Story Summary

Immigration reform

Immigration reform has been a hot-button issue since 1986 when a landmark bill cleared the House and brought forth the chance that Congress could find a solution to the contentious control of the nation’s borders. In the 2012 general election, immigration reform headed again to the top of the candidates’ agendas.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday that would lead to a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws for the first time since 1986. It would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents while pumping up security along the Mexican border.

senateSenators passed the bill 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

Most congressional conservatives, however, remain staunchly opposed to the measure, and have declared it dead on arrival in the House.

In a White House statement, President Obama hailed the Senate vote as “a critical step” toward fixing what he called a broken immigration system. He labeled the measure that now goes to the Republican-controlled House a compromise, adding that “we just need Congress to finish the job.”

Obama warned in his statement that opponents of immigration reform will try even harder to derail it. Noting the broad support for the Senate bill from the business community, organized labor and others, he urged people to contact their House representatives and “tell them to do the right thing.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called the vote on the measure “largely symbolic” and predicted the bill would ultimately be relegated to the “ash heap of history.”

If enacted, the measure would create a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, while raising the cap on visas for high-skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low-skilled workers on America’s farms.

A recently added border security amendment — introduced by GOP Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee — would require 20,000 more border agents, complete 700 miles of fence along the boundary with Mexico, and deploy $3.2 billion in technology upgrades similar to equipment used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The amendment also strengthens eligibility verification and border entry-exit controls.

House Speaker John Boehner repeated his pledge to block a vote in the House on any immigration measure that doesn’t have the support of a majority of House Republicans.

The speaker also refused to take a position on whether or not there should be some kind of path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally.

Local News

Obama stumps for ‘best chance’ immigration bill

WASHINGTON – President Obama said Tuesday that the bipartisan immigration bill now before the Senate is the “best chance we’ve had in years” to fix a broken system and provide a route to citizenship for millions of immigrants who do not have legal status but contribute to the country every day.

Speaking in the East Room to an array of the measure’s supporters, Obama said there’s no reason Congress shouldn’t take action by the end of the summer – or no acceptable reason, anyway.

“There’s no good reason to stand in the way of this bill,” Obama said, “so if you’re serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it.”

“If you’re not serious about it, if you think that a broken system is the best America can do, then I guess it might make sense to try to block it,” he said.

But some Republicans who say they’re serious about reform also say they’re not sure they want to commit to an overhaul of the policy without greater assurances about border security.

Even as Obama began his remarks, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was on the Senate floor raising concerns about that issue.

The Senate holds its first vote Tuesday on a bipartisan immigration proposal that would ramp up border security and lay out a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million residents now in the country illegally.

For the complete Los Angeles Times story, go here.

Immigration bill would boost number of legal immigrants

Courtesy LA Times

WASHINGTON – While much of the debate over immigration has focused on the fate of the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. without legal authorization, one of the biggest immediate impacts of the reform bill being prepared in the Senate would be a sudden, large surge in legal migration.

The U.S. admits about 1 million legal immigrants per year, more than any other country. That number could jump by more than 50% over the next decade under the terms of the immigration reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators expects to unveil as early as Tuesday. The impact would be felt nationwide, but areas that already have large immigrant communities would probably see much of the increase.

The immigration package includes at least four major provisions that would increase the number of legal immigrants, according to people familiar with it. Some of the parts could generate as much controversy as the provisions dealing with those who enter the country illegally or overstay their visas, according to those with long experience of the politics of immigration.

Supporters say that higher levels of legal immigration would meet the U.S. need for certain kinds of workers. Increased legal migration also would reduce most of the incentive for illegal border crossings, backers of the plan say, and would allow border agents to focus on smugglers and people with violent criminal records.

Opponents such as Sen. Jeff Sessions,R-Ala., who has long opposed measures to increase immigration levels, say new workers would depress wages and crowd out Americans looking for work during a time of persistently high unemployment.

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

Don Young

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska

WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, referred to Latinos with the the derogatory term “wetbacks” during an interview with a radio station in Ketchikan, Alaska, The Washington Post reported.

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks and — to pick tomatoes,” Young said in the interview with KRBD. “You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

In a statement released late Thursday,  according to the Post, Young said that during the KRBD interview, “I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

In his statement, Young said migrant workers “play an important role in America’s workforce, and earlier in the said interview, I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship. America must once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.”

Young, 79, has represented his House district since 1973.



WASHINGTON — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have released “several hundred” immigrants from deportation centers across the country, saying the move is an effort to cut costs ahead of budget cuts due to hit later this week.

Announcing the news Tuesday, ICE officials said that the immigrants were released under supervision and continue to face deportation. After reviewing hundreds of cases, those released were considered low-risk and “noncriminal,” officials said.

The releases took place over the last week and were an effort “to ensure detention levels stay within ICE’s current budget,” said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christiansen, citing uncertainty caused by a budget standoff in Washington.

“All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,” she said.

Much of the federal government is braced to feel the pinch from $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts due to start Friday. Both Republicans and Democrats have said they oppose the cuts, but the two parties cannot agree on a budget deal that would avert them.

ICE’s decision was praised by some who have long criticized the rise in detentions and deportations under the Obama administration. Human rights and immigration advocates have accused the administration of ramping up arrests in response to political pressure.

“We have long advocated for expanded use of alternatives to detention, a step we knew would save taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Ruthie Epstein of Human Rights First. “It is a shame that it took the threat of serious budget cuts to prompt this move. Even so, ICE’s decision makes clear that the government can save money by reforming its approach to immigration detention.”

Officials say the released detainees are under other forms of supervision, including electronic and telephonic monitoring. Their cases continue to proceed in court.

Still, some Republicans blasted the announcement as part of the White House’s attempt to gin up public outcry about the looming spending cuts. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the decision was a political ploy that put the public in danger.

“It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hinted at the coming news Monday, when she outlined the impact the budget cuts would have on her agencies. Napolitano said ICE would not be able to maintain its inventory of detention beds if the department is forced to cut roughly 5% of its budget this year.

“Look, we’re doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester.  But there’s only so much I can do,” Napolitano said. “I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration.  How do I pay for those?  We want to maintain 22,000-some odd Border Patrol agents. I got to be able to pay their salaries.”

– By Kathleen Hennessy, Los Angeles Times

San Diego border

A pier in Imperial Beach, Calif., marks part of a new border fence extending farther into the surf line. Stemming the tide of illegal border-crossings is a key part of a Senate blueprint for immigration reform. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / November 21, 2011)

WASHINGTON — Millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in America under a compromise plan proposed Monday by a bipartisan group of eight senators.

While temporarily removing legal uncertainty for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, the senators’ outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers.

Only after those steps occurred could the undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence — green cards — as a step toward citizenship, the senators told a news conference.

“They would no longer be deported, provided they don’t have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed, they would be allowed to stay here and work,” said Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in describing the immediate impact of the framework if crafted into legislation and enacted.

The outline for a possible immigration bill reflects a new willingness by mainstream Republicans to compromise following their party’s defeat in November, when President Barack Obama got strong backing from Latino voters.

“Elections, elections,” answered Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a veteran of past immigration battles in Congress, when asked to explain the push now for a bill that proved unattainable two years ago.

“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said. “We realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a preeminent issue with those citizens.”

His party and all Americans now realized that “we cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows,” McCain added.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a tea party backed conservative considered a rising star in the party, said the goal was to create a “modern immigration system” that treated everyone fairly — both the undocumented and those waiting to come to America legally.

“None of this is possible if we don’t address the reality there are 11 million people in this country who are undocumented,” Rubio said.

However, another tea party backed Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, objected to the framework by his colleagues, saying the guidelines “contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country.”

Other conservatives immediately voiced their opposition to what they called amnesty, a code word on the political right for providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

“When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

NumbersUSA, a group seeking to reduce U.S. immigration, called the Senate plan an attempt to “out-amnesty Obama” and said it was activating its 1.3 million members to push for congressional opposition.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office was non-commital, saying he looked forward to learning more about the senators’ plan.

Obama planned a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday to discuss comprehensive immigration legislation, which he calls a priority of his second term.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the president welcomed the senators’ framework, calling it a “big deal” because it included an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“He is encouraged by the progress we have seen from members of both parties in the Senate, and looks forward to working with members of both parties to reach a point in the hopefully not too distant future where we have a bill that has bipartisan support, that is very specific, and that he can sign because it meets his principles,” Carney said.


To read the entire CNN article, click here.