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01-28-2013, 05:47 PM #1
Bipartisan Immigration Plan Counters Republican Orthodoxy (ALIPAC)
Bipartisan Immigration Plan Counters Republican Orthodoxy
By Kathleen Hunter, Lisa Lerer & Roxana Tiron - Jan 28, 2013 2:56 PM ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
U.S. citizenship candidate Ricardo Barrera, 8, takes the oath of citizenship with his father Ricardo Barrera, left, mother Reina Barrera and his sister Ashley, 1, during a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Central Library.
Advocates of overhauling U.S. immigration laws say a proposal from a bipartisan group of senators opens a long and perilous road for the issue in Congress.
The Senate group unveiled principles today for the most comprehensive attempt to revamp immigration laws since former President George W. Bush’s failed effort in 2007.
“We believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done,” New York Democrat Charles Schumer said at a news conference with four other members of the group. “For the first time ever there’s more political risk in opposing immigration reform than supporting it.”
Schumer said he hopes a bill can be put together by March, with a goal of Senate passage by late spring or summer.
The plan includes a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. It marks significant progress on an issue that has, because of Republican opposition, stymied past efforts to revamp immigration laws.
“It’s kind of like the pistol shot at the start of the race,” Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a Washington group that advocates overhauling the immigration laws, said in a telephone interview. “There is a lot of work ahead.”
Details of the plan remain unresolved. The group, also including Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, has agreed on broad principles and hasn’t drafted a bill.
Clean Our Homes
McCain, who helped lead the unsuccessful overhaul in 2007, said at the news conference that Americans “have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve us food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the agreement represented a “positive first step.” He has listed an immigration overhaul as among the Senate’s top legislative priorities.
A proposal would need the backing of at least one additional Republican to have the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate. Democrats control 55 votes in the 100-member chamber. The number of Republican backers needed would increase with every Democratic defection.
Closer to Passing
Still, the acknowledgment by some Republicans that a pathway to citizenship is necessary is cheering advocates for revamping immigration policy, who sense that they are closer to passing comprehensive legislation.
“I see things that were once off the table for agreement and discussion being on the table,” Menendez said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday.
The plan follows a defeat for Republicans in the 2012 presidential election that has compelled the party to seek ways to make inroads with Latino voters. The rapidly growing voting bloc cast 71 percent of its votes for President Barack Obama in November.
House Speaker John Boehner is among the Republicans who have said the party needs to find a more positive approach to immigration policy.
The agreement includes provisions for border security, workplace verification and the future flow of immigrants while offering an avenue to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
Complaining of Amnesty
Some Republicans complain of what they call amnesty for people who entered the country illegally. The Senate group is calling for tougher border security and enforcement before providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
These immigrants would face a prolonged process to remain in the U.S. legally.
The proposal would boost the number of unmanned aerial vehicles watching for illegal border crossings, mandate completion of a system to track whether individuals entering the U.S. on temporary visas have left the country, and require people in the country without authorization to pay fines and back taxes.
It would strengthen prohibitions against racial profiling and exempt people who entered the country as minors from many of the plan’s requirements for individuals who entered the country illegally as adults. The proposal would create a separate path to citizenship for agricultural workers.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today the administration “welcomes” the Senate group’s proposal and said it “mirrors” Obama’s plan. The U.S. is “at a moment now” where “support seems to be coalescing,” Carney said.
Obama plans to travel to Nevada tomorrow to advocate for legislation in a state with a sizable share of Latino voters who were instrumental in his re-election.
Bush’s 2007 attempt to change the immigration system, including a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, and Obama’s effort in 2010 failed amid public anger over unchecked immigration and opposition from Republicans who contended that the plans rewarded illegal entry.
Boehner “welcomes the work of leaders like Senator Rubio on this issue and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days,” spokesman Michael Steel said in an e-mailed statement.
The House’s informal immigration working group, which has met privately for almost four years, includes Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, and John Carter, a Texas Republican.
The issue of undocumented immigrants resonates with Latino voters. Two-thirds of Latinos have a friend or family member who is undocumented, according to a post-campaign analysis by the polling firm Latino Decisions.
“When we talk about deporting undocumented immigrants, Latino voters connect that statement to someone they know in their personal lives,” said Stanford University professor Gary Segura, who conducted the analysis.
Still, it remains to be seen how many House Republicans would support anything other than an enforcement-only approach.
“Illegal immigration and any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is a form of amnesty and is opposed by most Americans because it will harm American workers, students, taxpayers, and voters,” William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said in a statement. The group opposed the 2007 and 2010 overhaul efforts.
No. 1 Priority
While Republicans work to recalibrate their message, Democrats calculate that they must move quickly on immigration legislation to capitalize on any hints of bipartisan support.
“I clearly sense the president is ready,” said Democratic Representative Xavier Becerra of California, a former critic of Obama’s immigration efforts who met with the president on Jan. 25. “He made it very clear that this is his No. 1 legislative priority.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform would be an extraordinary moment for our communities,” said Michael Seifert, a community organizer with the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a Brownsville, Texas, coalition of nonprofit groups that advocate for low-income residents. “We’re hopeful that these changes will truly improve lives, which would be amazing.”
Many families in the four-county Rio Grande Valley include a mix of U.S. citizens, undocumented workers and those with temporary work permits, Seifert said. “It’s not as simple as just a bunch of people without the proper papers.”
Bipartisan Immigration Plan Counters Republican Orthodoxy - Bloomberg
01-28-2013, 10:47 PM #2Two-thirds of Latinos have a friend or family member who is undocumented, according to a post-campaign analysis by the polling firm Latino Decisions.