The fracking divide: Mexico’s oil frontier beckons U.S. drillers in wake of new law

April 21, 2014

energy- oil pumps 2The Washington Post, 4/19/14

The geological marvel known to Texas oilmen as the Eagle Ford Shale Play is buried deep underground, but at night you can see its outline from space in a twinkling arc that sweeps south of San Antonio toward the Rio Grande. The light radiates from thousands of surface-level gas flares and drilling rigs. It is the glow of one of the most extravagant oil bonanzas in American history, the result of the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Curving south and west, the lights suddenly go black at Mexico’s border, as if there were nothing on the other side.

A landmark energy bill approved by Mexico’s Congress in December is aimed at correcting this disparity. It has opened the country’s oil industry to private and foreign investment for the first time in 75 years, with the goal of bringing in new technology, expertise and a risk-taking culture long missing at the state oil monopoly, Pemex.

Lawmakers will be hashing out the nuts and bolts of the law over the coming weeks, but expectations are that U.S. and other global companies will be able to bid on oil and gas projects by the end of this year, beckoning the fracking crews across the border — into some of Mexico’s most violent areas.

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American Legion shoots down idea to tie immigration to military service

April 16, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants 2 participate in march for Immigrants and Mexicans protesting against Illegal Immigration reform by U.S. Congress, Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 2006The Washington Times, 4/15/14

The American Legion says it is opposed to trying to tie immigration into the annual defense policy debate, calling it an unacceptable “amnesty” and dealing a serious blow to Republicans desperate to pass some sort of legalization of illegal immigrants ahead of November’s elections.

Several Republicans say they want to attach a small legalization that would grant an explicit chance at citizenship to young illegal immigrants willing to join the military.

But immigration is so combustible as an issue that some defense advocates fear that adding a legalization provision to the National Defense Authorization Act could imperil the rest of the critical work in the defense bill, which sets troop and equipment levels, oversees detainee policy and settles hundreds of other important military issues.

“The NDAA needs to stand alone, and I think attaching an issue as contentious and complex as immigration and recruitment policy would only stall the NDAA,” said John Stovall, director of the American Legion’s national security division. “Immigration policy needs to be debated on its own outside the debate of NDAA.”

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House Democrats need 27 signatures to force vote on comprehensive immigration reform bill

April 16, 2014

shutterstock_93480406The Washington Post, 5/15/14

House Democrats are renewing their push for a vote on a proposed comprehensive immigration reform package, vowing Tuesday to refocus efforts on pressuring Republicans to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on the legislation.

The immigration reform push is the third recent attempt by Republicans to leverage a discharge petition — a procedural tactic that allows the majority of House members to supersede the will of the House leadership and bring a bill to the floor — in an attempt to force a vote on a piece of legislation that they support.

House Democrats say they currently have 191 signatures — all Democrats — on the petition, and that they will recommit to pressure Republican lawmakers who have said previously that they would support comprehensive immigration reform. The petition must get 218 signatures to force a vote on the legislation.

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Should Obama use the power of his pen to turn the tide on immigration reform?

April 16, 2014

Barack_Obama_being_briefed_on_swine_flu_oubreak_4-29CNN, 4/15/14

Immigration champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez feels confident that President Barack Obama will use his executive powers to push through reform. House Speaker John Boehner feels confident that doing so will tank what little support the President has among Republicans on immigration reform.

They’re both right, immigration law experts say. After pushback from immigration activists and some members of his party, the President has directed his administration to reexamine its deportation policy. The administration could shift noncriminals and minor offenders to the lowest deportation priorities.

“I think the President has a difficult decision to make here,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University Law School. “The courts have upheld wide discretion on immigration matters. He could make noncriminals the lowest deportation priorities. … But there is a penalty he could pay through using executive action rather than waiting for Congress to act on immigration reform.”

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Democrat Says Immigration Reform Has Stalled Because Of GOP ‘Racism’

April 15, 2014

Obama-immigration-reformFox News Latino, 4/14/14

A lawmaker who heads a House committee to elect Democrats blamed the country’s failure to pass immigration reform on Republican “racism.” Rep. Steve Israel’s comments are in line with those from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, in which she blamed racial issues for the GOP’s failure to act on comprehensive immigration legislation. Asked about Pelosi’s comments, New York’s Israel said he agreed with her assessment.

“To a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism. And that’s unfortunate,” said Israel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frustration is mounting among the House’s Democratic minority and immigration activists about Republicans’ refusal to act on a far-reaching immigration bill passed by the Senate last year. The Senate bill would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.

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Why Rand Paul didn’t really blast Jeb Bush on immigration

April 15, 2014

Photo by Flickr user jcolman

The Christian Science Monitor, 4/13/134

When potential presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said last weekend that illegal immigration was not a felony, but instead often an “act of love,” he was surely braced for the blowback from conservatives. And it has come. But on Sunday, the latest rebuke was among the gentlest, and that could suggest that the entire tone of the conversation will change next year.

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky said Mr. Bush “might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this,” adding that the problem with Bush’s views are that “we can’t invite the whole world.”

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Massachusetts’ clever immigration reform workaround

April 14, 2014

people waiting - out of focusFortune, 4/14/14

In America’s battle to keep the foreign entrepreneurs it trains, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has thrown down a massive gauntlet.

Announcing a broad economic growth package last week, Deval introduced what he’s dubbed the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GER) Program. The proposal: foreign students who attended colleges and universities in Massachusetts and are interested in staying in the state as entrepreneurs can apply to enroll in the GER program that will be administered by the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative, an independent state agency aimed at developing technology in Massachusetts. Mass Tech will then place selected individuals at participating public and private universities in the state, where they will work part-time and apply for visas that will be sponsored by their new employers.

The GER program is one way Massachusetts can “accelerate [its] job and wealth creation,” Patrick, a Democrat, said in a statement. Greg Bialecki, Patrick’s secretary of housing and economic development, told Fortune on Friday that “the drive behind this idea was international students who’ve come to Massachusetts; they’ve spent their school years here and want to stay here.” At present, there are 46,000 foreign college students enrolled at institutions in Massachusetts, he says.

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Last chance for US immigration reform

April 14, 2014

shutterstock_52513291The Financial Times, 4/13/14

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, hit the right note earlier this month by stating that it was an “act of love” to move to the US – even if done so illegally. Given the depth of Tea Party hostility to providing “amnesty” to America’s 11m undocumented immigrants, it was also a brave thing to say. Mr Bush’s presidential ambitions will almost certainly suffer. Tea Party Republicans oppose immigration reform because they want to deny President Barack Obama any legislative victory, even if it means inflicting harm on their own party.

Mr Bush sees the bigger picture. It is not too late for Republicans to take his cue. There are perhaps two months left before Congress goes into full campaign mode for November’s midterm polls. It is time enough for Republicans to enact an overhaul. The credit would be widely shared by both parties.

The biggest stumbling block is the notion of “amnesty”, which is neither fair nor accurate. Under the bill passed in the US Senate, with some Republican support, the best that illegal immigrants could hope for is citizenship within 13 years. Even then, they would have to admit culpability, pay back taxes, learn English and join the back of the queue for citizenship. This is not amnesty. It is a stringent “pathway to citizenship” that would uphold the rule of law.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto slumps in polls despite policy wins

April 14, 2014

Enrique Pena NietoThe Washington Post, 4/13/14

Plenty of world leaders would be thrilled to have the kind of executive hot streak blazed by Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto during his first 16 months in office. In that short span, he and his administration have steered more than a dozen major new laws through congress, overhauling the country’s energy, banking and education sectors, among others.

Peña Nieto has stood up to powerful interests from Mexico’s business world and underworld. He has locked up drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s most wanted trafficker, quieting doubters in the United States who questioned his crime-fighting mettle. Yet for all the praise he has won in Washington and elsewhere in the world, Peña Nieto’s opening act is getting panned in the only place it really counts: Mexico.

After Time magazine put him on the cover of its international edition recently with the headline “Saving Mexico,” a flood of ridicule and derision followed. Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have fallen fairly steadily since he took office in December 2012, dropping to 37 percent inone recent poll, with other surveys rating him in the mid-40s.

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How badly must Republicans lose for immigration reform to win?

April 1, 2014

Passport -CitizenshipThe Week, 4/1/14

Immigration reform looks to be dead. Again. With the 2014 midterms bearing down and House Republicans standing pat, activists who pushed hard to get a bill passed in this session of Congress are making valedictory speeches about their efforts and looking to the future.

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin spoke to several pro-reform advocates who now expect President Obama to do what he can through executive orders. The strategy extends beyond November to the next presidential contest. “Immigration advocates hope to repeat the cycle by forcing the White House to take unilateral action,” Sarlin wrote, “which would set the stage for Latino voters to punish the GOP in 2016, which in turn would pressure Republican leaders to finally cave on reform.”

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