSON (@tedhesson)
Article
Jan. 14, 2013
Broad outlines describing how immigration reform could look in 2013 emerged this weekend. Officials from the White House spoke to The New York Times about possible tenets of reform while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) elaborated on his vision in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

What’s the difference between the Obama and Rubio plans? Here are some bullet points to get you up to speed:

What Obama Wants

Type of bill: Comprehensive. That will mean lots of immigration policy changes packaged into one piece of legislation, like the 2010 healthcare bill.

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants: The White House has said that it will reject any bill that doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people in the country without papers. The path to citizenship would be earned, meaning immigrants would need to pay back taxes along with “other hurdles,” according to The New York Times. The White House’s 2011 blueprint for reform says those other hurdles could involve criminal background checks, learning English and paying a processing fee.

Timeframe for citizenship: The most recent article by the Times didn’t cover this, but Obama’s 2011 blueprint shows a pathway that would take eight years to reach a green card and five additional years to earn citizenship.

Workplace enforcement: The president wants a national system to check the legal status of all workers. One such system, E-Verify, is already in place. Less than 10 percent of U.S. businesses use E-Verify but firms have increasingly begun to use the program in recent years. E-Verify has drawn criticism from immigrant rights and business groups for being unreliable and forcing employees further into the shadows.

Immigration backlogs: Getting a visa from certain countries, like the Philippines and Mexico, can take decades, and leaders in sectors like farming, technology and healthcare say they need more immigrant workers. The president plans to add more visas to reduce the overall wait time to obtain one, according to The New York Times, but hasn’t been specific about what he would do.

Guest worker program: One of the main reasons for illegal immigration is that there are no legal pathways that allow low-wage workers to come to the U.S. The president would like to create a guest-worker program to provide a way for those workers to enter the country legally.

What Rubio Wants

Type of bill: Piecemeal. Rubio told the Wall Street Journal that it would be better to have four or five separate immigration bills than one large legislative package. He cited the healthcare bill as an example of a big bill where bad policies got lost amid hundreds of pages. But on the piecemeal approach, he said, “it’s not a line in the sand for me.”

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented: Rubio supports legal status for the undocumented, but he hasn’t endorsed a special pathway to citizenship. The Journal calls his version of legal status “a form of temporary limbo.” According to Rubio, immigrants should earn legal status through a process similar to Obama’s approach to citizenship by paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check. After that, they could apply for a green card and potentially pursue citizenship.

Timeframe for citizenship: Rubio wouldn’t say how many years undocumented immigrants should have to wait for a green card, but he said it “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way.” He added that the wait shouldn’t be “indefinite,” either.

Pathway for DREAMers: Rubio said he favors a faster pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications. Earlier this year, Rubio was developing an alternative to the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer citizenship to undocumented youth who attend college or serve in the military. Rubio’s alternative would have granted DREAMers legal status but not citizenship. The senator’s efforts became moot, however, when President Obama circumvented Congress and used his executive power this June to allow qualifying DREAMers to stay in the country and work legally.

Workplace enforcement: Workplace enforcement appears to be a point of common ground in both early outlines for reform. Like the White House, Rubio believes there should be a national system to verify that workers are here legally, whether that system be E-Verify or something else.

Immigration backlogs: Compared with the reports coming out of the White House, Rubio has put forward a more detailed explanation of how he would change the visa system. His main goal is to increase the number of visas for highly-skilled workers. There are two ways that can happen: either changing the distribution of visas — to have more for skilled workers and less for family members — or by upping the number of skilled-worker visas. Rubio said he prefers the second approach. “I don’t think there’s a lot of concern in this country that we’ll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs,” Rubio told the Wall Street Journal.

Guest-worker program: Rubio also supports a guest-worker program, and he spoke to the Journal about how such a program would be particularly beneficial to farmers and farm workers. “The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well,” he said. “When someone is [undocumented] they’re vulnerable to being exploited.”

It’s important to keep in mind that these are just the early outlines of reform. The White House, for instance, hasn’t officially announced its plans (although reform could surface during the State of the Union address).

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen dubbed the “Gang of Eight” are working on their own bill. The group, led by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), haven’t gone public with what will be included in their legislation beyond the core commitment to an earned pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Sen. Schumer assured The New York Times that despite other legislative pushes, immigration is still a top priority: “This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way.”


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