Senators decry latest immigration-reform snag

February 11, 2014

us congressAZ Central, 2/8/14

Arizona’s U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are lamenting U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s surprise decision to back off immigration reform. Boehner, R-Ohio, generally is viewed as a reform supporter. Late last month, he and other House Republican leaders released a one-page set of standards to guide GOP lawmakers on the issue.

But Thursday he abruptly doused expectations by saying a widespread lack of trust in President Barack Obama to enforce any new immigration laws made legislation unlikely. Boehner also is under pressure from conservative hard-liners in the House Republican Conference who oppose policies that they characterize as providing “amnesty” for immigrants who are in the United States without authorization.

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Immigration-Reform Opponents Suspect a Ruse

February 5, 2014

us congressNational Review, 2/4/14

Opponents of the Senate Gang of Eight legislation have long been wary of the House leadership’s intentions with respect to immigration reform. They are perhaps even more skeptical now that proponents are already downplaying the odds of success. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), one of the most prominent GOP advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that reform’s prospects were “clearly in doubt.”

Opponents of comprehensive reform say they have reason to suspect a ruse. For example, the fate of the Gang of Eight legislation was frequently called into question, even though its eventual passage (requiring only one GOP vote in addition to the four Republican Gang members) was all but assured.

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Immigration reform passes key Senate test

June 25, 2013

PassportCNN, 6/25/2013

The Senate signaled its support on Monday for a bipartisan measure strengthening border security in the comprehensive “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, a sweeping blueprint that promises to overhaul America’s immigration policies for the first time since 1986. The 67-to-27 vote was considered a key test of support for the bill as a whole, as the measure also includes language echoing most other parts of the legislation.

The Senate kept the vote open for a significant amount of time for lawmakers who experienced travel delays due to bad weather in Washington. Some senators did not make it in time. Supporters needed at least 60 votes to move forward with the revised border security provisions, which were drafted partly to boost GOP support for the overall package.

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Op-ed: Undermining immigration reform with high costs

June 24, 2013

dollarBy Marielena Hincapié and Janet Murguía, Politico, 6/23/201

The goal of immigration reform is to make our immigration system rational, accountable and workable. Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and into the system is a big part of that — it protects families, prevents exploitation and ensures that American workers and good employers are not undercut by unfair competition. The bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee makes clear that citizenship must be earned, laying out a long and difficult road map to citizenship. The high cost of the process is a major concern, but the Senate bill — while harsh — at least offers an achievable path that the majority of eligible residents should be able to navigate.

However, new hurdles in the form of proposed amendments to make the bill “tougher” threaten the success of immigration reform by blocking that road map for most of the 11 million aspiring citizens. Already the Senate bill denies immigrants who apply for legal status basic assistance programs, such as nutrition assistance and tax credits that most Americans will need to make health care affordable. And it goes further — immigrants on the road to citizenship would be denied non-emergency Medicaid, cost-sharing under the Affordable Care Act and numerous other benefits. Immigrants would be banned from these programs for 10 years, despite paying into them with their taxes.

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Immigration reform: new security plan could sway dozen Republicans

June 21, 2013

IMG_4559The Christian Science Monitor, 6/20/2013

Immigration reform got a substantial boost in the Senate Thursday, as Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota helped craft a compromise proposal on border security that could pave the way for an overwhelming approval of the bill when it comes to a final vote next week.

The amendment, together with a handful of others still under negotiation but whose prospects appear favorable, could push the vote total toward 70 senators. That is something of a magic number for proponents of immigration reform, who think a huge, bipartisan vote in the Senate could compel the House to act. Many Republicans in the House have so far shown little enthusiasm for comprehensive immigration reform.  Yet border security has been among the primary stumbling blocks for Republicans, both in the House and Senate, and Senator Corker is confident that his amendment should allay any concerns.

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Immigration reform: deal inches closer as Republicans propose ‘human fence’

June 21, 2013

border-patrol1The Guardian, 6/21/2013

Conservative efforts to frustrate immigration reform were rebuffed on Thursday, bringing Congress one step closer to legalising the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the US. As the battle to pass legislation proved far tougher than many expected, a new group of moderate Republican senators proposed doubling the number of border guards to 40,000 in a “human fence” to secure the southern border with Mexico.

Their border security amendment goes far further than the original “gang of eight” Republican and Democrat senators who introduced immigration reform in April but is thought crucial in persuading more conservative Republicans to accept the proposed amnesty for existing immigrants. Although passage of the bill through the Senate is not in doubt due to a Democratic majority, the debate is on a knife edge in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives after speaker John Boehner insisted he would only allow a vote if a majority of his party caucus were in favour.

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The U.S.-Mexico Border: Secure Enough

June 21, 2013

barbed wire fenceThe Economist, 6/22/2013

EIGHT “carpet shoes” outside Jim Chiltern’s house testify to the frugal innovation of Mexico’s people-smuggling industry. These shoes, bound pieces of denim with soft soles designed to leave no trace in the Arizona desert, have been lost or abandoned by illegal immigrants traversing Mr Chiltern’s 50,000-acre cattle ranch, which stretches to the Mexican border. Mr Chiltern displays them to help convince visitors that, whatever the politicians in Washington may say, America’s southern border is far from secure.

Whether the country gets a long-overdue reform of its immigration system, including a route to citizenship for the 11m illegal migrants now living there, may hinge on this question. The bill currently being debated in the Senate devotes $4.5 billion to border security, including yet more drones, fences and guards with guns. But many Republicans, recalling the multitudes that arrived after Ronald Reagan’s amnesty in 1986, want even more.

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Sources: Senate nearing border deal

June 20, 2013

Border fencePolitico, 6/20/2013

The Senate’s Gang of Eight and a pair of Republicans are near a deal that would beef up the immigration bill’s border security language and break a major impasse between the two sides, senators and aides say. Democrats and Republicans are beginning to sell the agreement to their respective caucuses, but if the deal holds, it could put immigration legislation on a glide path to pass the Senate by the end of the month by delivering a large, bipartisan majority of votes.

The emerging deal would soften Republican requests for a strict requirement that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended to hit a “trigger” toward a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but would provide an unprecedented increase in border security funding and officers and a guarantee on finishing the fence along the Southern border, sources said.

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How Immigration Reform Would Help the Economy

June 20, 2013

dollarsThe New York Times, 6/20/2013

After many months of rival assertions by interested parties, we finally have an authoritative assessment by an impartial referee of the effects of the so-called Gang of Eight senators’ proposed legislation on immigration. On Tuesday, based on work with the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office released two reports – one on the direct federal budget impact and one on the broader and longer-run economic effects, with a helpful summary blog post by the office’s director, Douglas Elmendorf).

The assessment is positive. This precise immigration proposal would improve the budget picture and stimulate economic growth. The immediate effects are good and the more lasting effects even better. If anything, the long-run positive effects are likely to be even larger than the C.B.O. is willing to predict, in my assessment. (I’m a member of the office’s Panel of Economic Advisers but I was not involved in any way in this work.)

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Conservatives on Immigration: Reformers in Name Only?

June 13, 2013

Immigration_and_Customs_Enforcement_arrestThe Atlantic, 6/12/2013

When it comes to immigration reform, Senator Rand Paul says he is only trying to help. Should immigration-reform advocates believe him? On Wednesday, Paul, the Tea Party Republican from Kentucky, stood before a phalanx of cameras and microphones in a Capitol Hill hotel where he’d just given a speech. “I want to vote for immigration reform,” he told the group of reporters. But in order to meet his standards, the bill needed some changes, such as putting it in the hands of Congress to judge whether the border was sufficiently secure.

A number of conservative politicians are using a version of this line. They say they support immigration reform in the abstract, but in practice, the legislation is never good enough. As the immigration debate opened in the Senate on Wednesday, this was the major question facing the bill’s proponents: make the bill more conservative to meet this group’s demands? Or refuse, on the grounds that these right-wingers are never going to support the final bill anyway?

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