Statement by President Obama on Senate Passage of Immigration Reform

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

For Immediate Release June 27, 2013

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Statement by President Obama on Senate Passage of Immigration Reform

Today, with a strong bipartisan vote, the United States Senate delivered for the American people, bringing us a
critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all.

I thank Majority Leader Reid, Senator Leahy, Senator Schumer, and every member of the ‘Gang of Eight’ for their
leadership, and I commend all Senators who worked across party lines to get this done.

The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not
Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me. But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense
reform that I – and many others – have repeatedly laid out.

If enacted, the Senate bill would establish the most aggressive border security plan in our history. It would offer a
pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally – a pathway that includes
passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line
behind everyone who’s playing by the rules and trying to come here legally. It would modernize the legal
immigration system so that it once again reflects our values as a nation and addresses the urgent needs of our
time. And it would provide a big boost to our recovery, by shrinking our deficits and growing our economy.

Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same.

As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time
when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from
becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen. If you’re among the clear majority of Americans who support reform
– from CEOs to labor leaders, law enforcement to clergy – reach out to your Member of Congress. Tell them to do
the right thing. Tell them to pass commonsense reform so that our businesses and workers are all playing by the
same rules and everyone who’s in this country is paying their fair share in taxes.

We have a unique opportunity to fix our broken system in a way that upholds our traditions as a nation of laws and
a nation of immigrants. We just need Congress to finish the job.

http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=44947


Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

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

Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

In a bipartisan vote, the Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping, historic overhaul of the nation’s immigration system – the first attempt to tackle such reform in six years. But the bill appears to face a procedural brick wall in the GOP-led House, with Republican leaders vowing instead to move forward on their own measures.

Fourteen Republicans joined with all Democrats to back the legislation, which would revamp the nation’s legal immigration system, send unprecedented resources to the nation’s southern border, and offer millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.

The final vote was 68-32.

To mark the history of the occasion, Vice President Joe Biden presided over the vote and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid directed senators to vote from their seats in the chamber.

The gallery above the chamber was crowded with tourists, DREAM Act proponents, self-described undocumented immigrants, and members of the media. After the vote tally was announced, a young spectator shouted “Yes we can!” This came even as Biden urged those in attendance to refrain from voicing reaction.

The bipartisan drafters of the legislation, which was first formally unveiled in April, came one by one to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to make deeply personal appeals for the passage of a bill they described as a compassionate, economically sound measure necessary to maintain the American Dream central to the nation’s identity.

“Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining City on the Hill. We are still the hope of the world,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida conservative and Cuban-American whose support of the legislation was key to wooing Republican support. “Go to our factories and fields. Go to our kitchens and construction sites. Go to the cafeteria of this very Capitol. There, you will find that the miracle of America still lives.”

“Pass this bill and keep the American covenant alive,” urged Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat on the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that first unveiled compromise legislation in April.

In emotional remarks right before the vote, Reid invoked the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who led the failed effort six years ago to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“Sen. Kennedy knew the day would come when a group of senators divided by party, but united by love of country, would see this fight to the finish,” he said. “That day is today.”

In the face of great fanfare and emotion on Thursday, the bill remains many hard-fought steps from the president’s desk, and the victory for backers of the reform may ultimately be short-lived.

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the immigration legislation faces a rocky path in the GOP-controlled House, where opposition to the citizenship provision is significantly stronger. Boehner has pledged not to bring the Senate bill up for a vote, pointing instead to smaller pieces of immigration legislation  focused on border security and enforcement. On Thursday, he reiterated that he will not bring legislation to the House floor that does not have majority support from the Republican conference, and he extended that pledge even to merged legislation that could blend House- and Senate-passed bills.

In a statement lauding the Senate’s passage of the bill, President Barack Obama urged the diverse coalition of groups that worked for reform to keep up the fight as the House turns its attention to the immigration issue.

“Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”

“Today, the Senate did its job, he said. “It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Despite the difficult road ahead, the Senate’s passage of the bill represents the furthest legislative progress on a comprehensive immigration bill since 2006. That effort passed the upper chamber but languished without support from the House. Another attempt in 2007 fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation in the Senate.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2013, prior to the final vote on the immigration reform bill.

The home stretch for the months-long Senate process to pass the bill comes after a last-minute deal to add a massive influx of funding and resources for the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling the number of border security agents on patrol and requiring the completion of 700 miles of fencing. That compromise – labeled “almost overkill” by cosponsor Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee – was designed to recruit more Republicans to push the legislation over the finish line.

Opponents of the border “surge” drafted by Corker and Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota say there’s no guarantee that the legislation’s border security goals will be met before undocumented workers are eligible to apply for green cards.

The legislation’s foes also contend that the citizenship proposal amounts to “amnesty” that rewards lawbreakers without sufficient protections against new waves of illegal immigration.

“The amnesty will occur, but the enforcement is not going to occur, and the policies for future immigration are not serving the national interest,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill. “I urge my colleagues to vote no.”

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/27/19174577-senate-passes-sweeping-immigration-overhaul?lite


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.


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