National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Updates Archives

The Week Ahead March 25-29

March 25, 2013 - Posted by Dan Gordon

“The optics of immigration reform no longer includes deportation or just legalization, but rather, as this study demonstrates, Americans desire a full integrative solution that includes citizenship for those currently undocumented. At the end of the day this PRRI-Brookings study stands as an additional compelling impetus for Congress and the White House to act immediately. Now is the time!”
—Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, March 22, 2013

Support for Reform in Full Swing as Congress Begins Recess
Members of Congress are home through April 5 for a two-week recess, and leaders from across the political spectrum are making sure their support for immigration reform is loud and clear.

The Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform (BBB) network is organizing a series of local events in key states, beginning with a discussion on immigration from a faith perspective yesterday in Fort Wayne, Ind. Events will peak next week and are planned in Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and several other states.

With Holy Week under way, evangelical leaders continue to raise a biblically inspired voice for reform as well. As the Evangelical Immigration Table's two-week radio ad campaign in South Carolina wraps up, evangelical leaders are meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday. Participants include the speaker in the radio ad, Rev. Jim Goodroe, Director of Missions at the Spartanburg County Baptist Network. In addition, evangelical leaders are planning an April 17 Day of Prayer and Action on Capitol Hill.

CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page to find this week's immigration-related events.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:

MUST READ: POLITICO: Evangelicals push immigration reform on the Hill
By: Kate Nocera
March 20, 2013 11:32 PM EDT
Evangelical leaders have swarmed Capitol Hill this year with phone calls and visits pushing comprehensive immigration reform. One evangelical group has even started airing TV ads on the issue.
The target is opponents of reform, primarily congressional Republicans, and conservative lawmakers say the outreach is having an impact.
A coalition of groups and pastors called the Evangelical Immigration Table is running ads in support of Sen. Lindsey Graham for his work on an immigration bill, which could be valuable to the South Carolina Republican as he runs for reelection next year.
“I come from a district — and from my own personal beliefs — where it matters to me what folks in the faith community think, and they are weighing in more than they did five years ago; I see it especially with Sen. Graham,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
“There are groups running ads against Sen. Graham, so it’s nice there are some ads running to counter that,” Gowdy said.
Several conservative congressmen said they started noticing the evangelical efforts over a year ago, but as momentum in the House and Senate has picked up, the evangelicals have gone into overdrive. Groups and pastors are working in lawmakers’ districts, mobilizing churchgoers and encouraging politicians to meet with undocumented immigrants who are church members.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), himself a Christian, said that the goals of lawmakers and evangelical Christians are similar. They both wanted to find policies that would “make right” undocumented immigrants who have broken the law and find a way to normalize them into society.
“Quite frankly, from an evangelical perspective, reconciliation is a big deal,” Lankford said. “That is the core message of God reconciling us to himself, and we have a message of reconciliation to the world. [Immigrants] want the opportunity to be made right.”
Lankford says the outreach helps put a face to the problem.
“It doesn’t give politicians cover; it gives them relationships,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for an evangelical group to come to a conservative lawmaker and say, ‘Let me introduce you to somebody undocumented who you may not know attends your church or a church like yours that we want you to meet.”
A key Republican congressman working on immigration, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, said the evangelical outreach serves a purpose.
Read more:

CHRISTIAN POST: Immigration Survey: 63 Percent of Americans Think Reform Should Include Pathway to Citizenship
By Melissa Barnhart , CP Contributor
March 22, 2013
One of the largest surveys on immigration ever conducted in the United States reveals that a majority of Americans support immigration reform that leads to a pathway to citizenship, but it also highlights that Americans are more concerned about jobs, reducing the budget deficit and changing the federal income tax system, according to a report released Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the religion, policy and politics project at the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank.
A panel discussion on the survey, Religion, Values and Immigration Survey Release: What Factors Influence Views on Immigration Policy? in which nearly 4,500 people were asked to share their opinions about immigration issues, reveals that 63 percent of respondents "agree that the immigration system should deal with immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally by allowing them a way to become citizens." But it also shows that 56 percent of Americans believe that immigration has a negative impact on wages.
The survey was conducted by calling respondents on landlines and cellphones (1,800 were surveyed via cell phone), in English and Spanish, and includes a demographic breakdown of political affiliations, including the Tea Party, race, gender, religion, geographic location and age.
Survey outcomes examine how religion and values influence sentiment toward immigrant communities and perceptions of immigrants' impact on American culture, as well as opinions on current policies that are being debated in Congress.
Robert Jones, the CEO of PRRI and a leading scholar and commentator on religion, values and public life, said there are four points that stand out in the survey results: a positive sentiment toward immigrants among all demographics; concerns about wages for U.S. citizens; a large support for a path to citizenship for the immigrants who are already living in the U.S.; and broad value agreements on the details of immigration reform.
Jones also noted that respondents who self-identify with the Tea Party are divided on providing a path to citizenship for immigrants. Likewise, Republicans are divided on their opinions about the DREAM Act; and among respondents, there are "hidden concerns" about the white population becoming a minority in the country.
Regarding the political implications of the survey for the Republican Party, Melissa Michelson, a professor of political science and Menlo College, advises the party to change their stance on immigration policy, and move their agenda toward supporting the path to citizenship. "Republicans will have to do more than support comprehensive immigration reform," Michelson advised. "They have to show Hispanic families that they care about them. They cannot say that undocumented immigration is a problem."
Survey results show that: "Nearly half (45 percent) of Americans say the Republican Party's position on immigration has hurt the party in recent elections."
Michelson added that, according to the survey, the vast majority of Americans are unaware that deportations have increased under the Obama administration. "However, Hispanics know, yet Obama received a majority of their votes."
The survey results show that: "Although deportations of illegal immigrants have increased since the beginning of the Obama administration, less than 3-in-10 (28 percent) of Americans correctly state that depor¬tations have increased over the past five or six years. A plurality (42 percent) of Americans believe that the number of deportations has stayed the same, while nearly 1-in-5 (18 percent) say deportations have decreased."
Read more:

The Week Ahead: March 18-22

March 19, 2013 - Posted by Dan Gordon

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Dr. Richard Land
“This is an issue of conviction, it’s an issue of values, it’s an issue of bringing our biblical values to bear … Now is the time to do [immigration reform]. Those congressmen and senators who are standing up and going beyond the partisan divide to try to make this happen need to hear from those who support them.”

—Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaking with reporters on a press call about the Evangelical Immigration Table’s ad buy in South Carolina, March 13, 2013


Evangelical Immigration Table Supports Earned Citizenship
On Monday the Evangelical Immigration Table released a statement in support of earned citizenship as a part of broad, bipartisan immigration reform. On a press call announcing the statement, evangelical leaders spoke about the need for aspiring Americans to have “eventual yet unfettered access to the full pursuit of our shared American dream.”

The announcement comes amid a two-week radio ad campaign on Christian radio in South Carolina to press for prompt action on immigration reform, as well as the “I Was a Stranger” prayer challenge, which encourages evangelicals in the pews as well as leaders in Congress to consider the biblical principles that can inform how we approach immigrants and immigration.

The strong call for steps to earned citizenship comes as bipartisan leaders in Congress move from principles toward legislative language — with citizenship a central focus of the debate.
Sen. Rand Paul Speaks for Reform
This morning, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, gave a speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit in which he spoke of the need for Republicans to create “a new future” with Latino voters. In his speech, Paul made a compelling case for the party’s need to change its tone on immigration.

But more than politics inspired Paul’s support for immigration reform. He spoke about our history as a nation of immigrants and about the need for reform that comprises both human compassion and the rule of law. He cited the economic possibility of bringing out of the shadows millions of immigrants who now lack authorization, as well as the values of freedom and hard work that Americans and new immigrants share.

More and more, bipartisan leaders are hearing support from their constituents for commonsense immigration reform that embraces these same principles. Congress is catching up to the reality that such reform is both good policy and good politics.

CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page to find this week's immigration-related events.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:

MUST READ: POLITICO: RNC: Voters see GOP as ‘scary’ and ‘out of touch'
By Maggie Haberman
March 18, 2013
The Republican National Committee concedes in a sprawling report Monday that the GOP is seen as the party of “stuffy old men” and needs to change its ways.
Among the RNC’s proposed fixes: enacting comprehensive immigration reform, addressing middle-class economic anxieties head on and condensing a presidential primary process that saw Mitt Romney get battered for months ahead of the general election.
The committee also proposes major improvements to the party’s voter database and digital technology, which paled next to that of the Democrats and contributed to the party’s losses last year.
The suggestions are among dozens the committee makes in what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has dubbed an “autopsy” of the party’s 2012 failures and a roadmap forward. Priebus unveiled the 98-page report at a news conference Monday morning at The National Press Club.
“There’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus said. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”
The report devotes many pages to the need to better connect with minority, female and young voters. Comprehensive immigration reform is a critical first step, it says.
“It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies,” it states. “In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.”
Read more:

DAILY CALLER: National immigration debate descends on South Carolina
By Caroline May
March 13, 2013
South Carolina is becoming a hotbed of immigration advocacy as ad campaigns for and against Senate immigration reform efforts fill the Palmetto State’s airwaves.
Wednesday the Evangelical Immigration Table, a pro-immigration reform group lead by evangelical Christians, announced an immigration ad buy on 15 Christian radio stations across the state.
“Christ calls evangelicals to compassion and justice so please join a growing movement of Christians asking our political leaders for immigration solutions rooted in Biblical values, which reflect each person’s god given dignity, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers and establish a path toward citizenship,” Rev. Jim Goodroe, director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network, says in the ad.
Goodroe goes on in the ad to encourage Christians in the state to speak out for just immigration laws and to pray for their elected leaders.
The evangelical immigration ad campaign comes as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the four GOP leaders in the “Gang of Eight,” is under attack in his state by another television ad campaign sponsored by the limited immigration group NumbersUSA that launched in late Feb.
“Who elected Lindsey Graham to demand millions more immigrant workers when so many South Carolinians are jobless?” the NumbersUSA ad asks, urging the viewer to call and “Ask Sen. Graham who he represents.”
Republicans for Immigration Reform have also launched a campaign in support of Graham’s efforts and “modernizing immigration” laws in South Carolina.
Graham faces re-election in 2014.
Another South Carolina Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
“Just as those who oppose immigration reform have been targeting South Carolina, for the same reasons we are putting these ads in South Carolina because Lindsey Graham and Trey Gowdy and the other representatives from South Carolina need to hear from those who support them,” Richard Land, the president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained to reporters on a Wednesday conference call when asked why the ads are targeting South Carolina.
Land added that the organization appreciates Grahams effort and that the campaign aims to show South Carolinians “how proud they should be of their senator taking such a strong stand on such an important issue.”
Read more:

Immigration Policy Update: As Negotiations Continue, More Voices are Raised to Press for Reform

March 13, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Negotiations Continue, More Hearings, On Immigration Reform

Despite conflict on other issues between the White House and Republican leaders, bipartisan negotiations are progressing on immigration reform.

On February 26, President Obama met with two Republican members of the “Gang of Eight” senators who are negotiating Senate legislation. After meeting with the President, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona praised the president’s commitment to immigration reform and said that the president understood the border security issues of concern to the senators. On the same day, a spokesperson for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida (another member of the Senate negotiating group) said that the senator was pleased with progress being made in the negotiations.

Still, no actual legislation has been introduced, and it now appears that a self-imposed March deadline for the introduction of a bill will not be met. Instead, a bill will more likely be introduced in the Senate after a recess that ends April 8. Shortly after that, there will be a markup in the Judiciary Committee.

House Hearings
The House is in the middle of holding a number of hearings related to immigration. On February 26, there was a hearing in the Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, “What Does Border Security Look Like?” That hearing focused on the issue of metrics used to determine the degree of border security, something that has been and will continue to be a focus in the debate on immigration reform. Along with agency witnesses, the hearing featured testimony from the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office.

Also on February 26, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing, “Agricultural Labor: From H-2A to a Workable Agricultural Guestworker Program.” The hearing put a spotlight on negotiations between representatives of farmworkers and growers, which continue to work toward a common position on undocumented agricultural workers in the context of immigration reform, as well as reforms in the current guest worker program for agriculture. Growers assert that the H-2A program, as it is currently set up, is too cumbersome to use. There is also a desire by some to expand the H-2A program (for seasonal agricultural workers) so that workers can be brought to fill non-seasonal dairy and food processing jobs.

On March 5, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on “Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration.” Among the witnesses was former Representative Bruce Morrison, who was the sponsor in the House of the Immigration Act of 1990—the last time adjustments were made in the number of visas available in our legal immigration system. In his testimony, he argued for more immigrant visas for the skilled immigration preferences; that employers are really looking to fill permanent positions, which cannot be filled with temporary, non-immigrants on H-1B visas. It seems to be the case fairly often that, in the context of the immigration reform debate, future flow and temporary worker programs are used interchangeability. If employers are looking to fill permanent positions, however, increasing the number of temporary visas available or creating additional temporary worker programs may not be a suitable solution.

There will be more hearings in the House and the Senate this week.

More constituencies engage the debate

While hearings are being held on Capitol Hill, the more interesting news about the immigration debate is coming from outside Washington. The range of voices speaking up for reform is much broader than in past efforts.

Many prominent Evangelical Christian leaders have become supporters of reform, and they are committed to spread the word within their communities. Republicans who are concerned about the negative impact immigration rhetoric has had on their party have formed a super-PAC to push Republican members of Congress to support reform, and to support politicians who are pro-reform. An impressive list of “tech and innovation leaders,” supported by the Partnership for a New American Economy, have come together for a “Virtual March on Washington” to press for immigration reform. The march will take place sometime during congressional consideration of immigration reform legislation. All across the country, business, faith and law enforcement leaders are coming together to discuss the need for immigration reform and drafting their principles for reform in a series of state-based “compacts.” Most recently, the Washington Compact was signed in Yakima, Washington, on March 5 by a coalition of agricultural, faith and business leaders. Also on March 5, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced it will award $800,000 in special grants to mobilize Catholics to support immigration reform and to support Catholic organizations that will serve immigrant beneficiaries of reform legislation.

These voices, combined with the traditional immigrant advocacy organizations, are expanding the audience for the immigration reform message, both in the public at large and within the halls of Congress.

Immigration and the Sequester

On March 1, the automatic budget cuts to federal agencies and programs—known as the sequester—took effect. In general, this means that non-defense programs that were not exempted from cuts will be cut by about 5%. The impact on agency budgets is actually greater, however, because already five months of the government’s fiscal year (which started on October 1) have gone by. Effectively, this means that agencies must cut their budgets by 9% between now and September 30.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a document that itemizes budget cuts agency by agency. According to this document, Customs and Border Protection will be losing $512 million. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be losing $294 million. Even though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is mainly funded through fees paid by applicants for services, OMB determined that the Fee Account is not exempt from cuts, and the agency will lose $151 million through sequestration.

The real impact of sequestration will begin to be felt after employee furloughs take effect. (The government must give a 30-day notice of furloughs.) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) put up documents on its Web site to explain what to expect. Among other things, the document indicates that for travelers coming through ports of entry, there will be “increased wait times and reduced hours of service. These impacts will likely increase during the summer peak travel season.”

In preparation for its budget cuts, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began releasing immigrant detainees, and placing them in much less expensive supervised release programs. According to the Associated Press, approximately 2,000 immigrants were released, with another 3,000 releases planned. The agency stopped releasing immigrants, at least temporarily, in the face of congressional criticism. Critics claimed that ICE was releasing dangerous criminals and endangering the lives of Americans. (The claims were not backed up.) The immigrants released will still be subject to the removal process.

If the sequester is not reversed, it will be difficult for ICE not to release more detainees, given the congressional mandate to cut their budget by so much in a few months. Detaining immigrants is expensive, and advocacy groups for years have pressed ICE to make more use of less expensive alternatives to detention. ICE and other agencies will face difficulties ahead as they come under attack by members of Congress for carrying out the congressional mandate to cut their budgets across the board.

With VAWA, the House Passes a Bipartisan Bill

On February 28, the House passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, S. 47, which had previously passed the Senate by a vote of 78 to 22. A House version of the bill, which did not have bipartisan support, failed to get the necessary votes before the Senate bipartisan version was taken up. This bill passed with primarily Democratic members voting for it, but with enough Republican support to send it to the president. Some observers feel that the passage of VAWA Reauthorization, though opposed by a majority of Republicans, points to a potential path for an immigration bill, should a majority of Republicans in the House continue to block immigration reform. When Republican leaders feel it is good for the party, they will place a premium on getting something done, rather than trying to please a “majority of the majority.”

Family Unity Waiver Goes into Effect

Beginning March 4, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting waiver applications from certain immigrant visa applicants who are “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens (spouses, minor children, and parents). Persons who are otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa, but who might be subject to three- or ten-year bars to reentry once they departed the U.S. to pick up their immigrant visa at a U.S. consular office abroad, may now apply for the waiver of the bars to reentry while still in the U.S. This is expected to reduce family separation for citizens who are trying to obtain immigrant visas for their family members. For more information, see this fact sheet from USCIS.

Announcement: E Pluribus Unum Prizes Applications Open

The application period for the Migration Policy Institute’s E Pluribus Unum prizes is now open. The E Pluribus Unum Prizes program awards exceptional initiatives that promote successful immigrant integration. There will be three $50,000 prizes and one Corporate Leadership Award. This year’s application period for the program is open through April 12, 2013. You can also find information about the program by clicking on this link:

Immigration Reform Detention Smart Enforcement Priorities

Eight members of the House of Representatives write about Immigration Reform

March 13, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno

This morning, eight different members of the House of Representatives wrote op-eds on immigration reform. Check out what Reps. Schrader (D-OR), Bass (D-CA), Gutierrez (D-IL), Nadler (D-NY), Sanchez (D-CA), Barletta (R-PA), Carter (R-TX), and Bachus (R-AL) had to say:

The Hill (Blog): Faith, politics and comprehensive immigration reform
By Rep, Kurt Schrader
March 12, 2013

I just returned from Congressman John Lewis' "Faith and Politics Pilgrimage to Alabama" and was deeply moved by the experience. Fifty years ago, courageous Americans stepped out of their comfort zone and confronted an unjust segregation system that not only debased black America, but white America as well. I was struck by the intimate stories of complacency toward an immoral social norm by white businessmen and the church. I was amazed by the bravery of the black youth that saved a floundering downtown economic boycott in Birmingham, despite the water hoses and dogs of Bull Conner. I was entranced by the bravery of two black students willing to face a hate filled Governor George Wallace and a thousand others at the college doors in Tuscaloosa. I was overwhelmed with Dr. King's epiphany at the kitchen table in Montgomery late one night that he must conquer his fears and do what is morally right. I was in awe of the marchers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma that knew they faced violent opposition on the other side, but marched and suffered horribly anyway.

Much like then, America now faces another soul searching moment surrounding an outdated, irrational and dehumanizing immigration system. One hundred years ago, America took all comers to its shores. Now, our byzantine immigration system encourages would be immigrants to put their livelihoods on the line in order seek the American dream. It makes criminals out of business owners and farmers for hiring folks to do work that no one else will do; work that Americans benefit from and take for granted everyday. And, it generates an unconscionable trade in human beings and human rights violations that operate in dark shadows, often beyond our legal and law enforcement systems.

The discussion about immigration is not about documented and undocumented immigrants. It is about the very nature of who we are as Americans — our beliefs, our morals and our need to share the unalienable rights our immigrant forefathers bequeathed upon us 238 years ago. The loud lack of acceptance among a vitriolic few diminishes hope in aspiring Americans and undermines the progress we have strived for since our country’s inception. Is this our Christian theology? Are these the values of our Declaration and Constitution? Is this how we raise our children?...

Schrader represents Oregon's 5th Congressional District. He also serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

NBC Latino (Opinion): Immigration reform must keep families together, protect children
By Rep. Karen Bass
March 12, 2013

A core principle of immigration reform must be a focus on protecting children of undocumented immigrants, who through no fault of their own can end up being ripped away from a loving home or denied the right to see a parent they primarily rely on to have their basic needs met.

This week marked a great leap forward as the Obama Administration began implementing a new federal immigration rule aimed at keeping “mixed status” families together.

Under the rule, certain undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can apply for a waiver from a 10-year ban for being in the United States unlawfully.

For a spouse who may be an undocumented immigrant, the rule gives them one more pathway to continue caring for their children and families who rely on their emotional and financial support.

The rule was first initiated by President Obama last year, in keeping with his pledge to take executive action on comprehensive immigration reform if Congress was unwilling to tackle this critically important issue.
Congress and the Administration must continue working together on a comprehensive immigration reform package, particularly a plan that keeps families together. This new rule is another step in the right direction but more must be done as the debate continues around immigration reform.

Every effort should be made before families are torn apart to make sure undocumented immigrants have access to their children and are able to continue providing for their families, who oftentimes would be left in dire straits if a loved one were to be deported or detained...

Congresswoman Karen Bass represents California’s 37th Congressional District and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Roll Call (Opinion): Two Parties Will Find a Way to Get Something Done This Year
By Rep. Luis Gutierrez
March 12, 2013

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued nine principles that will guide our thinking on an immigration rewrite. Now that the immigration debate is starting to take shape, it is worth reviewing them. So far, with few exceptions, the principles identified by the CHC are being adhered to. I have highlighted a few below.

• Legalization with a path to citizenship: For the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living here, there are no realistic choices available other than legalization. The Mitt Romney policy of “self-deportation” and Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws did not pass the laugh test. If anything, the fantasy that 11 million people and their families should leave the U.S. motivated Latinos and other immigration-sensitive (and reality-sensitive) voters to pull the lever for Democrats.

According to every poll, the American people strongly support citizenship for undocumented immigrants (including a Feb. 2013 Washington Post poll that found 70 percent support). Republicans are coalescing around a policy of not creating a “special path to citizenship” for the undocumented, in the words of Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va. As far as I can tell, what the Republicans want and what the Democrats want are not mutually exclusive. On this critical aspect of immigration policy, we will arrive at a compromise that both sides will see as acceptable, if not ideal.

• Protect the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of binational, same-sex couples: Family unity is a core principle of America’s immigration history and should be a core principle of a policy overhaul. The massive increase in deportations over the past four years has taken a toll on American families. We will likely arrive at a mix of family- and business-based visas in whatever final package we pass. Visas for graduates of American universities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are popular on both sides, but so is a significant reduction in the waiting times for family-based immigration. Getting it right will be difficult. Republicans undervalue families and put a premium on skills. Democrats understand that unless our immigration policies comport with reality, they are likely to be inadequate or out-of-date quickly. Families support each other, spawn small businesses and facilitate integration. Modern families include same-sex couples, many of whom have children. Unless our immigration system accommodates that reality, it will not fully fix our immigration problems. Democrats and some Republicans are committed to fighting for the immigration rights of all families....

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., is a member of the Judiciary Committee and is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force.

Roll Call (Opinion): Why We Must Pass the Uniting American Families Act
By Rep. Jerry Nadler
March 12, 2013

While there has recently been unmistakable momentum toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in parts of the country — with marriage equality for same-sex couples in nine states and D.C., federal cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the debate on an immigration overhaul — we cannot afford to pat ourselves on the back.

We still have laws — such as DOMA — that openly discriminate against LGBT Americans, and we have yet to extend basic civil rights protections at the federal level and in many states. LGBT Americans are still treated as second-class citizens in many ways, and they remain vulnerable to discrimination in critical areas such as employment and housing. And, of course, 39 states still prohibit gay and lesbian residents from marrying the person they love. Our collective failure to fully embrace our LGBT colleagues, neighbors and relatives within this nation’s great tradition of equality and freedom is an outrage that I have devoted much of my career to fixing.

One of the biggest, and most easily fixed, problems is the gratuitous harm that our immigration law inflicts on binational same-sex couples. Unlike other committed couples, which can sponsor partners for immigration purposes, our law treats devoted gay and lesbian couples as complete strangers...

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and the lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act.

Roll Call (Opinion): Massive Effort to Secure Borders Has Spanned Two Presidents
By Rep. Loretta Sanchez
March 12, 2013

As Democrats and Republicans continue to debate the most viable path to achieve a comprehensive immigration overhaul, both sides are staking their claim as to who has the better plan. As a member who has sat on the Homeland Security Committee since its inception, I have watched and participated in this debate and have witnessed both failures and successes. Many Republicans claim that nothing or little has been done to enforce the laws currently on the books or to secure our border.

I disagree, and today I want set the record straight.

As legislation to change our immigration system takes shape in the Senate, many Republicans are using the same old excuses, such as “we need to secure our borders first” or “President Obama has not done enough to enforce our current immigration laws” to prevent a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill from moving forward...

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., serves on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

Roll Call (Opinion): Secure the Borders Before Addressing Illegal Immigrants
By Rep. Lou Barletta
March 12, 2013

We have been presented with a false choice in the Washington-based debate over illegal immigration. On one hand, we are offered the Obama plan, conveniently leaked to the media, which offers permanent residency after a shockingly long eight years on probation. On the other, we have the “gang of eight,” who say citizenship lies at the end of an amorphous path following a declaration of secure borders by a yet-to-be-named commission. Both of these are unacceptable and fail to address the causes of illegal immigration and the massive costs associated with legalizing millions of people who have already broken our laws.

As mayor of Hazleton, Pa., I passed two significant ordinances. One suspended the licenses of businesses that knowingly hired illegal aliens, and the other enforced similar penalties on landlords who knowingly rented property to them. Those common-sense solutions are still tied up in court.

Because of my experiences, I refer to any proposals short of real enforcement as “temporary amnesty . . . indefinitely.” In 1986, we were told that if we granted amnesty to a mere 1.5 million illegal aliens, we would secure the border and be rid of the problem. In the end, more than 3 million came forward. Today, we are to believe that there are about 11 million, but when we wave the carrot of citizenship to the world, that number is sure to double, as history has shown it will...

Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., represents the state’s 11th District.

Roll Call (Opinion): Growing Expenses, Underclass Are the Unbearable Costs of Inaction
By Rep. John Carter
March 12, 2013

The Southwest border remains insecure. We have more than 11 million illegal immigrants in our nation and more coming every day. Neither of these facts is news. What is news is the growing bipartisan majority in Congress willing to do something about it.

The defining points of this debate are twofold: how to stop illegal immigration in the future and how to handle those 11 million folks who are already here. If we can agree on both, we can pass a bill in a divided Congress. To agree on both requires a secure border and a secure workplace.

The Obama administration would have you believe the border is secure. Anyone on the border knows that is absolute hogwash. The Border Patrol reports that 61 percent of an estimated 1 million people per year attempting to illegally cross the border succeed, meaning we aren’t stopping even half. Further, the current rate of illegal crossings is expected to swell dramatically as our economy improves, and we will see that apprehension rate crash back to pre-recession failure levels...

Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the Republican lead in the Bipartisan House Immigration Reform Working Group.

Roll Call (Opinion): Immigration Overhaul Promotes U.S. Economic Competitiveness
By Rep. Spencer Bachus
March 12, 2013

America is a nation of immigrants. In truth, our history cannot be told without the contributions of immigrants from everywhere in the world — sometimes with their families, sometimes all alone — to escape poverty and persecution, pursue their dreams, and live and work in a free country. Moving forward, we should remain true to our American heritage of being a welcoming place.

However, our current federal immigration system is badly broken and makes it difficult to honor both our best principles and our rule of law. With an immigration overhaul the center of a national discussion, the House Judiciary Committee, under Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., has begun what I hope will be a comprehensive look at our immigration system through a series of important hearings. The proper way to consider potential changes is through an open and deliberative legislative process.

During a full committee hearing on Feb. 5, I specifically asked witnesses representing divergent viewpoints on immigration changes whether our immigration policies should be based on our own national interests. The unanimous answer was yes...

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

Borders Immigration Reform States

The Week Ahead: March 11-15

March 12, 2013 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
“Today's meeting invigorated me with hope and optimism (...) The collective commitment to incorporate a pathway to citizenship as an integral part of any legislative solution secures a complete integration process. Both the president and faith leaders understand that citizenship must be earned, yet denying it will create a two-tier society attempting to live one dream: the American dream.”
—Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference commenting on his meeting with President Obama and other faith leaders on immigration, March 8, 2013


South Carolina ad campaign
The Evangelical Immigration Table is announcing a radio buy campaign in South Carolina’s Christian radio stations to press for prompt action on immigration reform. The South Carolina radio campaign is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s intensifying push to mobilize local and national evangelical support for bipartisan immigration solutions. Efforts include the “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge, where hundreds of evangelical congregations in 49 states are reading Scripture for guidance on immigration.

The Evangelical Immigration Table is not the only entity doing paid advertising on immigration in South Carolina. The Palmetto State Coalition for Immigration Reform, a new coalition of business, faith and political industry leaders, is expected to announce Wednesday a TV ad campaign showing the broadening support for immigration reform across South Carolina.

These efforts aim to support and pressure South Carolina’s lawmakers who are key in immigration reform negotiations. Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham is a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” group tasked with drafting bipartisan immigration reform legislation, and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy is the chairman of the House immigration subcommittee.

Border security discussions
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee will examine achievements and challenges of border security on Thursday. As the senate considers immigration reform legislation that includes both legalization and immigration enforcement components, it’s important to acknowledge progress on security at our nation’s borders and not hold legalization hostage to so-called border security triggers.

Current immigration-enforcement measures already satisfy the enforcement benchmarks proposed in the 2007 immigration-reform legislation related to control of the border, border patrol staffing, border infrastructure and apprehension and detention of border crossers.

Now that government has spent record amounts in immigration law enforcement in the last five years, it’s time to move on to the hard work of ensuring that future flows of migrants will be predominantly legal and creating a workable legalization program that includes a path to citizenship for eligible immigrants already here.

To read more on how the 2007 benchmarks have been please read the Forum’s paper “Immigration Enforcement Today: 2007 Reform Goals Largely Accomplished.”

CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page to find this week's immigration-related events.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:

MUST READ: LOS ANGELES TIMES: Senators agree on path to legal status for illegal immigrants
By Brian Bennett
March 11, 2013
Eight senators who have spent weeks trying to write a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration laws have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft — how to offer legal status to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.
According to aides familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. They also must have a clean law enforcement record.
Once granted probationary legal status, immigrants would be allowed to work but would be barred from receiving federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance.
The group's current draft is largely in line with President Obama's call to set a pathway to earned citizenship as part of a broader immigration reform package, as well as with recent efforts by prominent Republican lawmakers to resolve an issue that hurt GOP candidates in November's election.
Though the draft is a long way from becoming law, immigration advocates expressed guarded optimism about a possible breakthrough.
"Nine months ago, people would have thought you were nuts to say that four Republicans and four Democrats were working on a way to legalize 11 million people," said Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the White House. "It's a Rubik's Cube, but more sides are matching in color than ever before. That's significant."
Still undecided is how long illegal immigrants would need to wait before they could apply for permanent resident status and eventually become citizens. The delay for a green card probably would be 10 years or longer, the aides said.
Also unresolved are such politically charged topics as how many visas to issue to high-tech specialists and other guest workers; how to keep track of when visitors leave the country; and how to pay for more Border Patrol officers, fencing and other security measures in an era of shrinking budgets, the aides said.
Read more:,0,4603683.story

BLOOMBERG: Amnesty For Immigrants Spurs Greater Employment in U.S.
By Lorraine Woellert
March 6, 2013
Alejandrino Honorato’s journey began with a smuggler who led him across the Rio Grande, into the Texas desert with little food or water and finally to a field where he picked tobacco to pay his passage. Living illegally in a labor camp, he didn’t know lawmakers in Washington were deciding his future.
It was 1986 and Congress was weighing an amnesty plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers. Unemployment was 7 percent. Some lawmakers warned the change would overwhelm the economy and strain hospitals and schools. “Are we going to cause havoc?” said Representative Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican, as the House prepared to vote.
The bill became law and Honorato came out of the shadows. Today, he owns two eateries and a market in central Florida and has about 60 employees. “I’ve helped a lot of people work,” Honorato, 49, said through a translator. “If people were legalized they’d have a chance to open businesses like me.”
More than a quarter century after Congress last rewrote the law, immigration is again a top Washington issue. President Barack Obama has made changing the law a priority in his second term. A group of senators including Democrat Charles Schumer of New York and Republican John McCain of Arizona are drafting legislation that will include a path to residency -- and perhaps citizenship -- for 11 million undocumented workers.
“It’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long,” Obama said in January. “We’ve got to bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century.”
Hot-Button Word
With unemployment at 7.9 percent and more than 12 million Americans out of work, politicians are avoiding the hot-button word “amnesty.” They also are armed with more than two decades of research showing that the 1986 law raised wages and boosted the economy. Economists at the free-market Cato Institute, the pro-labor Center for American Progress and the business and municipal Partnership for a New American Economy are in rare agreement that legalization makes economic sense.
Almost 3 million people were documented between 1987 and 1990 as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. By 1992, more than four years after legalization, real hourly wages for those workers had risen an average of 15.1 percent, according to a Department of Labor survey. Wages overall continued to rise, according to a 2012 study by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, even as the nation entered a recession that lasted from July 1990 to March 1991.
Barriers to upward economic mobility eased as the newly legalized found jobs that better matched their skills. They ventured deeper into society, pursuing educations and buying homes, said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Read more:

The Week Ahead: March 4-9

March 04, 2013 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Rep. Bob Goodlatte

“I don’t think that (they could never become citizens)…once you have that status you can qualify like everybody else, it seems to me. Having a system where if you have an unlawful status and then you have another opportunity, whether it’s employment-based or whether it’s going to be family-based, to be able to legalize your status in the future, those are good opportunities you can address.”
— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, clarifying that he is not opposed to citizenship in immigration reform. TPM, February 27, 2013


Immigration and the sequester
Last week, ICE transferred hundreds of low-risk immigrants out of detention facilities in an effort to save costs as automatic budget cuts were expected on Friday. The government has not dropped the deportation cases against the immigrants and the detainees are still on supervised release while their cases continue in immigration court.

While some Republican lawmakers rang the alarm bells about criminal immigrants running freely on the streets, the fact is that these immigrants do not pose a threat to public safety and should have been placed long-ago in alternatives to detention programs that have a solid track record of being both effective and far cheaper than immigrant detention. Last August, the National Immigration Forum released a report on "The Math of Immigration Detention,” showing the potential savings of focusing enforcement resources on real threats by relying more on alternatives to detention programs. Instead of spending $164 per detention bed each day, the government could save up to $1.6 billion a year by using alternatives to detention like telephonic and in-person reporting, home visits and other forms of monitoring that have a daily cost per detainee of 30 cents to $14.

At a time when our government must do as much saving as possible, it’s time to re-examine how we can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our immigration enforcement programs. For more information about immigrant detention, please read:

Bipartisan House group set to reveal immigration bill
According to news reports, a bipartisan group in the House is close to introducing its own immigration reform bill. While legalization will be an important component of the reform proposal, some predict that it would not include a direct path to citizenship for legalized immigrants - a significant departure from similar proposals in the White House and Senate.

Poll after poll shows growing support by voters – including Republican voters – for immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship. It is time for political leaders, especially in the House of Representatives, to catch up with the American public on the issue of citizenship.

In the meantime, the senate’s “Gang of Eight” bipartisan working group continues to forge ahead with bipartisan immigration reform legislation. According to Democratic sources, the group may unveil the bill before the end of March. Last Thursday, senators McCain, Graham and Flake briefed Republican House members working on immigration reform legislation.

CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:

MUST READ: ABC/UNIVISION NEWS: How the GOP Could Break an Unwritten Rule and Pass Immigration Reform
House Republican leaders eschewed a long-held principle when they held a vote on the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday. Only 87 out of 232 House Republicans backed that bill, but they still chose to bring it to a vote.
That decision made all the difference. The bill passed thanks to near-unanimous support from House Democrats and backing from some Republicans.
By allowing the bill to come to a vote, Republicans broke the "Hastert Rule" -- named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). The basic idea: don't let something come to a vote unless a majority of the party supports it.
If the unofficial Hastert rule is no longer a precedent for House Republicans, that could have a implications for other controversial, bigger pieces of legislation this year, such as immigration reform.
The rule has been a guiding convention for House Republicans for years. Hastert coined the phrase in a 2004 speech, in which he said that the House would only bring a bill to the floor if "a majority of the majority" (i.e., a majority of Republicans) backed it. Since then, Republicans have largely operated under that rule when they have controlled the House of Representatives, including under the current speakership of John Boehner (R-Ohio).
But Thursday's vote was not the first time this year that House GOP leaders allowed a vote on a bill that did not enjoy support from the majority of their conference. A deal to avert the fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year passed the House with only 85 Republican votes at the tail end of the last Congress. And only 49 Republicans voted for a relief package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, which passed into law.
Read more:

THE HILL: Pressure builds on Senate group to unveil immigration reform specifics
By Alexander Bolton
A bipartisan Senate group working on immigration reform plans to set a timeline for unveiling legislation, as it feels subtle pressure from the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to act.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a lead negotiator of the ad hoc group on immigration reform, says he and his colleagues realize the clock is ticking. They hope to soon have a timeline for unveiling legislation.
“We know time is of the essence. Sometime in the next few weeks we will have a definite timeline. We got a couple of very big issues to resolve,” McCain told The Hill.
A Democratic source familiar with the talks said the group may unveil the bill itself before the end of the month.
Either way, time is running short. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain’s negotiating partner, said he expected to have a bipartisan bill sometime in March. There are only three weeks left until Congress leaves for a two-week Easter recess on March 22.
Lawmakers and groups advocating for reform say McCain, Schumer and their partners, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), need to show substantial progress before the end of the month.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) has turned over authorship of immigration reform to the group but his patience is limited. He is eager to move shortly after the committee marks up a series of gun-violence bills this month.
Read more:

CBN News: Caring for the Stranger: Immigration Reform in the Pews
By Heather Sells
CBN News Reporter
Thursday, February 28, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- While Washington engages in a high-profile fight on immigration, Christian leaders in key states are quietly engaging their grass roots.
They're part of the newly formed Evangelical Immigration Table that unabashedly supports reform, and they're talking to people in the pews about what the Bible says about immigration. It's an effort that could help fuel momentum back in Washington.
Although evangelicals aren't generally known for supporting immigration reform, the EIT believes it makes sense to target this politically influential group because often they're already connected with immigrants in ministry settings.
Also, the EIT hopes an emphasis on biblical teaching will convince evangelicals that strong theological reasons exist to support immigrant care.
Engaging the Immigrant
At First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, 100 or so immigrants pour into the church each week. They're refugees, newly arrived in the United States and eager to learn English. Church members who tutor them say their stories are inspiring.
"Most of them take the bus and transfer two or three times to get to class," volunteer Nancy Gagner said. "They're just so diligent about showing up every day."
"It's just amazing to me the courage that it takes for them to come here," Shelley McBride, another volunteer tutor, said. "Often it's their best option but it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to start over."
This direct engagement with immigrants has heightened awareness of the national debate on immigration reform, Michelle Swanson, associate for Local Missions at First Presbyterian, said.
"It certainly has raised the awareness of neighbors on our doorstep from around the world," she said. "Once you have names and faces to put with it it no longer is this issue that you just read about in the newspaper."
Applying Biblical Principles
Not all churches in Colorado are so actively involved. For years, many have simply been unaware of immigrant communities right in their midst.
It's one reason why the EIT is organizing in states like Colorado, Texas, and Florida where the immigrant population has exploded.
"I think that when you don't know immigrants and you don't interact with them it's just not on your radar," Michelle Warren, who works for the EIT in Colorado, explained.
The EIT's strategy for such churches: begin to explain biblical principles for caring for immigrants.
The coalition began just last summer and already its membership includes prominent evangelical names and organizations, including Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College.
The EIT's platform calls for respecting the God-given dignity of individuals, protecting the unity of the immediate family, respecting the law, guaranteeing secure borders, ensuring fairness to taxpayers, and establishing a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish it.
'I Was a Stranger'
The EIT also wants to encourage churches to minister to immigrant communities in their midst. Its new 40-day "I was a Stranger" campaign leads individuals and churches on such a path with a 40-day study on immigrant passages in the Bible.
Read more:

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