Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ICE releases detainees as sequestration approaches

Wasteful spending on "low priority" detainees?

USA Today reports that "hundreds" were released to allow ICE to stay within its current budget:

Meanwhile, Senators McCain and Graham met with President Obama:

NumbersUSA is planning tv ads against Senator Graham's push for immigration reform:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Immigration Reform Debate Continues

Mexico McCain.jpg
The immigration debate continues, even in the midst of the approaching sequester deadline: Fox news Latino reports that Senator John McCain will meet with President Obama to discuss immigration reform on Tuesday -- this is after charges were exchanged last week between the White House and Marco Rubio that the President hadn't consulted with Senators on an immigration reform bill.

Meanwhile, the immigration reform issue is a hot topic at the state level:
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be the guest speaker in Miami:

Miami group lauds immigration reform efforts


A recent poll shows a major shift in California attitudes on illegal immigration since the passage of Prop. 187


And Bloomberg reports on Republican Governor's silence on the immigration issue after years of crackdowns   


 Last week saw marches around the country supporting immigration reform, including in Austin:

 Hundreds march to Capitol for immigration rally

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A tale of two committees…

Terri E. Givens

The history of immigration reform in the United States has shown that Congressional committees and their chairs often play a key role in determining whether legislation makes it to the floor, and the nature of that legislation. This is certainly true now that immigration reform is high on the agenda for both political parties, and the President in particular. Over the last few weeks both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held their first hearing on immigration reform.  Both committees focused on immigration reform, but the people who testified are a good indicator of the direction that the legislation will likely go in each house. 

The House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on Tuesday, February 5th, well before the Senate Judiciary Committee which held its first hearing on Wednesday, February 13th.  Although expectations are that the Senate will be first to introduce a bill, it’s clear that the House intends to play a key role in the upcoming debate as well. The hearing was titled “America’s Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration.” The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, has a record of opposing any kind of “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and the list of witnesses for this first hearing was a clear indicator that it will be a tough road for those pushing for amnesty and a path to citizenship. Witnesses like Michael Teitelbaum of the Sloan Foundation, Chris Crane from an ICE employee union, Julie Meyers Wood a former Bush era ICE administrator and Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies are considered to be opposed to immigration reform (article), and focused on border security and the pitfalls of the 1986 amnesty and immigration reform.  Only one witness was considered to be coming from a pro-reform perspective, Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, TX, but Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute presented material which supported the administration’s contention that an “enforcement first” set of policies has already put the country on the path to a secure border. Several House members sounded skeptical of a broad, comprehensive bill and some have called for a focus on less contentious issues such as skilled migration. It is clear that border security will be a crucial issue alongside legalization.

The Senate judiciary committee’s hearing, led by Democrat and comprehensive immigration reform proponent Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was held a week after the House hearing.  The Chairman opened the hearing by stating “In my view it is time to pass a good bill, a fair bill, a comprehensive bill ... Too many have been waiting too long for fairness." On the Republican side, Sen. John Cornyn ofTexas, said the focus must be border security, "I do not believe the border is secure and I still believe we have a long, long way to go” (see article). The simple hearing title “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” belied the many issues discussed during the hearing such as border enforcement, legalization, employer sanctions, skilled migration, and even shouting protestors calling for an end to deportations. The first witness was Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who made an argument for the administration’s enforcement efforts. The Senate witness list also included Chris Crane and Jessica Vaughn, however, there were many clear distinctions from the House hearing – one of the main witnesses, for example, was Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant whose story of being brought to the U.S. as a child has galvanized the immigration reform movement since he made his story public in a New York Times magazine article in June of 2011. The Senate committee also heard from Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza and Steve Case, an advocate for increased skilled migration.
The differences in these two hearings make clear the challenges that an immigration reform bill will face in getting through Congress.  The administration has “leaked” a copy of its immigration reform program (see article), and it’s clear that the White House will be ready to move forward with a bill if nothing is forthcoming from the House or Senate (Senator Marco Rubio has already called the administration's proposal "dead on arrival"). It seems that a bill which the administration can support is more likely to come from the Senate, and that a bill that includes a path to citizenship is unlikely to make it out of the House judiciary committee. However, only time will tell, and future hearings will be indicators of the direction that legislation is going. I will continue to watch the witness lists…

Jose Antonio Vargas Senate Judiciary Committee

Jose Antonio Vargas testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama on immigration in the State of the Union address

What President Obama said during his State of the Union Speech on immigration:

"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away."
h/t Immigration Policy Center
ABC News: Anti-'amnesty' Activists Prepared for Immigration Fight

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Perry's silence versus evangelical support for immigration reform

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Keeps Silent As Immigration Reform Debate Moves Forward

From Reuters:

Among U.S. evangelicals, surprising support for immigration reform

Another view of immigration and undocumented immigrants from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The many faces of immigration reform
Immigrants arrive at Angel Island about 1920. Judy Yung, co-author of "Angel Island - Immigrant Gateway to America," says 1 million Chinese Americans have illegal roots. Photo: California Parks And Recreation

Friday, February 8, 2013

Immigration and Amnesty

Link to today's blog post in HuffPost Voces Latino:

and the English version:

Immigration and Amnesty

One of the more contentious issues to be dealt with in the upcoming policy debates over comprehensive immigration reform will be legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the country. President Obama has already taken some steps to at least partially address the issue, offering “deferred action” for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children, and more recently tweaking rules for undocumented immigrants who return to their home country for visas, allowing them to return immediately if they have citizens in their family, rather than have to face a 10 year waiting period.

The last time the United States had a large-scale amnesty for undocumented immigrants was with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). At that time, immigration reform was being propelled by concerns about undocumented immigrants that had begun during the Carter administration in the late 1970s. In 1977 President Carter submitted a proposal to Congress that called for employer sanctions, an increase in border patrol agents, and legalization for unauthorized immigrants.  Congress didn’t take up the bill at the time, and it would take recommendations from the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy to get Congress to introduce legislation in 1982 as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act.  There was resistance to the bill from all sides.  Immigrant advocates feared employer sanctions would lead to discrimination against Hispanic workers.  Business interests were against strong employer sanctions. Unions thought a guestworker program would undermine employee protections. Compromises were made and IRCA finally passed in 1986.  Implementation was a mixed bag, particularly in the area of employer sanctions.

What can this history tell us about today’s push for comprehensive immigration reform?  Passage of this type of legislation can take time.  At this point, we only have proposals, and it is likely that the Senate and/or the House will introduce legislation in the next month or two. Various interests have already begun to encourage their bases to contact legislators, either in support of or against the potential legislation.  In the end, if something does pass, it is likely to be a compromise. What will happen to legalization in this kind of scenario?  Senator Marco Rubio is already finding it hard to sell the idea of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to his Senate Republican colleagues who consider it an “amnesty.” Many House members are also critical of the proposal put forward by Rubio and the Senate “gang of eight.”

Immigration advocates are going to have to fight very hard to keep a path to citizenship in any comprehensive immigration reform package. The current Senate proposal already throws hurdles in the way by requiring a commission of lawmakers and community leaders to certify that the border is secure before those who are given probationary status can apply for permanent legal status.  However, the ultimate passage of the 1986 act led to legalization for nearly 3 million – the impact on those people and families is incalculable.  The stakes are high, and it will take ongoing public pressure to get a result which recognizes the human cost of failure.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pushing for Dream Act and a path to citizenship -- and some immigration resources

From the Huffington Post:
Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) warned on Thursday that he won't vote for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and neither will his fellow House Republicans, a bad sign from someone who is considered one of the more pro-reform Republicans in the chamber.

Dream Act To Be Reintroduced In House As Immigration Push Grows

From the Washington Post: Immigration advocates push Republicans to support path to citizenship


The Wall Street Journal has a nifty timeline of U.S. immigration laws:

Migration Policy institute has a web page with frequently requested U.S. immigration statistics:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

House Judiciary Committee holds first hearing on immigration reform, Obama speaks with immigration advocates

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro testifies at Tuesday's Hearing

NY Times: House G.O.P. Open to Residency for Illegal Immigrants

NPR: How The Labor Movement Did A 180 On Immigration

Wall Street Journal: Obama Urges ‘Strategic’ Thinking on Immigration
"In his meeting with immigration advocates on Tuesday, President Barack Obama defended his decision to recommend that immigrants who immediately gain legal status remain ineligible for subsidies under the 2010 health care law, saying Democrats need to pick their fights carefully, according to a participant in the meeting.

Under the White House framework, many of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally would gain legal status, but would have a longer path to citizenship. Before becoming citizens, Mr. Obama recommended that these people remain ineligible for the health care subsidies, sidestepping a potentially toxic side debate in immigration talks."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Border Security Dilemma - how do we know we are there?

In early January, the Migration Policy Institute released a report titled "U.S. Spends More on Immigration Enforcement than on FBI, DEA, Secret Service & All Other Federal Criminal Law Enforcement Agencies Combined" (link to press release).  The report had many key findings, including:
  • More than 4 million non-citizens, primarily unauthorized immigrants, have been deported from the United States since 1990, with removals rising from 30,039 in FY 1990 to 391,953 in FY 2011.
  • Fewer than half of the non-citizens deported from the United States are removed pursuant to a formal hearing before an immigration judge, with the majority removed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) via its administrative authority.
  • The nearly 430,000 non-citizens detained in the immigration detention system in FY 2011 exceeded the number serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for all other federal crimes.
  • Immigration enforcement spending has totaled nearly $187 billion in the 26 years since IRCA ($219 billion in 2012 dollars).
  • Spending on CBP, ICE and DHS’s primary immigration enforcement technology initiative, the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, reached $17.9 billion in FY 2012. In comparison, total spending for all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies (the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) stood at $14.4 billion in FY 2012.
News reports cited the controversial nature of the report:

The report generated a swift response from the Center for Immigration Studies:

Various pro- and anti-immigration organizations went back and forth on the issue, but it is clear that the issue of border enforcement will be a key sticking point as Congress goes into negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform, as noted in this article from the Wall Street Journal:

However, it is undeniable that deportations have been at their highest level ever, as noted in this article in the Huffington Post which looks at a report that says that deportations will rise to 2 million by 2014
This gives the Obama administration facts on the ground to show that border security has already been a high priority...the questions is, what more will it take?

One more article for good measure on the Senate's deliberations: "The early debate over immigration reform has yielded two thorny questions: What metrics will be used to determine whether the goals for border security and other safeguards against illegal immigration have been met? Who will decide whether the metrics have been achieved?"