Entries in Immigration Reform (36)


Immigration Reform Gains Momentum, All Eyes on Boehner

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An immigration reform bill in the Senate now has crucial Republican support after senators struck a deal centered on border security last week.

But whether the sweeping legislative package can pass the more conservative House of Representatives is another question.

Democrats insist that the bill include a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, something that will be hard to swallow for the border hawks in the House.

But if conservatives oppose citizenship, the coalition supporting reform will push back, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the legislators that drafted the bill. The senator spoke to Univision's Jorge Ramos in an interview that aired Sunday on the news show Al Punto.

"If the House resists, I think we'll see a day like we did in the civil rights movement," Schumer said. "I think we'll see two million people on the mall in Washington, D.C., and on the stage will not just be liberal Democrats, they will be the business leaders, the agricultural leaders, the cardinals from the Catholic Church, the leaders of the evangelical churches, all saying this is the right thing to do."

"And they will have to pass it," Schumer continued.

The fate of the bill in the House largely depends on Republican leadership, notably Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The Speaker typically will only bring a bill to the floor of the House if it has the majority support of his party, and that's unlikely to happen with this immigration package.

So he would have to break his own informal rule to let the House consider the Senate plan. Comments he made this week indicated he doesn't seem likely to do that.

"I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have the majority support of Republicans," Boehner told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

But as Schumer pointed out in his interview with Univision, Boehner has bluffed before, saying he wouldn't allow a bill to reach the floor of the House but then reversing his position.

"He's said that in the past on other bills and then when he felt the pressure, he changed his mind," Schumer said.

Schumer cited an aide package for Tropical Storm Sandy, which Boehner brought to the floor for a vote without support from the majority of Republicans. The aid package passed in the House with backing from most Democrats but less than a quarter of Republicans.

Still, that was enough Republican backing to get the bill passed, and the same thing could be possible with immigration reform.

Of course, the immigration package still needs to get through the Senate. But the odds of passing that House look promising after more Republicans joined the effort this past week.

In addition to Schumer, Univision's Jorge Ramos spoke with five members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that sponsored the immigration legislation, including one of the Republicans in the group, Sen. Jeff Flake (Arizona).

Flake has recently been under scrutiny after his son was found to have posted racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic message on websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to using the N-word and a homophobic slur, he referred to Mexicans as "scum of the Earth."

The senator has since apologized for his son, but he answered more questions about his son's attitudes in his interview with Jorge Ramos.

"Unfortunately, when kids talk on the Internet sometimes they say things that they wouldn't otherwise," Flake said. "But I can assure you that those words have never been uttered around our house."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republican Senator Lends Support to Immigration Reform Bill

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said Sunday that she will support the immigration reform bill drafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” arguing that the legislation provides a “tough but fair way” for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.

“This is a thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem, and so that’s why I’m going to support it,” Ayotte said on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday.

Ayotte’s support adds to the small tally of Republicans currently promoting the bill, including the four Republican senators in the “Gang of Eight.” However, one of the bipartisan group’s members, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has threatened to vote against the bill unless it includes tougher border security provisions.

In an interview on Univision’s Al Punto, Rubio argued that strengthening the border security measures would help “earn our colleagues’ trust” and predicted that his group will find enough votes to exceed the 60 required to prevent a filibuster.

"We'll have a lot more than 60 votes, but we're going to have to work at it," Rubio told Univision's Maria Elena Salinas in an interview that aired Sunday on Al Punto.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Sunday that he is “willing to compromise” on the immigration plan if it includes changes like tougher border measures, and the Kentucky senator suggested he could serve as a “conduit” to House conservatives who currently disagree with the plan proposed in the Senate.

“I am the conduit between conservatives in the House who don’t want a lot of these things and more moderate people in the Senate who do want these things. I want to make the bill work, but see, the thing is, is what they have in the Senate has zero chance of passing in the House.” Paul said on FOX News Sunday. “I’m really trying to make immigration work, but they’re going to have to come to me, and they’re going to have to work with me to make the bill stronger if they want me to vote for it.”

Formal debate on the bill started in the Senate on Friday and is expected to continue through the week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rubio Optimistic About Immigration Reform

Photo by Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes that the immigration bill he helped write will eventually get enough votes to break a filibuster in the Senate.

Earlier this week, Rubio cast doubt on the bill's ability to pass the Senate, saying that the border security language was not tough enough to attract a sufficient number of Republican votes. The Florida senator even said he might vote against his own bill if changes are not made. That prompted questions over Rubio's commitment to passing the legislation.

During a Univision interview, Rubio said that the bill's authors have not yet rounded up 60 votes -- enough to prevent it from being filibustered by its opponents. But he said that he is "100 percent committed to the immigration issue" and that he wants tougher border measures in order to "earn our colleagues' trust," and not to kill the bill.

"We'll have a lot more than 60 votes, but we're going to have to work at it," he told Univision's Maria Elena Salinas in an interview that will air Sunday on Al Punto.

Formal debate on the bill began on the Senate floor on Friday. Rubio's optimistic tone comes after immigrant-rights activists voiced concern that the senator's comments about the bill's potential failure could stunt its momentum as it heads toward a vote in the Senate.

Activists aren't pleased that Rubio wants to add additional border measures to a bill the senator previously described as the toughest enforcement bill in U.S. history. Protesters conducted a sit-in at Rubio's office in Miami on Thursday over proposed changes to the border security elements of the legislation.

But Rubio told Univision that his GOP colleagues are willing to bend on their rejection of a path to citizenship if the border-security measures are sound.

"Many colleagues who just four or five years ago were not in favor of granting legal status to the people who were here illegally, who were not in favor of creating a path to citizenship, today are open to it," he said. "They're simply asking that we make sure that the border is secure and that another wave of illegal migration doesn't take place in the future."

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 Reform Could Help Immigrant Farm Workers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The pay for farm jobs is usually low and the work is grueling. That's why no one should be surprised by a study released on Wednesday looking at immigration and agriculture in North Carolina.

The upshot: Almost no U.S.-born workers are taking farm jobs in that state. And even during the recession, native workers weren't more likely to seek employment in agriculture.

That means that growers need an easy-to-use guest worker program that will give them access to immigrant guest workers without too much expense or red tape. That's the recommendation of the report, which was drafted by two pro-immigration reform groups, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Center for Global Development.

Growers already have a guest-worker program, and there's no cap on the number of workers they can bring in. But the requirements are too strenuous, so businesses opt for undocumented workers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest grower association in the country.

Of course, you might wonder why farmers won't just be able to keep the immigrant workers they have now.

That's because immigration reform could shake up the industry.

A reform bill being considered in the Senate would offer legal status to undocumented farm workers who are in the country now. They could become legal permanent residents in five to seven years, if they keep working in agriculture during that time.

However, the assumption is that once those workers are able to leave the fields, they will.

So it's not so much that immigrant workers are better fieldhands or more excited about the job (although they might be), it's that working in agriculture is the only choice they have. And once they have another choice, the expectation is that they'll leave.

There's no question -- fieldwork is one of the toughest jobs out there. And giving growers a continuous supply of cheap labor won't necessarily change that.

But immigration reform would improve conditions for workers going forward, if growers really do use the new guest worker program.

The biggest difference for most workers is that they will now be in the country legally. That should help them to advocate for fair wages and working conditions.

Also, future guest workers wouldn't be tied to a single employer. They would need to work in agriculture, but they could move from one employer to another.

Another big change will be the possibility for citizenship. The Senate immigration reform bill would allow future guest workers in agriculture to become legal permanent residents through most of the same pathways available to other immigrants.

It's unclear how much competition there will be for those visas, but it would be better than the current options for temporary farm workers. Right now, there is no way for them to become permanent residents.

So while immigration reform would give growers what they want -- a steady supply of cheap, captive labor -- it should also improve the conditions for workers. And that could transform the dynamics of the industry in the years ahead.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Most Americans Don't Know Much About Immigration Bill

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to immigration reform, most Americans don’t know much about it, and few think that the Boston bombing should be a factor in the debate.

The issue may be front-and-center in the nation’s capital, but around the rest of the country, when it comes to the immigration reform bill before Congress, it turns out many Americans don’t know much about it, at least according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

“It’s very early, that’s something to remember,” Carroll Doherty, an associate director at Pew, said. “This debate is just really getting underway.”

Four in 10 of those surveyed say they “don’t know” when it comes to their opinion of the immigration bill before the Senate, while 33 percent say they favor the bill and 28 percent oppose it.

The lack of opinion and indifference remains fairly consistent throughout other issues the bill may affect, such as if it will help or hurt the U.S. economy, or make the U.S. more or less safe from terrorism. The majority in both cases believe the bill will “not make much of a difference.”

The Pew survey, a self-proclaimed “independent fact tank,” was conducted the last week of April, two weeks after the Boston marathon bombing. When it was discovered the suspected bombers were immigrants, it became a contentious issue for some Republicans who called for a possible delay on the bill.

But of those surveyed, many do not think the bombings should be a factor in the debate for immigration reform; 58 percent called the two “separate issues.”

What may come as the biggest surprise to those in Washington: barely 20 percent of those surveyed say they are “following the story very closely,” which may explain why less than half know that the bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators.

Just 37 percent of those polled know that the legislation was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators -- 9 percent thought a group of Democrats introduced the legislation, while 7 percent believed it was a group of Republicans. The overwhelming majority, 47 percent, did not know who introduced the bill.

“The idea of the Gang of Eight or a bipartisan group...some would think that would get more attention because it goes against prevailing trends in Washington,” Doherty said, while cautioning that the Boston bombing was capturing most of the attention, as well as the gun control legislation.

The fact that the bill lays out a path to citizenship that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the country was also a lesser known fact by those surveyed.

Only 46 percent knew that the bill would allow unauthorized immigrants to stay in the country while applying for citizenship.

Doherty said that although many of the policies of the bill are not well known yet, other recent Pew surveys that examined issues included in the Senate legislation provide better context for public perception.

“It almost makes sense to look at our other recent surveys on immigration,” he said. “Attitudes about the basic principles at this point are as important as the early attitudes about the legislation.”

A March survey found that 71 percent favored finding a way for people here illegally to stay in the country “if they meet certain requirements.”

That same March survey also saw a huge shift in overall perception of immigrants compared to views in the early 1990s.

According to that survey, “63% viewed immigrants as a burden, but the percentage expressing this view declined substantially by the end of the 1990s (to 38% in September 2000).” Whereas today, “49% agree with the statement 'immigrants today strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents.'"

“The changing views on immigration are as important as the snapshot measurements of the legislation,” Doherty said.

Among the 24 percent who did have a baseline of understanding for the bill, the majority had an overwhelmingly favorable opinion of the legislation (50 percent vs 33 percent).

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Gay Rights Push Could Endanger Immigration Bill

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A push to include gay couples in a bipartisan immigration reform bill threatens to upset the delicate coalition backing the proposal in the Senate, Politico reports.

Under current law, Americans in a heterosexual relationship can sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. But gay and lesbian couples cannot do so, since federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages. As written, the "Gang of Eight" bill leaves same-sex couples out.

But now, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), is strongly considering offering an amendment to the bill during a markup session next week that would extend the ability to sponsor a spouse to gay and lesbian couples. That provision could affect as many as 40,000 binational same-sex couples.

That could complicate efforts to pass the bill, because Senate Republicans who backed the immigration bill have already taken a significant political risk in supporting a proposal that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. Tacking on an expansion of rights for same-sex couples, another fractious debate within the GOP, might be enough to break apart the bipartisan coalition.

Republican negotiators on immigration have long said that including same-sex couples in the immigration bill would be a deal breaker. And if a large number of GOP senators decide to vote no, that may prevent sponsors from attracting the 70-vote majority they hope to achieve in order to force the House to act.

"Immigration is hard enough. Let's not go down the road of redefining marriage," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters last month, adding that the language "is not going to be in the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that point to Politico.

"It will virtually guarantee that it won't pass," he said. "This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is. I respect everyone's views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart."

And as Politico's Carrie Budoff-Brown points out, the provision might also provoke a host of evangelical and Catholic leaders who have endorsed the "Gang of Eight" effort. Support from religious groups has been viewed by advocates as crucial to winning the backing of GOP lawmakers and approval from conservative voters.

But for many Democrats, the political calculus is different.

Immigrant-rights and gay-rights advocacy groups have been prodding Democratic lawmakers for months to include same-sex couples in the bill. And they were reportedly frustrated that the "Gang of Eight" bill left out that language after Republicans threw up a red flag.

"Our total focus is on making sure that we have the votes in committee to ensure that the bill, when it reaches the full Senate, does include our families," Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, told ABC/Univision last month.

Some advocates believe that if the Supreme Court decided to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the ruling would give same-sex couples rights equal to heterosexual couples under immigration law. But they also appear to be wary of depending on a court ruling to decide the issue.

Democrats who back same-sex protections also believe they are negotiating from a position of strength, coming off an election in which President Obama won seven in ten Latino voters. Democrats also hold a majority on the Judiciary Committee and the amendment would pass if all Democratic senators on the panel vote for it. They don't believe that including the language will sink the bill.

"It's not going to kill the bill," Leahy said, according to Politico.

All of this could put sponsors of the bill in a tough position, making this issue one of the top ones to watch at next week's markup.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Proposed Immigration Bill Has Widespread Support

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from a White House meeting Tuesday confident that President Obama supports the immigration reform bill they plan to introduce Tuesday night.

“While he certainly might not agree with every single part of it, he was very supportive of the bill we have put together and simply wants to make sure we keep moving it along and get something done,” Schumer told reporters at the White House.

“No one’s going to get everything they want in a bill,” he continued. “But if we meet in the middle, we can do a lot of good for America.”

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, but only after steps are taken to increase border security.

McCain said that, unlike previous reform efforts, this legislation has widespread support.

“All major players that are involved in this issue are now on board, literally every major player, whether it be business or labor,” he said.

Shortly after their meeting, the president issued a statement urging the Senate to move quickly on the legislation.

“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me,” he said. “But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform.“

The senators had planned to introduce the bill during a press conference on Tuesday, but delayed it “out of respect” for the people of Boston, Schumer said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Immigration Bill Delayed, Likely Not Ready Until Next Week

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday’s expected Senate briefing on the Gang of Eight immigration bill was postponed.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was scheduled to explain the nearly finished proposal, but senators coming out of the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill told reporters that the gun issue took up the entire agenda.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a powerful critic of immigration reform, said the Gang of Eight was not ready.

Sessions said, “I guess he wasn’t ready. They didn’t seem to be interested in doing that,” he told reporters. “I didn’t get the impression there was any interest to get that done today [among the Gang of Eight]. The impression I got was that they hoped to be able to do it next week.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican of Arizona and one of the Gang of Eight, told reporters the bill could be ready by Friday or slip into next week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Immigration Reform May Allow More Foreign Students to Stay in US

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It will likely be easier for foreign students who earn certain degrees in the United States to stay in the country and work after graduation if immigration reform comes to fruition.

The effect on the U.S. economy and job market could be significant, according to a new Brookings Institution analysis.

"If legislation is passed to create an easier pathway for retaining foreign students that obtain advanced Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees at U.S. universities, the impact could be large: about 96,200 incoming foreign students in 2010 could have become eligible for a green card upon graduation," writes Neil Ruiz, a senior policy analyst and associate fellow in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program. "Currently, only a fraction of these students attain a temporary skilled-worker visa after graduating. The H-1B visa program has been one of the main pathways for retaining American-trained foreign students."

Ruiz notes that the United States attracts 21 percent of all students who study abroad, a higher percentage than any other country. His definition of study abroad includes students in language and certification programs, K-12, associate, bachelor's, master's professional and doctoral degree programs.

But since there are so many native students enrolled in U.S. higher education programs, foreign students make up only about 3.5 percent of higher education enrollment. That figure has remained relatively constant for the past 60 years. Most foreign students are now from Asia -- about 64 percent -- while slightly more than 8 percent are from Latin America.

Even though fewer foreigners study in other countries, they often make up a much larger share of students studying in those countries and some have an easier time staying after graduation. Of the eight countries studied where data is available, only China ranks below the U.S. in terms of the number of foreign students as a total percentage of higher education students.

This is important because most foreign students currently come to the U.S. on F-1 visas, which are non-immigrant student visas that allow foreigners to enroll in academic or language training programs in the U.S. According to Brookings, smaller metro areas in the Midwest have the most incoming foreign students relative to their university student populations. If immigration reform allows these students to stay and work more easily after graduation, these metro areas could "experience the greatest impact in terms of access to a new labor pool."

Brookings also notes that in 2010, there were about 188,000 foreign students with F-1 visas enrolled in advanced degree programs. Of those, only about 26,500 transferred to an H-1B visa from F-1 status.

While some lawmakers have expressed concern that allowing students to stay will limit job opportunities for American students, the U.S. has been struggling to fill STEM jobs and there has been bipartisan agreement around the idea of allowing U.S.-educated foreigners with degrees in the STEM fields to stay and work.

"These students are considered particularly desirable because they, like their American counterparts, offer the types of skills critical to building a vibrant "knowledge" economy -- whether in the United States or elsewhere," Ruiz writes, "Around the world, many nations have adjusted their immigration policies in recent years to better attract highly-educated foreigners."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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