Entries in Illegal Immigrants (40)


'Gang of Eight' Senators on Tour in Arizona See Border Patrol in Action

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(NOGALES, Ariz.) -- Four of the U.S. senators leading the charge on immigration reform got more than they expected Wednesday when they came to Nogales, Ariz., to check on border security.

Just a few steps away from where they stood with Customs and Border Patrol officials, the problem facing the nation unfolded before their eyes: A young woman was sprinting her way out of Mexico, then climbing a security fence, only to be caught by the border patrol within seconds.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted about the event, saying: "Just witnessed a woman successfully climb an 18-ft bollard fence a few yards from us in Nogales. And Border Patrol successfully apprehended her, but incident is another reminder that threats to our border security are real."

Arizona's Senate delegation, McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake, both Republicans, hosted Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., for a tour along the border in Nogales, part of the Tucson sector. All four senators are members of the so-called "Gang of Eight" that is working on a solution to the nation's immigration issues.

ABC News was at the scene of the apprehension exclusively and later asked the senators from out of state what they thought of the experience.

"Well, I'd have to know all the details there to give you a judgment," Schumer said. "One of the things we learned is that a lot of people cross the border are doing it for drug purposes, too. But I don't know what happened in this situation."

The incident was "surprising" to Bennet.

"I just have never seen it before," he said.

For McCain, the incident was all too normal.

"One of the sad things about all of this is that most of those people who jump over the fence are doing that because they want a better life," he said at the news conference following the tour. "And I understand that. So we separate the drug cartels from individuals or somebody trying to cross over so they improve their lives."

The Border Patrol has more agents than ever, nearly 22,000, with 651 miles of fence along the 1,969-mile-long border.

Technology assists the boots on the ground, with 125 airplanes and six drones patrolling the Mexican frontier working with Border Patrol agents to make crossing the border illegally more difficult than ever.

In fact, apprehensions like the ones the senators saw are down 78 percent from their peak in 2000.

President Obama, in interviews with ABC News' partner, Univision, said Wednesday he believes the border is secure enough to begin the reforms that would bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

"It's never going to be 110-percent perfect, but what we can do is to continue to improve it and, at the same time, provide a clear pathway for those who are already here and who've invested their lives here," the president said.

Counter to stereotype, six of the nation's 10 safest cities are on or near the border. El Paso, Texas, which sits just a few miles from Juarez, Mexico, has the lowest crime rate in the nation three years running.

El Paso Mayor John Cook said it's time to start immigration reform now "because [the] border is secure."

"For the most part, people who come into the United States don't want to get in trouble. They don't want to commit crimes," he said. "They just want to make a living. I call them economic refugees [because] they just came to try to secure the American dream and a better life for their families, not to commit crimes."

Back in Arizona, McCain was in his home state to convince skeptics from his base that border security is improving. He gave this qualified endorsement.

"With the proper use of technology, with the proper coordination between different agencies, [I believe] that we will be able to say that we have a degree of border security that would allow people to move forward to a path of citizenship," McCain said.

The senators said they hope to have an agreement on an immigration reform bill soon.

"We hope to have a bill agreed to and done the day we come back," Schumer said.

Both McCain and Schumer recognized that compromise was key.

"With this legislation, no one will be totally happy because we are having to make compromises, and that's what makes for good legislation, is compromise that brings everybody together," McCain said.

They added that the reforms cannot be passed piecemeal and will need to be passed as a complete unit.

The four senators who did not make the tour hope to make one in the near future. They already had plans for the recess when it was organized.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Says It's Not Behind Release of Illegal Immigrants

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House said on Wednesday that it was a decision by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention in anticipation of budget cuts that would be brought on by the sequester.

At a press briefing, administration spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that ICE took the action on its own "without any input from the White House."

According to Caney, the agency based its decision to order the release of illegal immigrants from detention facilities "as a result of fiscal uncertainty" resulting from deep automatic spending cuts that will affect numerous federal programs on March 1.

All deportation cases against the freed detainees will remain open.

However, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia were furious about the release, blaming the Obama administration and accusing the White House of trying to further scare Americans about the looming sequester.

Meanwhile, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul asked ICE Director John Morton questions about the number of people released, where it happened and why each detainee was considered releasable.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Anti-'Amnesty' Activists Prepared for Immigration Fight

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The forces that helped to bring down a proposed sweeping overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in 2007 are quietly mobilizing to do the same again.

As President Obama prepares to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to appeal for expanded legal U.S. immigration and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., activists are lining up their legions of supporters to fight it.

"In 2007, when callers shut down the Senate phone lines and stopped the amnesty bill in its tracks, we had 350,000 members.  We've now got 1.4 million," said Rosemary Jenks, chief lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which led the shut-down effort six years ago.

"Our goal is to make sure that every one of those 1.4 million people, plus anyone else we can find, will be faxing their members of Congress, calling their members of Congress, emailing their members of Congress, and making it absolutely clear that the American people are not onboard with this," she said.

Jenks and other advocates for a more restrained U.S. immigration policy say they're unconvinced that a changed American political landscape following the 2012 election, or a reinvigorated bipartisan coalition on immigration reform, means passage of a landmark immigration bill this year is inevitable.

Instead, they describe familiar flaws in current proposals, which they claim won't stand up to public scrutiny.

"It's hard to get people rallying when there isn't even a legislative vehicle yet," said Ira Mehlman of the 250,000-member Federation for American Immigration Reform.  "But what happened in 2006 and 2007 is that the information got out -- this is what's in the bill, this is why it's bad for you, here are all the gaping holes -- and the bill went down."

Obama has made comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, a top second-term priority -- one of the few to have won early bipartisan support.

A coalition of Republican and Democratic senators has unveiled a similar immigration reform plan, with a Senate committee holding the first public hearings on possible legislation on Wednesday.

The national debate on immigration has, so far, lacked a groundswell of grassroots opposition, with much attention focused on the union of unusual political allies, such as Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain, and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer.

But opponents say once details of legislation are put down on paper, a spirited movement against the plan would be only a matter of time.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senators Reveal Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of senators has agreed to an immigration reform framework that includes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, a significant step toward a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

The group of eight senators -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- identified broad ways to address the core issues facing the country's immigration laws in a four-plus page document, which Senate aides provided to ABC/Univision on condition of anonymity.

The principles agreed upon by this "Gang of Eight" include enhancing border security and cracking down on businesses that employ undocumented immigrants.  The outline also proposes making it easier for foreigners to come to the United States legally to work or join their families.

The senators behind the framework include John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped lead a failed reform effort in 2007, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

"Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here," the outline states.  "We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited."

The "Gang of Eight" plan provides the most concrete outline yet for immigration reform, but it also leaves many questions unanswered, such as the amount of time the pathway to citizenship would take and how exactly the border would be deemed secure.  Those details and others not included in the plan "would all be subject to negotiation," a Senate aide said.

Since last November's election, the senators have met five times in order to flesh out the plan, according to a Senate aide.  That election, in which more than seven in ten Latino voters supported President Obama over his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, served as a tipping point on the issue of immigration, which has stalled on Capitol Hill for some time.

Senate staff from both parties characterized the document as a broad statement of principles rather than concrete legislative language, and one aide said that the group aims to have an actual piece of legislation ready as early as the end of March.

The senators' announcement on Monday comes one day before Obama will travel to Las Vegas to unveil his own immigration reform plan, which also includes an earned pathway to citizenship and many other elements of the Senate plan.  The president met with a group of Hispanic Democratic lawmakers to discuss his plan on Friday, and afterward the White House reiterated that the issue remains "a top legislative priority."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republican Senators Present Their Plan for Immigration Reform

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two senior Senate Republicans proposed a bill on Tuesday that gives the children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to remain in the U.S.

After GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney only garnered a sliver of the Latino vote three weeks ago, the party decided that it had to do more to win over more of this growing electorate.

That's why outgoing Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas offered the legislation known as the "Achieve Act," which gives young immigrants the opportunity to earn permanent legal status through a three-step process.

The bill, which Kyl and Hutchinson have claimed to have worked on for the past year, requires applicants to have lived in the U.S. for five years prior to the bill's congressional approval.  They also must be under age 28 but exceptions will be made for those under 32 provided they've earned bachelor's degrees.

Applicants will be rejected if they've committed a felony or more than one misdemeanor.

The process starts with applicants earning a W-1 non-immigrant visa lasting six years, provided they earn a BA or serve four years in the military.

Following that, they'll receive a W-2 visa -- a four-year work permit -- which they'll keep by completing four years of work or seeking a Masters.  Upon completion, applicants can seek a W-3 visa to become permanent legal residents whereupon they'll be reviewed every four years.

The "Achieve Act," unlike the "Dream Act," does not offer a special pathway to citizenship.

Kyl contends, "We're not relegating people to some desert island," and that people with a W-3 visa can still apply to become Americans although there's no guarantee that will happen.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Majority Supports Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most Americans support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, an issue that may be high on the agenda of newly re-elected President Obama and the 113th Congress, given the increased importance of nonwhites -- including Hispanic voters -- in the nation’s political equation.

On two other prominent social issues in last week’s voting, a bare majority continues to support legalizing gay marriage, and this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds a new high -- 48 percent -- in support for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use.


A PATH: Fifty-seven percent of Americans in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 39 percent opposed.  That’s virtually identical to results of a similar question last asked in mid-2010, with support up from its earlier levels, as low as 49 percent in late 2007.

Debate on the issue was heightened by restrictive immigration policies enacted in Arizona in 2010 and Alabama in 2011, and in June, when Obama moved in another direction, granting immunity from deportation to many undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.

Hispanics accounted for 10 percent of voters in last Tuesday’s presidential election, reaching double-digits for the first time, and Obama won them by 71-27 percent, improving on his 2008 margin in this group.  In the exit poll, voters overall -- by more than 2-1 -- said illegal immigrants working here should be offered a chance to apply for legal status rather than being deported.

In this survey, support for a path to citizenship peaks at 82 percent among Hispanics, 71 percent among Democrats and liberals alike, and 69 percent among young adults -- all key Obama groups.  Support’s at 68 percent among nonwhites overall, compared with 51 percent among non-Hispanic whites. 

Obama lost white voters by 20 points last week, but won nonwhites -- who accounted for a record 28 percent of the electorate -- by 61 points.  It was a record racial gap.

GAY MARRIAGE: Fifty-one percent of Americans support gay marriage, slightly more than half for the fifth time straight in ABC/Post polls since March 2011, and up sharply from its levels in similar questions earlier this decade, as low as 32 percent (of registered voters) in mid-2004.

More in this survey are “opposed” to gay marriage -- 47 percent -- than said in recent polls that it should be “illegal” (39 percent last May), likely because making something illegal is more punitive than opposing it personally.

While 30 states have constitutionally banned gay marriage, voters approved pro-gay marriage ballot initiatives in Maryland, Maine and Washington last week, and those in Minnesota rejected a constitutional ban on it.  Obama announced his personal support for gay marriage in May, saying individual states should decide on its legality.

Last week’s exit poll found voters similarly divided -- 49-46 percent -- on gay marriage.  Supporters favored Obama over Mitt Romney by 73-25 percent.  And Obama won gay and lesbian voters -- 5 percent of the electorate -- by 76-22 percent, vs. 70-27 percent in 2008.

Support for gay marriage in this poll tops out at more than three in four liberals and more than six in 10 young adults and Democrats.  It’s opposed by a broad 81 percent of those who describe themselves as “very conservative,” and by two-thirds of senior citizens.

Relaxing restrictions on marijuana met with mixed results on Election Day.  It was approved by voters in Colorado, Washington and Massachusetts, but rejected in Arkansas and Oregon.

Americans split by 48-50 percent in this survey on “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”  Nonetheless, that marks a new high in support in polls back to 1985, and the first time opposition has slipped to less than a majority.  Support for legalizing marijuana has grown sharply from just 22 percent in 1997.

Despite increased acceptance of the idea, intensity of sentiment is tilted against relaxing marijuana restrictions: Thirty-seven percent are strongly opposed to legalization, vs. 26 percent who strongly support it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Won’t Take Away Obama Visas for Illegal Immigrant Kids

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(DENVER) -- Mitt Romney says he will not take away the two-year visas given to children of illegal immigrants under an executive order by President Obama earlier this year, despite having called the measure a politically-motivated “stop gap” at the time.

“The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid,” Romney said in an interview with the Denver Post.

“I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased,” Romney told the paper.  “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”

This appears to be a further softening of the Republican nominee’s immigration stance, which has gone from promoting an idea of “self-deportation” to one that is less aggressive. Last month at a Univision “Meet the Candidates” forum in Miami, Romney said that he wasn’t going to “round up people around the country and deport them.”

But even then, Romney criticized Obama’s executive order announced in June, which stopped the deportation of as many as 800,000 young people who had lived a crime-free life in the U.S. for five straight years and instead allowed them to apply for these two-year visas that could be renewed.

Speaking at the Univision forum last month, Romney derided Obama’s executive order, saying, “With a few months before an election he puts in place something that is temporary, which does not solve this issue.  I will solve it in a permanent basis consistent with those principles.”

A campaign official on Tuesday said Romney’s remarks to the Post were consistent with his messaging, saying Romney has always said he would replace the president’s executive order with his own permanent reforms and that his remarks to the Denver Post are in line with that.

Romney will not reverse the visas, but before they are expired his own, more permanent reforms will be in place, the official said.

In response to Romney's remarks, Obama for America released the following statement from Director of Hispanic Press Gabriela Domenzain:

“Romney’s latest immigration pivot raises more questions than it answers.  He still has not said whether he would continue the Administration’s policy that provides a temporary reprieve from deportation for young people who were brought here through no fault of their own.  Would he side with his extreme anti-immigration advisors and repeal this measure?  What would he do with those who qualify for deferred action but haven’t received it?  Would he deport those who have received a deferment when the program expires after two years?  We know he called the DREAM Act a ‘handout’ and that he promised to veto it -- nothing he has said since contradicts this and we should continue to take him at his word.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney's Son Chokes Up Over Family's Immigrant Past

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Mitt Romney's son Craig choked up Thursday night when he recounted for the Republican National Convention how his grandparents immigrated from Mexico to live the American dream.

"It's easy to forget that the story of my father's success begins with the story of two immigrants -- my grandfathers -- who came to this country with little more than hope in the opportunity of America," he said.

Craig Romney's heartfelt story of his family's immigrant roots was among more than half a dozen convention speakers who highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, but it has created what one expert describes as an "awkward dance" because of the GOP's reputation for being hostile to immigration.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune told of his Norwegian grandfather immigrating through Ellis Island and changing his name along the way.  Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recounted how his father immigrated "from the mountains of northern Italy, on a ship named Providence."

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told of his great grandfather who arrived penniless to live the "American Dream," and also cited struggles and triumphs of friends -- a Cambodian family in Kentucky and Vietnamese brothers who arrived on a "leaky boat."

Utah House candidate Mia Love had only two minutes to speak, but managed to mention her parents immigrating from Haiti "with $10 in their pocket."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's said she is the "proud daughter of Indian immigrants," while Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz told a "love story of freedom" about his Irish-Italian working-class mom and his Cuban refugee dad.

"They made a good effort at trying to have their stage build bridges to those communities they are trying to reach out to," said Clarissa Martinez, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

"While they simultaneously were doing that, they were unveiling a Republican platform that in many ways detracts from what they were doing on the stage... There is a little bit of a mixed signal or a mixed message being sent here," Martinez said.

She said the convention speeches "up the ante" on Romney to clarify where he stands on immigration.

"Is he the candidate that the Republican platform would convey or is he the candidate that some of the speakers on that stage that would represent," Martinez said.

The official party platform is seen as unfriendly to immigration, although it is specifically tailored to illegal immigration.  It supports self-deportation, encouraging "illegal aliens to return home voluntarily" by making it nearly impossible to support themselves in America.

It calls for building a "double-layer fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, implementing a nationwide E-Verify system to prevent undocumented workers from being hired and making English the official language.

The GOP opposes "any form of amnesty" and supports denying federal funding to universities that, as the platform says, "provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens, in open defiance of federal law."

"It's a really kind of an awkward dance," said Stephen Nuno, an expert on minority political participation and assistant politics professor at Northern Arizona University.  "You can't on the one hand say we love these people, we love this story, we love the character this story creates and builds, but we are going to do everything we can to discourage more people from immigrating like this again.  And if they are here we are going to make life so miserable that they want to leave."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio: GOP Has Immigration ‘Challenge’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday morning that he agreed with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said on Tuesday that “you can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”

Villaraigosa was referring to the number of prominent Hispanic Republicans slated to speak at the Republican National Convention this week, but Rubio said the mayor’s message applies to both parties.

“I think what he’s saying, quite frankly, is true for both parties,” said Rubio, who spoke to ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.  “Policies matter and, look, the Republican Party does have a challenge.  We can’t just be the anti-illegal immigration party, we have to be the pro-legal immigration party."

“We have a broken system of immigration that needs to be fixed and we have a legal immigration problem because we have millions of people who are in this country without documents and we have to deal with that in a way that honors our legacy both as a nation of compassion and a nation of immigrants but also as a nation of laws," he continued.  "That’s a real challenge.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  We’re going to confront that not by pandering, not by making unrealistic promises but by trying to find a balanced approach to how to deal with it.”

Recent polls show that Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee for president, is struggling with Latino voters.  Hispanics are a growing minority in the United States and a key demographic in Rubio’s home state of Florida, a crucial swing state in the presidential election.  Romney has expressed views on immigration seen as being to the right of former President George W. Bush -- who was for comprehensive immigration reform -- while President Obama, who has much higher support among Latino voters, issued an executive order earlier this year that would allow some undocumented immigrants legal status.

Rubio told Stephanopoulos Wednesday morning that Romney would replace this policy.

“I think he’s going to replace it.  That’s what I think you can expect from the Romney presidency and I think the obligation of some of us in the Congress is to find that permanent solution,” Rubio, 41, said.  “It was something I was working on, that I continue to work on, an alternative to the DREAM Act that allows us to continue to deal with that issue but not in a way that’s amnesty and not in a way that encourages illegal immigration in the future.”

Rubio, who is Cuban-American, is among several Hispanic Republicans who have prominent roles at the Republican National Convention this week.  Rubio will introduce Romney Thursday night on the final night of the convention in Tampa, Fla., before the former Massachusetts governor formally accepts the GOP nomination for president.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joe the Plumber: Build a ‘Damn Fence’ and ‘Start Shooting’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ohio Republican congressional candidate Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher told a crowd of about 125 supporters in Arizona that the government should “put a damn fence on the border going with Mexico and start shooting.”

“I’m running for Congress and that should be a bad thing to say,” Wurzelbacher said, as the Prescott eNews first reported. “You know what, that’s how I feel. I’m not going to hide it because I’m running for an office. I want my borders protected and I’m very, very adamant about that.”

Wurzelbacher’s remarks came during a Friday fundraising dinner for Arizona State Sen. Lori Klein. Last year Klein, an adamant gun rights activist, was criticized by gun control advocates after she pointed her raspberry-pink handgun at a reporter’s chest during an interview to show him the laser sighting.

“It’s just so cute,” she said of her .380 Ruger handgun, before assuring the Arizona Republic reporter that while the gun had no safety, she didn't have her finger "on the trigger.”

Wurzelbacher, also a firm supporter of the Second Amendment, went on to tell Arizonans on Friday that Republicans are reluctant to make jokes because they're “afraid it’s going to end up on the five o’clock news.”

“I’m not worried about being politically correct,” the U.S. House candidate said. “That’s one thing that’s really scared us and really hurt us as a country is everyone is afraid to open their mouths, to say a little something funny.”

It is this penchant to speak up and speak out that first propelled the northern Ohio plumber to national notoriety. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Wurzelbacher questioned then-candidate Barack Obama about whether his tax plan would increase taxes on small businesses. Obama’s rival John McCain seized on the moment and often cited “Joe the Plumber” as a small business owner who would be hurt by Obama’s policies.

During his own congressional campaign, Wurzelbacher has made a stir with his often unfiltered comments. In June, the House candidate released a campaign ad linking the Holocaust to a lack of gun control.

“In 1939 Germany established gun control; from 1939 to 1945, 6 million Jews, 7 million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated,” he says in the video while pulverizing fruit with blasts from his shotgun.

Wurzelbacher insisted there was “nothing offensive” about the ad because he was just stating historical facts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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