Entries in Immigration (70)


Obama Urges Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As the Senate is poised to make a key vote on an immigration compromise Monday, President Obama pressed Congress Saturday to pass immigration reform.

“The United States Senate is debating a bipartisan, commonsense bill that would be an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.  “The bill isn’t perfect.  It’s a compromise.  Nobody is going to get everything they want – not Democrats, not Republicans, not me.  But it’s consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out for commonsense reform.”

The president said the bill would lead to “stronger enforcement.  A smarter legal immigration system.  A pathway to earned citizenship.  A more vibrant, growing economy that’s fairer on the middle class.  And a more stable fiscal future for our kids.”

“We can do this, because we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; a place enriched by the contributions of people from all over the world, and stronger for it.  That’s been the story of America from the start.  Let’s keep it going,” he said.

On Friday, a bipartisan immigration amendment on border security was filed in the Senate, setting up a major vote on immigration reform for Monday to determine whether they should proceed with the full bill.
The amendment enhances the border security provisions in the bi-partisan Gang of Eight plan by doubling the number of border patrol agents from its current size of 21,000 to 40,000 officers as well as completing a 700 mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The compromise, which was sponsored by two Republican senators – Bob Corker of Tenn. And John Hoeven of N.D. – could help solidify the votes needed for the plan to pass the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to pass the bill before the July 4 recess, but the plan has an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives as many members are calling for stricter border security measures.  House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this week that he would not take an immigration bill to the House floor unless it has support from a majority of House Republicans.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio Right in the Middle of the Immigration Debate

Photo by Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As an immigration reform bill heads to the floor of the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is staking out a position as the man who can help bargain for Republican votes.

The bipartisan legislation will likely only need a handful of GOP votes to gain passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the senators who drafted the bill want to pass it with a strong majority.

The reason: They think that will help its chances in the House, where Republicans have the majority and some, like Rep. Steve King, R- Iowa, will be scheming to kill it.

That's where Rubio comes in.

Even though Rubio is one of the authors of the bill, he's suggested changing it in recent weeks. That's because he thinks certain parts to the legislation need to be altered if it's going to pass, according to Alex Burgos, a spokesperson for the senator.

The bill will have to "earn the support of Democrat and Republican senators who do not support the bill as it stands today," Burgos wrote in an email.

So far, Rubio has mostly been working to pick up Republican support. Take border security, for example.

As the legislation stands right how, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with coming up with a plan to secure the border. Rubio suggested recently that it might be better for Congress to spell out how the plan should work.

Rubio's mission to make the bill more conservative might be necessary to help it's long-term odds at passage. But it could also agitate liberal supporters of immigration reform.

It's the price Rubio pays for sitting at the center (or center-right) of this coalition. He's the glue holding the deal together, but that's also made him a popular target for both sides.

Some immigrant rights groups are already going after Rubio for things like beefed up border security, including a protest on Friday at his Florida office.

And at the same time, he's been weathering attacks from immigration restrictionists who are angry that he's supporting citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Those seem to be growing in intensity, with one group reportedly taking out 30-second ads against the senator on Florida television.

What this means is that Rubio will likely be the politician to watch as the immigration debate moves forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Immigration May Help Fund Medicare

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you're growing old and depending on Medicare, you have someone to thank for keeping the system afloat: Immigrants, including those who entered the country illegally.

A Harvard Medical School study published on Wednesday found that immigrants generated a $13.8 billion surplus in the Medicare system in 2009. That's means they put a lot more into the system than they took out. Meanwhile, people born in the U.S. accounted for a $30.9 billion deficit.

The biggest reason immigrants are able to keep the system alive is because they're more likely to be of working age and part of the labor force. Of all immigrants in the U.S., 80 percent are between the ages of 18-64, versus 59 percent of the U.S.-born population, according to 2010 census data.

You generally have to be 65 years of age or older to receive Medicaid. There are a lot more native-born people than immigrants eligible for the federal healthcare program, so that means immigrants are less likely to be a drain.

Non-citizens specifically play an outsized role in paying our national Medicare bills.

Legal immigrants contribute to the system through payroll taxes, using valid Social Security numbers.

But undocumented immigrants also add to the coffers, some using other people's socials. Since undocumented immigrants can't receive Medicare, they could be paying for a service they'll never use.

Even when immigrants do use Medicare, they tend to use fewer services than people born in the U.S., according to the report.

All of this is a pretty big deal. Medicare makes up a fifth of all annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S., and politicians are constantly warning that system might fail as our population continues to grow older.

An immigration reform bill that's heading to the Senate floor in early June would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. If a bill like that passes, millions of people could become eligible to use Medicare who were previously barred.

Still, immigrants would probably continue to underwrite the Medicare system, the report found. Since immigrants tend to be younger, if the country keeps bringing in immigrant workers, they'll likely keep adding more to that system.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tom Tancredo Disavows Rand Paul, Calls Him ‘Softer’ Than Obama on Immigration

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., regrets his previous endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., disavowing the former ally because he has “flip-flopped” on immigration.

“Rand Paul began his speech in Spanish and it went downhill from there,” Tancredo wrote in an op-ed titled “Why I No Longer Stand with Rand Paul” in the Christian Post. “His speech was filled with virtually every single discredited pro-amnesty cliché you could imagine.”

On Tuesday, Paul gave a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington calling for comprehensive immigration reform, including allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, work legally, and eventually become citizens. Paul, however, never used the word “citizenship” or “pathway to citizenship” in his address.

Tancredo said he even regretted the contribution he gave to Paul’s campaign. He actually praised Mitt Romney’s “self-deport” stance, saying there are not just two options available: legalization or deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants.

“The problem is that not one congressman or major commentator has called for deporting all 12 million illegal immigrants,” Tancredo wrote. “Rather, we argue that strict enforcement of employer sanctions and allowing local police to cooperate in immigration enforcement will encourage most illegal to, in Mitt Romney’s words, ‘self-deport.’”

Tancredo, who has spent most of his career calling for stricter immigration enforcement, goes on to write that Paul is “softer” than President Barack Obama on immigration for his proposal.

“Both Obama and the Gang of 8 say that the illegal immigrants must pay a penalty for legal status, while Rand Paul told reporters after his speech he is not ‘not as big a stickler’ on these items, because the illegals would not be able to afford the fines,” Tancredo said.

Paul’s speech this week had a welcoming tone and he peppered his address with Spanish phrases as well as calling Hispanic voters “natural” Republicans, something the RNC also said this week in their “autopsy report,” which pledged to open up the party to more Hispanic voters and use more welcoming language. Tancredo doesn’t believe it.

“Rand Paul said that the only reason why the GOP is losing the Hispanic vote is because we have turned them off with ‘harsh rhetoric over immigration,’ Tancredo writes. “Paul doesn’t give a single example of what that ‘harsh rhetoric’ was. Presumably it could have included his pre-flip flop position on immigration.”

Tancredo goes on to call Paul a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and “just another politician” saying he doubts “the grassroots conservatives who elected Rand to Senate and whose support he expects if he runs for president in 2016 feel the same.”

“When I endorsed Rand Paul, I did not expect to agree with him on every issue,” Tancredo wrote. “I respect people with strongly held beliefs regardless of what they are. Most importantly, I felt that I could trust him to maintain his campaign promises. I was wrong. Oh how I long for a Republican leader who exhibits true courage and integrity. That’s the stuff leaders are made of.”

During his time in Congress, Tancredo tried to establish English as the official national language, as well as many other legislative efforts to try and restrict immigration. He left Congress in 2009 after making a failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, where he also focused on immigration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Poll: Large Racial Gap Marks Trust on Immigration

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but neither side garnered a majority between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side.  Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent.

See a PDF with full results here.

There also are sharp partisan and ideological differences in trust on immigration in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  Democrats and Republicans each prefer their side’s approach by an identical 66 percentage points; independents divide closely between Obama and the GOP, 41-36 percent.

Very conservative Americans favor the Republicans on immigration by 65 points and those who say they’re somewhat conservative do so by 33 points.  Moderates take Obama’s side by a 21-point margin, liberals by 61 points.

Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority, having beaten Mitt Romney in last year’s election by 61 percentage points among the growing proportion of nonwhites overall and by 44 points among Hispanics, while losing whites by 20 points.

In step with the president’s policy direction, majorities in recent ABC/Post polls have supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  His approval rating on the issue in February, while just 49 percent, was the highest of his presidency and up 11 points since the summer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Regrets Timing of Immigrant Release

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had no part in a decision by underlings to release low-risk illegal immigrant detainees as a way to save money before the sequestration, and was surprised to learn about it, Napolitano told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

"Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field," Napolitano said.

Napolitano added that the release, which has been criticized by congressional Republicans, was poorly timed.

"Do I wish that this all hadn't been done all of a sudden and so that people weren't surprised by it? Of course," she said.

When asked why the detainees were in jail in the first place, Napolitano replied, "That's a good question. I've asked the same question we're looking into it."

With the sequestration deadline looming over the country Thursday, ABC News asked Napolitano if Americans should feel safe waking up in the morning. She said sequestration will have an effect on border security and safety.

"We are always going to put safety first, and that's why we're not going to be abbreviating our safety procedures or any of that," Napolitano said. "But, by way of example, the number of Border Patrol hours that will need to be reduced equates to the equivalent of 5,000 Border Patrol agents."

The cut, she said, would mean "the large narco traffickers, human smugglers," and other bad players could have easier access to the U.S.

"We deal with a lot of bad actors and we will have fewer agents to do that with," she said. "We'll have fewer hours that the Coast Guard is going to be patrolling along our maritime shores."

The secretary stressed that the department will keep safety first but the effects of the sequester are not to be taken lightly.

"Sequestration is a pretty tough nut," she said.

And, she insisted, it is not crying wolf to warn citizens they will see longer TSA lines at the airport and longer lines at the border.

"I think a citizen is going to notice. If there's citizens that are trying to go back and forth to Mexico and Canada, to the land ports of entry, where we already have some problems with long lines at very busy times, you're going to see those lines really grow," she said.

This wait increase will also apply to those coming through international airports and needing to go through customs.

"Those lines are going to grow significantly at some of the larger airports," she said. "We're going to have fewer people to do the checks we do. The checks are going to have to be the same. We do those for security reasons. But we're going to, over time, have fewer people to do them."

And while the effects won't be seen the first Saturday following sequestration, the impact could be felt as early as the following week and should be seen as more of an inconvenience than a security concern.

"From this department's standpoint, the longer lines at the ports, the reduction of Border Patrol hours and Coast Guard operations, those are the things that will be most visible," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


ACLU: US Too Tough on Undocumented Immigrants

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American Civil Liberties Union says United States border security treats people crossing the border illegally to look for work as criminals instead of as desperate people trying to feed their families.

Border security continues to be a central point of the ongoing immigration reform debate, with Republicans saying they won't move forward without it and Democrats arguing the borders are already secure.

Now, a 2005 Bush policy known as Operation Streamline, currently in effect, is slowly making its way back into the conversation. Religious, civil rights and legal groups say the program should be reexamined for its civil and human rights impact before any more policies on border security are put into place.

"Before we push for border security we need to evaluate existing measures," Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel, told the media Thursday. "Does it make sense to use an expensive program to indiscriminately prosecute migrant workers, people trying to reunite with families and people fleeing violence."

However, Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, said calling the program a human rights issue is "not legitimate adjective to use."

"Two administrations' Justice Departments have done this for years now," Krikorian said. "I'm pretty confident when weighing the propriety of this kind of action, the consistent, years-long [involvement by] two separate Justice Departments, from two separate parties ... this is not a violation."

Operation Streamline, currently in place in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, is a partnership between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that orders federal criminal charges brought against every person who illegally crosses the border.

Because of the volume of cases, judges often conduct hearings with as many as 80 people at a time, some sitting in the jury box to fit everyone in the room, all pleading guilty in a matter of hours.

"It seriously undermines the American values of due process," said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU-N.M. Regional Center for Border Rights. "There is no jury because they all plan to plead guilty. That's when you realize it's a rubber-stamp process, a true masquerade of justice. ... Do we really want a justice system that treats people not as individuals with families, jobs and dreams, but as just another unit in a legal assembly line?"

In 2010, in a report to the Human Rights Council, the Vatican came out against the policy, saying, "The Holy See noted that 'Operation Streamline' against irregular migrants should be suspended," until the U.S. finalizes rules on immigration policy.

"From our view, immigrants who cross the border looking for a job, looking for work or trying to reunite with their families are not criminals and they shouldn't be treated as criminals," said Kevin Appleby, director of the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Proponents of the policy, like Krikorian, say criminal prosecution discourages folks from trying to illegally enter the United States.

"They should have started it [Operation Streamline] a long time before they did as it is an essential part of deterring illegal immigration," he said. "It really is a crime to sneak into the United States, and we almost never prosecuted illegal entry before Operation Streamline."

Krikorian added that the policy is "essential for making sure that the border's taken seriously," adding, "This is a real law that you are violating."

Opponents argue that reason doesn't hold, because the pull to work is greater than the threat of prosecution.

The ACLU said the debate over the safety and security of American borders is coming at time when Southwest border apprehensions are at their lowest levels in four decades and net migration from Mexico is at zero.

The non-partisan group Pew Hispanic found in a 2012 survey that many factors contributed to the decline, including, "the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico's birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico."

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tucson, Ariz., had the most apprehensions of illegal immigrants, with an all-time high in 2000 of more than 600,000, Fiscal year 2011 saw the lowest numbers since 1971, with 123,285 apprehensions.

The Department of Homeland Security has also seen a steady decline in the number of arrests, with more than 1,043,863 in 2008 and 641,633 in 2011. Illegal reentry is the most prosecuted federal crime in the country.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Calls Republican Senators on Immigration

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama made his first direct overture to Republicans on immigration Tuesday night, placing calls to the three key GOP players on the issue in the Senate:  John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla).

The calls followed a remark by Rubio calling a White House immigration plan that leaked over the weekend “half-baked and seriously flawed."

Rubio says he appreciated the call (though he may have been roused from bed to take it; he’s in Israel):

“Senator Rubio appreciated receiving President Obama’s phone call to discuss immigration reform late tonight in Jerusalem,” according to a statement from Rubio’s office. “The Senator told the President that he feels good about the ongoing negotiations in the Senate, and is hopeful the final product is something that can pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support.”

Earlier Tuesday, Rubio's office told reporters there had been no immigration policy discussion between the senator and the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney disputed that, however.

"We have been in contact with everybody involved in this effort on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Poll Finds a Boost for Obama on Handling Immigration

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Public approval of President Obama’s handling of immigration has jumped to a career high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, buttressed by majority support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and, much more broadly, endorsement of stricter border control.

While the president lacks majority approval on the issue overall, slightly more Americans now approve than disapprove of his approach, by 49 vs. 43 percent.  Obama was underwater on the issue -- just 38 percent approved, while 52 percent disapproved -- as recently as last July.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

In terms of specific policies, an overwhelming 83 percent support stricter border control, including 64 percent who are “strongly” supportive; only 15 percent are opposed. Fewer, 55 percent, also favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 41 percent opposed.

There are vast differences among groups, underscoring the president’s advantage on the issue among nonwhites generally and Hispanics in particular, and the Republican Party’s challenges in finding support within the party for an immigration policy that can boost its support among Hispanics.

Specifically, 67 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of nonwhites overall approve of Obama’s handling of immigration, compared with 38 percent of whites.  And a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is supported by 82 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of all nonwhites, as well as by nearly seven in 10 Democrats and just over half of independents.  It’s supported by fewer than half of whites, 47 percent; Republicans, 42 percent; and by just 37 percent of adults who describe themselves as very conservative politically.

Obama lost whites by 20 percentage points in the November election, but won nonwhites by 61 points, including Hispanics by 44 points, en route to re-election.

Making the president’s gains on the issue, “strong” approval and strong disapproval of his handling of immigration are essentially even -- 27 vs. 28 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  In previous ABC/Post polls, Obama’s strongly negative ratings on immigration far outweighed his strongly positive ones.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boehner Won’t Rush Immigration Overhaul Through House

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday praised the ongoing efforts of two bipartisan groups of congressional lawmakers, but he emphasized that an effective overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws will take time.

“We’ve got our first hearing on the issue today in the Judiciary Committee,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said, as the House of Representatives begins its first hearing examining the country’s immigration laws.  “This is not about being in a hurry.  This is about trying to get it right on behalf of the American people and those who are suffering under an immigration system that doesn’t work very well for anybody.”

The House Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing of the 113th Congress on immigration, examining existing opportunities for legal immigration and whether the Obama administration is effectively enforcing the country’s existing laws to target illegal immigration.

Boehner declined to estimate how soon legislation could pass through the lower chamber.  In the House, a group of bipartisan lawmakers has labored secretly behind closed doors for years, while a separate group in the Senate last week unveiled its framework, which also addresses the conundrum of how to handle about 11 million illegal immigrants hiding in the shadows throughout the country.

“I want to applaud my colleagues on both sides of the Capitol and in both parties who have worked together to try to solve one of the bigger issues that we’re dealing with in our country,” Boehner said.  “What I want to do is to encourage both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue talking to one another so that we can resolve this issue in a bipartisan manner.”

The Ohio Republican called efforts to address a pathway to citizenship “a very difficult part” of any potential legislation, and encouraged “members on both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue to try to come to some resolution of that issue.”

Asked whether House Republicans need a makeover after focusing mostly on spending issues during their time in the majority the past two years, Boehner conceded his party must make a more concerted effort to appeal to a larger segment of the population.

“While there’s a lot of focus on the deficit and the debt, there are a lot of other things that Republicans plan to do over the course of this year,” Boehner said.  “If we’re going to connect with the American people, it’s important that they see not only that we’re serious about solving our debt problem.  But we’re serious about addressing issues like energy, like education, to show really the breadth of the effort that we’re involved in.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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