House Republicans and Immigration

Much has been said about Republicans and the immigration reform bill that recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. So the story goes, if Republicans are to survive as a party, they need to start being perceived as immigrant-friendly.

Though the immigration bill is projected to be approved by the Senate, its fate is not so sure in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Despite murmurs among Republicans about needing to soften on immigration, many House Republicans are unconvinced that their passing the immigration bill would endear their party to Latino voters. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Kansas, voiced what many are thinking: “There is no evidence to support this idea that Republicans will pick up a lot of votes if we give amnesty to 11 million folks.” Despite his endorsement—an in fact, crafting—of a 2007 immigration bill, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain did not enjoy much of a bump in Hispanic support during this 2008 campaign.

That the path to legalization that the bill would potentially offer immigrants is no fast track to citizenship seems to have little effect on Republican opposition. With the new legislation, it would take undocumented immigrants at least thirteen years to gain citizenship. It is the inevitability of legalization, not its speed, that has Republicans concerned. Tea Party Republicans have influence in the House, and they have voiced their opposition to what, in their minds, amounts to sanctioning and rewarding the breaking of United States immigration law. “I cannot in good conscience ratify illegal conduct with my vote,” says Republican Mo Brooks from Alabama. “Any Republican who advocates ratifying illegal conduct with their vote is subverting the very principles that made the United States a great nation.”

In order for the immigration bill to pass the House, House Republicans would have to believe that there is a need for people who entered the country illegally to be provided a path to citizenship. This is a tall order for most Republican members of the House, for whom such a conviction would signal a dramatic shift in direction. It is possible for Speaker of the House John Boehner to pass the bill in the House with only Democratic support, but Boehner has made statements ruling out that possibility.

If the bill passes through the Senate with significant Republican support, its momentum may push it through the House as well; House Republicans may take broad Republican Senate support as a sign to put the party first by focusing on immigration. It is unlikely that the bill will enjoy broad bipartisan support in the Senate, however, which means that the bill’s future is still very much up in the air.

Source: The Washington Post, “House GOP could still kill immigration reform” Greg Sargent,
May 28, 2013

Source: Reuters, “Will immigration reform get killed in Republican-led House?” Thomas Ferraro,
May 25, 2013

Immigration Focus Shifts from the Senate to the House

Tuesday night, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the immigration bill, which has now withstood 212 amendments and five hearings. If signed into law, the bill will accomplish three main objectives: provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., add border security, and change the legal immigration system from being primarily family-based to primarily skill-based. Passage of the bill would mean that the number of highly skilled workers admitted into the U.S. would rise from $65,000 per year to $110,000.

The next step is for the full Senate to vote on the bill. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and conservative member of the Gang of Eight, said this about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of the bill: “I appreciate the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee in taking the bill my colleagues and I introduced in April as a starting point for debate. We have a historic opportunity to end today’s de facto amnesty and modernize our immigration system to meet our 21st century needs. I remain optimistic that the Senate, by improving the bill through an open and deliberative floor debate, will seize this opportunity.”

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said yesterday that rather than debating the Senate’s immigration bill, the House would debate its own bill instead. The bills are similar, but the Senate bill goes further than the House bill. Notably, the Senate bill would provide the 11 million undocumented immigrants within the borders of the United States quick legal status and a pathway to citizenship.

Though some speculate that if the Senate passes the bill, Democrats would put pressure on the House to pass it too, House Republicans have not budged on their position that they would not pass the Senate bill. “Enacting policy as consequential and complex as immigration reform demands that both chambers of Congress engage in a robust debate and amendment process,” House leaders said.

“Our release basically said, ‘Good work, Senate, but we are not going to eat your bill once it comes over here. We have some other options, ideas, and we’ll work through them and see what comes of the House process,'” said one House aide.A committee within the House is currently formulating a bipartisan bill of its own, but Democrat and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voiced some objections that threatened the group’s already-tentative agreements. If House bipartisan efforts fail, House Republicans have vowed to create a GOP-only bill—a bill authored by only Republicans.

As many believe that the only chance any immigration bill has of being signed into law is for members of both parties to embrace it, the House’s hesitant and fragile bipartisanship is cause for concern among supporters of immigration reform.

Source: NPR, “Senate Panel Approves Immigration Bill” The Associated Press,
May 22, 2013

Source: USA Today, “Senate Judiciary Committee approves immigration overhaul” Alan Gomez,
May 21, 2013

Source: ABC News, “Immigration Reform Bill Moves to Full Senate” Jim Avila,
May 21, 2013

Source: The Washington Times, “Boehner: House won’t pass Senate immigration bill” Stephen Dinan,
May 23, 2013

Senate Republicans and Immigration Reform

Members of the Republican Party in the Senate are split over the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill, which is in its fifth day of senatorial markups. The eight senators who drafted the bill together are hoping to eliminate the bill’s most controversial measures, in hopes that by minimizing controversy, they will also minimized opposition to the bill as it works its way through the Senate and the House. Senate Republicans have been more vocal with their concerns about the bill than Senate Democrats have, though the party is certainly not united in its approach to the bill.

Two main streams have emerged within the Republican Party surrounding the issue of immigration reform. Conservative Mark Rubio, one of the bill’s authors, currently leads the pro-immigration-reform movement among Senate Republicans. Because of Rubio’s position as one of the bill’s drafters, the pro-bill conservative contingent has a larger platform in the Senate than do the Senate conservatives who believe the bill to be irreparably flawed. Rubio had hoped to push the bill in a more conservative direction (in hopes, he said, that the bill would pass the House) when he voted in favor of a system that would track immigrants’ biometric data. The measure was defeated by the Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday, however, which puts the bill in a precarious position among Senate and House conservatives who were already opposed to or undecided about the bill.

Last week, 150 prominent conservatives drafted a letter to Senate Republicans urging them to abandon the bill. The letter reads, “No matter how well-intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch.” The letter argues that the sudden introduction of a large number of people into government and retirement programs would bankrupt the system, that the bill does not do enough to ensure the safety of the nation’s borders, and that the bill would grant too much control to the Obama administration on the issue of immigration.

Recent amendments to the bill introduced by Senate Republicans include requiring airports to fingerprint foreign visitors, making it more difficult for people who apply for asylum in the U.S. to return to their home countries, and barring non- or pre-citizen immigrants with three drunk driving convictions from being able to apply for citizenship. The latter two amendments have already been passed, which makes the bill slightly more appealing to Senate Republicans.

Democrats have passed some amendments of their own—if the bill passes, immigrants will now be able to pay legalization fees in installments, rather than in one lump sum, and will benefit from more legal protections against being placed in solitary confinement. That their amendments were so tame is a reflection on the precarious position of the bill among Senate Republicans.
The markup process should be completed by the end of this week.

Source: The Washington Post, “Can Tea Party conservatives kill immigration reform?” Jamelle Bouie,
May 21, 2013

Immigration, Race, and Diversity

Whether or not Congress passes the immigration bill it is currently debating, the United States is on course to become majority non-white in the near future. By 2060, “single-race white” people will comprise only between about 41% and 44% of the country’s total population. The Census Bureau projects that the shift will take place sometime between the years of 2027 and 2038. For the first time since the mid-1800s, the main driver of population growth in the United States will again be international migration. The birth rate in the United States is lower (and if the trend continues, will continue to be lower) than the death rate, which means that without an influx of people emigrating to the United States from other countries, the population of the United States would be steadily decreasing.

The population of people who are younger than 18 is changing the most quickly, ethnicity-wise. The number of non-white under-18-year-olds will surpass the number of white 18-year-olds in the United States by the year 2019.

The immigration reform bill enjoys widespread support within the African American community, a demographic that has not historically been very supportive of naturalizing illegal immigrants. A recent poll showed that 66 percent of African Americans support the immigration reform bill this time around, with only 16 percent opposing the bill.

One part of the bill, S 744, will eliminate the permanent resident visa lottery, which is currently held annually and offers 55,000 green cards per year to immigrant hopefuls. The lottery has been one of the few means by which African and West Indian people have gained access to living legally in the United States, and the elimination of the lottery has angered many African Americans.

Republican members of Congress have pushed to eliminate the lottery, as its existence runs contrary to their stated objective of screening green card applicants and selecting those who are most highly educated. Opponents of the lottery’s elimination argue that the lottery represents a core American value, and that its elimination does not bode well for the country. Immigration attorney Rajiv Khanna, who opposes the lottery’s elimination, says this about the change: “Diversity by itself is no longer the virtue that we seek in our current immigration system as proposed. What we seek instead is, ‘What can you do for us?’” Khanna, and those who share his perspective, argue that as it stands, the immigration bill devalues the diversity on which the country was founded and which is, indisputably, its future.

Source: The Daily Beast, “The Population Side of Immigration Reform” Justin Green,
May 16, 2013

Source: Policymic, “Immigration Reform 2013: Immigration is Making America Majority Non-White” Gabriel Rodriguez,
May 16, 2013

Source: ThinkProgress, “Immigrants Could Become Leading Driver Of Population Growth In 14 Years” Esther Yu-Hsi Lee,
May 16, 2013

Source: People’s World, “Support grows for immigration reform, end to deportations” Emile Schepers,
May 16, 2013

Immigration Reform and the Creation of a Biometric Database

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The debate surrounding immigration reform debate took an unusual turn for a while this week. The Senate has been debating a reform measure that would result in the establishment of a biometric database of all American adults. The database would include information such as individuals’ names, iris scans, photographs, ages, and Social Security numbers. Anyone with a state-issued ID (such as a drivers’ license) that contains a photograph would be included in the database, and employers would be required to verify the identities of new employees by matching their appearances with their photographs in the national database.

The purpose of such a database, say the measure’s supporters, would be to make it nearly impossible for companies to hire undocumented workers. Opponents of the measure argue that the database would be an imposition of Americans’ rights to privacy. Furthermore, they say, this measure is a slippery slope to a world in which the government can easily track most movements of its citizens. The technology is currently slated for use for the purposes of companies verifying the identities of new hires. It is not difficult, however (say opponents) to imagine polling places, airports, banks, and other entities using the database for their own verification purposes. And if that happens, they say, an individual’s various database check-ins would follow the pathways of his or her movements.

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Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, suggested that the United States pattern its biometric database after that of Walt Disney World, saying that if the system is “good enough for the Magic Kingdom, [it] ought to be good enough for the United States.” Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and a member of the Gang of Eight, pointed out that while the Magic Kingdom has only two ports of entry (Florida and California), the United States has 329 “which,” he said, “include land, sea, and air…a more daunting task than it is at Disney World or Disney Land.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today on the proposal to fingerprint all foreigners leaving the United States, ultimately deciding against the proposal. For now, at least, that means there will be no national database of biometric information. The vote was 12-6. Besides the obvious privacy issues the measure presented, Senators expressed reservations about the technical challenges and expense involved in the creation of such a system. While securing national borders is a priority among Senate Republicans—and even many Democrats grant that a biometric system would be the most effective way of bringing about secure borders—for the Senate Judiciary Committee, the risk posed by the amendment wasn’t, in the end, worth the reward.

Source: Wired, “Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform” David Kravets,
May 10, 2013

Source: ABC News, “Immigration Reform Bill: Disney as a Model?” Serena Marshall,
May 14, 2013

Source: USA Today, “Senate panel rejects fingerprint system for immigrants” Alan Gomez,
May 14, 2013

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Immigration Reform Changes

Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer

The bipartisan immigration bill before the Senate—the bill officially known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—is likely to undergo some significant changes today. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee filed over 300 amendments to the bill Tuesday evening, amendments addressing topics like LGBT rights, border security, and the number of years between an immigrant’s application for citizenship and the realization of that citizenship.

The immigration bill offers concessions to people on both sides of the immigration debate; it aims both to tighten border security, for instance, and to provide more opportunities for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens. But the bill’s bipartisan appeal spells complications for the Senate when it comes to amendments.

The “Gang of Eight”—the bipartisan group of Senators who drafted the bill together—is determined to defeat all amendments that have the potential to prevent the bill from passing. Functionally, this means that the Gang of Eight will oppose controversial amendments that originate from either side of the aisle. This has not prevented the Gang of Eight’s fellow Senators from submitting controversial amendments, however.

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Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, filed 24 amendments to the bill, including one amendment that would require all immigrants seeking citizenship to submit DNA samples along with other personal information. The idea behind this change, according to Hatch, is that it would prevent convicted criminals from gaining U.S. citizenship. Among other controversial amendments, an amendment involving same-sex couples is getting a substantial amount of attention. The amendment would extend the same rights to gay couples as will exist under the bill for married heterosexual couples—gay American citizens would be allowed to sponsor their partners for green cards. Senator Jeff Sessions from Alaska has considered proposing an amendment that would limit the public benefits available to immigrants who begin the process toward citizenship, and Sessions also proposed reducing the number of low-skilled workers to whom the United States would potentially grant citizenship. Other Senate Republicans have discussed proposing amendments that would extend the time it takes an immigrant to become a citizen. And Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut has said that he will file an amendment that will enable the children of undocumented immigrants a faster pathway to citizenship than their parents will have. Under the current bill, children of undocumented workers who entered the country as children and who are now over 16 will benefit from a faster track to citizenship, but Blumenthal’s amendment aims at extending this shortened process to younger children as well.

Two-thirds of the proposed amendments were submitted by Republicans, among whom the immigration bill is decidedly less popular than it is among their Democratic counterparts. Congress is set to vote on the bill in June.

Source: FOX News Latino, “Senators File Dozens Of Amendments To Immigration Reform Bill” Elizabeth Llorente,
May 7, 2013

Source: ABC News, “3 Immigration Reform Changes to Watch” Jordan Fabian,
May 7, 2013

Source: ABC News, “Undocumented Immigrants: Orrin Hatch Wants Your DNA” Ted Hesson,
May 7, 2013

Source: Huffingtonpost, “Richard Blumenthal To File ‘Little Dreamers’ Immigration Amendment” Elise Foley,
May 6, 2013

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Tech Companies and Immigration Reform

Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

If it passes, the bipartisan immigration bill presently being considered by the Senate will introduce sweeping changes to the criteria by which potential immigrants will be considered for residency. Under the current immigration plan, 65,000 family-based visas—visas given out to people with close relatives in the United States—are given out annually. The new immigration bill eliminates these visas, opting to evaluate visa hopefuls largely on the basis of economic merit rather than according to their family relationships. It is estimated that the 14% percent of employment-based green cards that are currently issued because of employment ties would rise to about 50% percent under the new plan.

This potential development in immigration legislation has attracted the interest of businesses that would benefit from a merit-based immigration system. Among those businesses are seven technology companies and a software association, corporations that have spent a combined $13.8 million dollars on lobbying for the bill.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been a major player in the tech company push for immigration reform. In March, Zuckerberg launched, a political action committee created to garner public support for the immigration bill. Several Silicon Valley titans (among them, Bill Gates and Google’s Eric Schmidt) have thrown their financial support behind Zuckerberg. It is Zuckerberg’s more covert activities in support of the bill that will likely have the larger impact, however. Zuckerberg’s committee has created two subsidiaries (Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth) that are meant to appeal to conservative and liberal voters, respectively. The ads run by the subsidiaries make no mention of immigration; rather, they attempt to bolster the reputations of the bill’s Senate supporters in the Senators’ home states. The strategy is meant to provide these Senators with incentives to vote in favor of the bill; the risk they run by voting for the bill decreases as their popularity increases.

Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer

In addition to campaigning for the immigration bill’s passage, technology firms are hard at work trying to shape the bill itself. The bill currently includes a measure that would require companies to advertise job openings in the United States for thirty days and offer positions to Americans before recruiting foreign talent. Furthermore, the measure dictates that the U.S. Labor Department be given the authority to contest foreign hiring decisions.

Technology companies argue that the bill in its current form would bar them from hiring on the basis of talent, requiring them to favor a person’s nationality over his or her ability. Executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, Ellen Miller, commented to USA Today that the tech industry “has clearly come of age; in the last decade, we’ve seen this tremendous recognition from Silicon Valley of the need to play in the power circles — to both protect their bottom line and to alter the political scene to their advantage.”

Source: Huffingtonpost, “Senate Immigration Bill Could Set Off Fierce Backlash Again” Erica Werner,
May 6, 2013

Source: USA Today, “Tech companies driving the lobbying on immigration” Alan Gomez,
April 29, 2013

Source: New Republic, “Mark Zuckerberg’s Cynical, Necessary Washington Strategy is playing a familiar game to get immigration reform passed
” Lydia Depillis,
May 6, 2013

Source: USA Today, “Tech firms fight hiring rules in immigration bill” Fredreka Schouten,
May 7, 2013

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Equality demanded in immigration reform from LGBT couples

Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys

While immigration reform is a huge step forward in the name of equality for the U.S., many believe that a major significant piece has been let out of this puzzle: spousal green cards for same-sex couples.

Gary Wanderlingh, of Washington, and Samuel Conlon, of Britain, met online five years ago. The two felt a connection almost instantly, but decided to hold off meeting one another for fear of falling in love and being prevented from staying together in America due to the law. Sure enough, upon meeting each other in person, the couple experience love at first sight. The two were married in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2011. Conlon was in the country with a 3-month tourist visa. On two separate attempts, Wanderlingh and Conlon were denied spousal green cards, then rejected for deferred action last March. Despite being married to an American citizen, Conlon is currently living in the U.S. unauthorized. The two of them risk being separated at any given time.

Wanderlingh and Conlon comprise one of nearly 40 bi-national, same-sex couples that form the group Immigration Equality. Earlier this week, the group visited Capitol Hill to urge the passage of the Uniting American Families Act, a proposed amendment to the “Gang of Eight bill that would allow gay and lesbian Americans the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to help their spouses gain legal residency.

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The road to passage for this act is a bumpy one to say the least, and its advocates are well aware of the perspective that two Gang of Eight members, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have taken on it. Both believe that protective amendments to any immigration bill regarding LGBT rights would be tanked.

“Which is more important: LGBT or border security?” McCain asked them earlier this week. “I’ll tell you what my priorities are. If you’re going to load it up with social issues, that is the best way to derail it, in my view.”

Even though the majority of Democratic lawmakers are in favor of the act, LGBT rights were never included in the reform bill. On Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, assured The Huffington Post that at some point, the Uniting American Families Act will be added as an amendment. If it’s passed, there are an estimated 40,000 same-sex couples (currently without immigration benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act) that this legislation could help.

“It can’t be called comprehensive immigration reform if we’re not included,” said Conlon. “Otherwise it’s not comprehensive. We’re a family like any other family; we should have the rights that any other family has.”

Source: Huffingtonpost, “LGBT Couples Demand Equality In Immigration Reform” Elise Foley,
April 24, 2013

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