Lower house in Mexico approves oil reform measure

Oil barrelsThe Los Angeles Times, 12/12/2013

The lower chamber of Mexico’s Congress followed the lead of the Senate on Wednesday night by approving an energy reform bill that would open the country’s nationalized oil and gas industry to foreign investment.

The bill, which proponents say will help Mexico reverse its declining oil production with the help of foreign capital and expertise, passed on a 354-134 vote, clearing the two-thirds vote hurdle necessary for passage. The Senate approved the bill late Tuesday.

As a change to the Mexican constitution, the proposal also must be approved by a majority of state legislatures. They are expected to do so, though opposition to the measure in some quarters remains fierce.

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Op-ed: Immigration reform heads for slow death

US Capitol domePolitico, 7/9/13

Republicans walked away from their 2012 debacle hell-bent on fixing their problems with Hispanics. Now, they appear hell-bent on making them worse.

In private conversations, top Republicans on Capitol Hill now predict comprehensive immigration reform will die a slow, months-long death in the House. Like with background checks for gun buyers, the conventional wisdom that the party would never kill immigration reform, and risk further alienating Hispanic voters, was always wrong — and ignored the reality that most House Republicans are white conservatives representing mostly white districts.

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Immigration reform: The highest hurdle

Passport -CitizenshipThe Economist, 7/6/2013

As his constituents aired their concerns at a town-hall meeting this week, Bob Goodlatte, a Republican congressman from Virginia, nodded politely. “This immigration bill stinks to high heaven,” thundered one, referring to a package of reforms approved by the Senate that would, among other things, allow most of America’s 11m-odd illegal immigrants to become citizens. “If you legalise 11m illegal aliens, you’re going to be overwhelmed by who knows how many tens of millions more,” declared another. “We will become a third-world country.” A third implores: “Use all your powers to make sure this bill does not get out of the House.”

Mr Goodlatte is the chairman of the judiciary committee in the House of Representatives, which is responsible for immigration policy. The committee has been working on its own approach to immigration, he assures his constituents, and will not slavishly follow the Senate. In fact, he says, the House will not even put the Senate bill to a vote. He wants to see more manpower hunting for illegal immigrants within the country, to add to the 40,000 extra boots the Senate bill puts along the border. No interlopers should win a reprieve until Congress judges the border secure, he says. Even then, they should receive only residency, not citizenship.

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Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers

Border fenceThe Washington Post, 6/28/2013

The border security plan the Senate approved last week includes unusual language mandating the purchase of specific models of helicopters and radar equipment for deployment along the U.S.-Mexican border, providing a potential windfall worth tens of millions of dollars to top defense contractors.

The legislation would require the U.S. Border Patrol to acquire, among other items, six Northrop Grumman airborne radar systems that cost $9.3 million each, 15 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters that average more than $17 million apiece, and eight light enforcement helicopters made by American Eurocopter that sell for about $3 million each. The legislation also calls for 17 UH-1N helicopters made by Bell Helicopter, an older model that the company no longer manufactures.

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Why Immigration Is the New Gay Marriage

gay pride flagBloomberg Businessweek, 7/1/2013

Last Thursday the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that was dramatic in its scope and potential impact. Its future in the House is in doubt, but discussion around the bill has already made one thing clear: Immigration is no longer an issue of political economy—it’s a cultural one, where opinions are driven by attitudes toward foreigners rather than by pocketbook concerns. Whether that’s good or bad for the prospects of meaningful immigration reform remains an open question, but the speed of the cultural shift on another hotly debated issue—gay marriage—suggests some reason for optimism.

In the runup to the Senate vote, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis showing that the Senate immigration bill would lead to a population 10.4 million larger than otherwise by 2023. That is a significant number—about 3 percent of the current U.S. population. But the CBO argued that all the economic impacts associated with that larger population are positive. The economy as a whole would be 5 percent larger in 2033, GDP per capita, productivity, and average wages would all be marginally higher, and the bill would decrease budget deficits by nearly $900 billion between 2014 and 2033. The CBO estimates that the relative wages of both skilled and unskilled workers might decline slightly—by a fraction of a percentage point—compared with those in the middle of the skill distribution. But absolute wages would be higher for all workers, whatever their skill level.

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Op-ed: Immigration Reform: Self-Interest or Pragmatism?

shutterstock_49320529ABC / Univision, 6/30/2013

All I need to know about politics, I learned from a conversation I once had with an old PRI party operative in Mexico. The main variable at play in every politician’s decisions, he told me, is not whether a law benefits the country, or even if it’s in the interest of the politician’s constituency: “The true politician only asks one question,” the man told me. ”How will this affect me?’ Politicians, you see, are animals built on self-interest, focused solely on survival.”

This is a lesson immigration reform enthusiasts would be wise to keep in mind. After Thursday’s historic vote in the Senate, many applauded the 14 Republican senators who supported the bill. The praise was well earned. Still one has to ask: how many of those Republicans actually risked their individual political careers by supporting immigration reform?

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Immigration bill summary

Passport -CitizenshipAP, 6/28/2013

A look at major provisions of the Senate immigration bill:


The bill sets out a series of requirements that must be achieved over 10 years before anyone here illegally can obtain a permanent resident green card. These include:

(1) Roughly doubling the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border, to at least 38,405.

(2) Completing 700 miles of pedestrian fencing along the border, which would require approximately 350 new miles of fencing.

(3) Installing a host of new security measures and technologies in specified locations along the border, including specific numbers of surveillance towers, camera systems, ground sensors, radiation detectors, mobile surveillance systems, drones, helicopters, airborne radar systems, planes and ships.

(4) Implementing a system for all employers to verify electronically their workers’ legal status.

(5) Setting up a new electronic system to track people leaving the nation’s airports and seaports.

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