April 26, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno
Early this morning, Katherine Vargas, Communications Director at the National Immigration Forum, was announced as the new White House Hispanic Media Director. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:
“Congratulations to Katherine Vargas, the White House’s new Director of Hispanic Media. The administration, and Hispanics across America, will be well served by Katherine’s deep understanding of the issues and commitment to justice for all.
It is hard to overstate Katherine’s contribution to the National Immigration Forum. Starting as communications associate, Katherine quickly stepped into the role of Director of Communications. Katherine’s innovative strategies changed America’s immigration debate and her powerful voice represented the Latino community with poise and clarity.
Congratulations, Katherine. The Forum is a better organization and we are all closer to common sense immigration reform because of your leadership.”
April 24, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
On Tuesday, April 16, Senate negotiators who have been meeting for the past several months to draft legislation to reform our immigration system introduced their legislation. The bill, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is 844 pages. There are many complex provisions that will be analyzed thoroughly in the coming days. Below are some highlights of the legislation, based on summaries that have begun to circulate.
The Gang of Eight’s Cultural Revolution
The first thing to be said about the bill is that it is written. The group of senate negotiators, four Democrats and four Republicans, found a way to break through Congress’ culture of partisanship and polarization and produce a bill that represents all responsible points of view. It is not perfect, but it is carefully balanced, with everyone giving up some of what they would like. The eight senators appeared at a press conference on April 18 and pledged to hold together as the bill moves through the Senate.
In the senators’ press conference, Senator Schumer pledged an open process. He noted the bill had been publicly released, and that by the time a substantive markup begins, everyone will have had three weeks to read the bill and prepare amendments. Senator Leahy, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has promised an extensive markup. Senator Reid has pledged to take up the bill on the Senate floor in June. Hearings on the bill were held this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. On April 22, there was a hearing with more than 20 witnesses on four panels. On April 23, there was another hearing with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. On April 25, the Committee will begin consideration of the bill, but on that day it is expected only that Senators will make opening statements, and substantive markup will begin the week of May 6, after the Senate returns from a week-long recess.
Registered Provisional Immigrant
The bill offers most undocumented immigrants an opportunity to apply for legal status and, through a complicated and lengthy process, eventually obtain citizenship. Undocumented immigrants who were here since December 31, 2011, may apply for registered provisional immigrant status (RPI), which will provide work authorization, legal status and authorized travel abroad and return. The application would include a fee (to be determined), a fine of $500, payment of any taxes owed, and passing a criminal background check. Along with the primary applicant, spouses and unmarried children under age 21 may be included as long as they qualify and were in the U.S. prior to December 31, 2012.
RPI status is valid for six years and can be renewed for an additional six years for an additional penalty of $500 and another to-be-determined application fee. Once the existing green card backlog is cleared, and certain border security and employment verification triggers are met, provisional immigrants may adjust to permanent status, at which time they again must clear another criminal background check and pay an additional $1,000 fine and application fees. An immigrant who adjusts through this process could apply for naturalization after another three years as a permanent resident.
Provisional immigrants adjusting to permanent resident status must meet the same English and U.S. history and government requirements as naturalization applicants, though once they have met these requirements they will not again be tested when applying for citizenship. In the alternative, applicants must show they are “satisfactorily pursuing a course of study” in English and U.S. history and government.
The DREAM Act
A version of the DREAM Act is included in this legislation, allowing existing DACA beneficiaries to immediately obtain RPI status, and others who did not apply or did not qualify under the DACA policy, to apply as well, if they entered the United States before the age of 16. There is no upper age limit for these applicants to apply. Furthermore, after completing the RPI requirements, these DREAMers would qualify for citizenship and permanent residence at the same time; they do not have to wait the additional three years.
The legislation sets up a separate path to legalize agricultural workers. Undocumented agricultural workers may first apply for “blue card” status, if they have performed at least 575 hours or 100 days of agricultural work in the two-year period ending December 31, 2012, and meet other requirements. Applicants must pay a $100 penalty plus a filing fee (to be determined). Persons granted blue card status will be authorized to work and to travel outside the U.S. and be re-admitted.
Blue card holders may adjust to permanent residence no earlier than five years after the date of enactment, if they can show, along with other requirements, that they continued to work in agriculture for 100 work days during each of five years during the eight-year period beginning on the date of enactment, or for 150 work days during each of three years during the five-year period beginning on the date of enactment. When adjusting to permanent status, they must pay a $400 fine, plus application fee. Spouses and children may also be included on the adjustment application.
The legislation includes sweeping changes to our legal immigration system.
The Diversity Visa program will be replaced with a new merit-based immigration system that will be a third path to permanent residence, alongside family-sponsored and employment-based immigrants. Individuals can self-apply, and would qualify based on the number of points they accumulate for, among other things, the ability to speak English, their education, their length of residence in the U.S., family relations in the U.S., and length and type of employment. Initially, 120,000 visas are set aside for merit-based immigrants but that number can fluctuate up to 250,000 in future years based on demand and the U.S. unemployment rate.
Another track of the merit system provides visas to reduce the backlogs in the family- and employment-based immigration systems.
The family-based immigration system will be changed. The spouses and children of legal permanent residents will become “immediate relatives” (the same as spouses and children of U.S. citizens) and are no longer subject to an annual cap. The minimum number of visas allocated for the remainder of the family preference system (that does not include “immediate relatives”) will be reduced from 226,000 to 161,000. The preference system is changed to eliminate the category of brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and to set an age cap for the category of married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. (Only those under the age of 31 at the time a petition is filed will be eligible to gain an immigrant visa through the family preference system.) Changes to the family preference allocations go into effect on the first day of the fiscal year that is at least 18 months after the bill’s enactment.
The per-country ceiling for family-based immigrants will rise from 7 percent to 15 percent.
The waiver for the three- and ten-year bar to admission will be made less onerous for immigrants with close family members in the U.S.
The employment visa system will be changed as well. Immigrants who would be included in the current employment first preference category will be exempt from numerical limits. (These include certain immigrants with extraordinary abilities, professors and researchers, certain multinational executives and managers, doctorate degree holders and certain physicians.) Also exempt from numerical limits are certain foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees and job offers in a STEM field.
Numerically limited employment-based visas allocated in the preference system will go to: members of the professions holding advanced degrees in non-STEM fields or from non-US universities and foreign medical graduates (40 percent); skilled workers, professionals and other workers (40 percent); certain special immigrants (ten percent); and investor/job creation immigrants (ten percent). Restrictions on the “other worker” sub-category are removed (currently, limited to a maximum of 5,000 per year out of the 3rd preference category). A new sixth preference category is created for immigrant entrepreneurs. The cap for this category is 10,000 annually.
The per-country ceiling for employment-based immigrants is eliminated.
Temporary Agricultural Workers
Two new agricultural temporary worker “W” visas are created to set up legal immigration channels for agricultural workers in the future. A W-2 worker comes to the U.S. to work for a specific employer under a contract specifying wages and working conditions. A W-3 worker meeting the requirements of the program may work for any “Designated Agricultural Employer” (DAE). The visas provide for a three-year period of admission, renewable for three years, after which time the worker must depart the U.S. for a period of at least three months. A W-2 worker may find employment with another DAE after completion of his or her contract. A W-2 worker is free to move from one employer to another, as long as the employer is a DAE. There are many provisions pertaining to worker protections and requirements for employer participation in the program.
For the first five years of the program, the number of W agricultural worker visas allocated will be 112,333, plus or minus any adjustments for demand, usage, and economic factors that may be made by the Secretary of Agriculture. After the first five years, the cap will be set by the Secretary of Agriculture based on availability of workers in the U.S., demand for agricultural workers and other factors. The current H-2A agricultural worker program will be phased out.
H-1B Nonimmigrant Workers
The H-1B cap would fluctuate between 110,000 and 180,000. For any given year, the exact number would be calculated by a formula set out in the legislation. Exemption from the numerical cap for graduates of U.S. universities would increase from 20,000 to 25,000, but limited to graduates in STEM fields. There are a number of provisions aimed at making sure employers do not use H-1B workers to replace American workers or undercut the wages of American workers. H-1B workers who are terminated by their employer would have 60 days to file for a change, extension, or adjustment of status.
H-2B Nonimmigrant Workers
Provisions are added to the existing H-2B seasonal non-agricultural worker program to protect against abuse by employers. Returning workers are exempt from the numerical cap for this program.
W Nonimmigrant Workers
The legislation creates a new category of nonimmigrant workers who come to perform work in the U.S. in occupations that require little to medium on-the-job training. The visas have a term of three years, and are renewable for three years. Employers seeking these workers must participate in a national registry, where jobs are listed and certified. Overseeing the system will be a new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research, which will be housed at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The annual number of visas allocated will start off at 20,000 for the first year, and rise to 75,000 in the fourth year, after which the new Bureau will determine the annual number of W visas to be allocated. Visas will not be issued for jobs in areas where the unemployment rate is greater than 8.5 percent, though there are exceptions. Special caps apply for construction industries. W applicants would register with an embassy or consulate for a registered job to apply for a visa. Once in the United States, a visa holder may leave his or her job and begin work for another employer in a job that is in the registry. The W workers and employers would be kept track of via a system similar to the one used currently to keep track of foreign students in the United States.
Refugees and Asylees
The legislation removes the one-year filing deadline for filing asylum applications. It expands the categories of family members who may qualify for derivative asylee or refugee status to include the children of the spouses of asylees or refugees and the grandchildren of asylees or refugees. The legislation provides for presidential designation of specifically-defined groups for resettlement in the U.S. The legislation provides new protections for stateless persons under certain circumstances.
The number of U nonimmigrant visas (for victims of or witnesses to criminal activity) is increased from 10,000 annually to 18,000.
The legislation expands the mission of the Office of Citizenship within USCIS and changes its name to the Office of Citizenship and New Americans. It will be charged with coordinating programs across the federal government that are relevant to immigrant integration. The new office will also provide advice and assistance to state and local governments. A temporary, inter-agency Task Force on New Americans will coordinate among federal agencies to set immigrant integration goals for the government and develop a plan for implementing those goals. A public/private United States Citizenship Foundation will accept donations to augment funding for the work of the Office of Citizenship and New Americans.
The legislation expands exemptions from the citizenship test for certain elderly immigrants.
Border and Interior Enforcement
The legislation sets up several border and interior enforcement triggers that must be met before undocumented immigrants may register for RPI status initially or later adjust to permanent residence. Before the registration process may commence, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must develop a Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy for maintaining effective control between ports of entry at a 90 percent effectiveness rate. The Secretary must also develop a Southern Border Fencing Strategy to identify where additional fencing should be deployed along the southern border—including double and triple fencing. Once the Secretary submits to Congress a Notice of Commencement of implementation of these two strategies, the registration process may begin for Registered Provisional Immigrant status.
Before Registered Provisional Immigrants may adjust to permanent status, another set of triggers must be met. The Secretary must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy has been substantially deployed and is substantially operational; the Southern Border Fencing Strategy has been substantially completed; the E-verify electronic work authorization system has been implemented; and an electronic exit system is in use at air and sea ports of entry.
There are exceptions to the triggers for Agricultural workers and DREAM Act eligible immigrants. Other exceptions are provided for in specific circumstances.
The legislation allocates more resources for border enforcement. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must hire 3,500 more officers by the end of the 2017 fiscal year. $50 million are allocated annually through fiscal year 2018 for Operation Streamline in the Tucson border sector. (This initiative criminally prosecutes persons for illegally crossing the border.) $50 million are allocated annually through fiscal year 2018 for Operation Stonegarden, which gives grants to local law enforcement entities along the border. $3 billion is allocated to carry out the Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy, and $1.5 billion is allocated for border fencing. The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (in which states are reimbursed for the detention costs of undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes) is allocated $950 million through fiscal year 2015. The bill authorizes CBP personnel to have immediate access to federal lands within 100 miles of the border in Arizona.
The bill also contains a number of provisions to remedy or mitigate problems related to federal agent misconduct. Training is required for CBP officers, Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to cover, among other things, civil, human, constitutional and privacy rights. There is a provision to establish a Border Oversight Task Force that will make recommendations on border enforcement policies and their impact on border communities. There is also a provision for more training of border community liaison officers. There is a provision to expand the mission of the USCIS Ombudsman’s office and change its name to the Department of Homeland Security Immigration Ombudsman, which will be charged with monitoring CBP and ICE as well as USCIS.
Electronic Worker Verification System
The legislation establishes an electronic worker verification system, and mandates its use by all employers, phased in over time. Federal agencies must begin using the system upon enactment of the legislation (if already using E-Verify) or within 90 days. Employers with more than 5,000 employees will be required to start using the system for new hires and for employees with expiring work authorization within two years after publication of regulations. Employers with more than 500 employees will be required to use the system for such employees within three years. All employers will have to use the system within four years of the publication of regulations for their new hires or for those with expiring work authorization.
The 134-page section of the bill dealing with the work authorization system contains a number of provisions specifying documents that may be used to establish identity and authorization to work; procedures to contest an erroneous finding of the system; and enhanced penalties on employers who fail to use the system or who abuse the system.
The legislation specifies that state laws relating to employment authorization are pre-empted, except in the case of state and local authority over business licensing.
The bill authorizes $1 billion for an Interior Enforcement Account. It requires at least an additional 5,000 ICE and USCIS positions within five years, to monitor the electronic verification system and to enforce compliance.
Other Enforcement Measures
The legislation provides for a mandatory exit data system for noncitizens leaving by air or sea ports of entry. New grounds of inadmissibility and removal are created for: gang participation; three or more convictions related to drinking and driving; and domestic violence. Penalties are increased for illegal entry and re-entry.
Protections for Immigrants and Detention Reform
The legislation prohibits federal law enforcement from profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity. It requires appointed counsel to represent unaccompanied minors and persons with serious mental disabilities, as well as other vulnerable groups when necessary. Legal Orientation Programs must be made available to all immigration detainees within five days of initial detention.
There are a number of anti-trafficking provisions that aim to protect workers who are recruited from abroad by labor contractors. There are provisions to fight immigration service fraud.
There are a number of provisions requiring greater reliance on secure alternatives to detention and providing for bond hearings and redetermination hearings. Provisions in the bill require detention facility compliance with detention standards, and provide for penalties for facilities that fail to meet those standards.
The Right Moment
As with so many issues, politicians are catching up with the public. Introduction of this legislation comes in the wake of several public opinion polls that have shown broad public support for immigration reform that provides an opportunity for undocumented immigrants to become legal.
- Gallup Poll (April 9, 10): "Suppose that on Election Day you could vote on key issues as well as candidates. Would you vote for or against a law that would allow illegal immigrants living in the United States the chance to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements?" (Would vote for: 69%)
- CNN/ORC International Poll (April 5-7): Allowing undocumented workers to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship if they have been in the country for several years, have a job, and pay back taxes is supported by 84% of the public.
- NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll (April 5 – 8): "As you may know, there is a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship that would allow foreigners who have jobs but are staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?" (Total favor: 64%)
- Quinnipiac University Poll (March 25 – April 1): "Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently living in the United States? (A) They should be allowed to stay in the United States and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. (B) They should be allowed to remain in the United States, but not be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship. (C) They should be required to leave the U.S." (Stay and apply for citizenship: 59%; stay but not allowed citizenship: 11%).
- ABC News/Washington Post Poll (March 27 – 30): "Overall, do you support or oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?" (Support: 57%)
- Main Street Alliance (of small business owners, March 14 – 25): “As Congress works to set up an immigration process for future immigrant workers, do you think this process should include a roadmap to citizenship, or should it be a temporary guest worker program with no roadmap to citizenship?” (Favor citizenship: 61%)
- Small Business Majority (of small business owners, March 4 – 10): “We would be better off if people who are in the country illegally became legal taxpayers, so they pay their fair share and can work toward citizenship in the future.” (Agree much or somewhat: 74%)
- Fox News (February 25 – 27): "Do you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?" (Favor: 72%)
In addition to these broad surveys about how the public feels about immigration reform, there is unprecedented activity among many constituencies in support of immigration reform. For example, on the day the Senate bill was introduced, dozens of evangelical leaders were in Washington to press Congress to tackle immigration reform. There is a big uptick in conservative support for reform legislation.
Still, the bill faces many challenges in the Senate. The debate will play out over the next two months.
Borders Immigration Reform Integration & Citizenship Interior Enforcement Immigrant Students Worksite Enforcement
April 10, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno
With immigration dominating the debate on Capitol Hill this week and in the coming months, we put together a list of prominent conservative voices who recognize the #TimeIsNow for immigration reform. Join them at Bibles, Business, and Badges for Immigration Reform:
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “Now’s the time [for immigration reform]. You’ve got people motivated on all sides to get it done.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “When it comes to immigration reform, now is the time. I’ve never seen a better political environment.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ): “I’ve been trying for a long time, and I think maybe now that the climate is such that we can be successful.”
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO): “We need to resolve it once and for all and have a solution that works for all Americans and as well as the immigrants in this country.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL): “For too long, both parties have used immigration as a political wedge issue. But the time has come to find a bipartisan solution.”
Steve Case, Co-Founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution, LLC: “As the economies of developing countries mature rapidly it is no longer the easy choice to settle in the United States. There are now increasingly attractive opportunities abroad. We must improve the environment for entrepreneurship to thrive. Now is the time to work together and pass comprehensive reform that fixes our high-skilled immigration system.”
Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention: “The time has come. Americans are ready … Immigration is an issue where people of different political parties and different philosophies can come together and do the right thing. It is time for us as citizens to demand that our politicians quit acting like politicians who are looking at the next election and start acting like statesmen who are looking at the next generation.”
Alberto Gonzales, Former U.S. Attorney General: “Addressing our immigration challenges in an intelligent manner will help our economy and our national security. This is particularly important for Tennessee’s continued growth. Join me and the ‘Bible, badges and business leaders’ from across the country speaking out for reform. The time is now.”
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition: “As U.S. Evangelicals we know that our immigration system is in urgent need of repair. We can't keep kicking the immigration challenge down the road for the next generation to respond…We can and should pass legislation that respects the rule of law and honors our moral commitments to love the immigrant. Silence and inaction are not options.”
April 08, 2013 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Ali Noorani
"Through this [Bibles, Badges and Business] work an entirely new front has been opened up of support from the right on immigration reform. In the past it’s been dominated by the extremists. Now you have rational conservatives talking about what the right thing to do is.”
—Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum explaining how 2013 debate is different than previous immigration reform efforts. Politico, "Conservative Groups Back Immigration Reform," April 5, 2013
Congress Returns to Washington
Congress is back in session after a two-week long recess filled with pro-reform events across the country, including a Christian radio immigration ad campaign in strategic states. All eyes are now on the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” and the much anticipated introduction of immigration reform legislation.
Senate and House negotiators sounded confident about the overhaul process on the Sunday political talk shows. Sen. Schumer (D-NY) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he hoped to get a deal done by the end of the week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he was very optimistic that the House’s plan will be able to “go into conference with the Senate and be able to resolve differences,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) assured on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the “politics of self-deportation are behind us.”
On Wednesday, April 10, “tens of thousands” of community, labor and immigrant rights supporters and immigrant families are expected to participate in the “Time is Now” immigration rally, hosted by CASA de Maryland, SEIU32BJ and the Alliance for Citizenship. In addition to the rally, thousands will visit their representatives in Congress to urge prompt action on reform that includes a direct and just path to citizenship.
The President’s Budget and Immigration
President Obama will submit the fiscal 2014 budget plan on Wednesday, weeks after the House and Senate completed action on competing budget blueprints. As in years past, the Forum will provide an analysis to better understand how the President wants to fund immigration –related programs and how the Administration is preparing for immigration reform.
CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page to find this week's immigration-related events.
Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration: http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/2012/LegBulletin.pdf
MUST READ: POLITICO: Conservative groups back immigration reform
By: Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman
April 5, 2013 04:38 AM EDT
High-profile conservative groups are taking on an unexpected cause: passing immigration reform.
A diverse mix of the Washington consultant class is cutting TV ads, revving up the grassroots and advising lawmakers on messaging and strategy in hopes of getting a bill across the finish line this year.
The surprising effort is a new element to the immigration debate — and one that could influence Republican lawmakers reluctant to support the cause.
The next few weeks will be a critical phase for the immigration fight, as lawmakers return to Washington from a two-week recess to face mounting pressure from advocates on both sides.
“We’re doing it to make sure…that Republican congressman and senators feel comfortable,” said American for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist in an interview. “They look out and hear the guys on talk radio, and they go ‘Oh my goodness, everybody out there thinks this. That’s not necessarily where I was, but I guess if everybody thinks that way, I’ll either be quiet or go along, or I’ll listen to them so they can convince me.’ They’re now hearing the other side of the issue.”
Conservatives say the strongest case in favor of immigration reform is an economic one, not values-based, arguing that an expanded pool of legal workers will boost the economy — the message that tests best in focus groups.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/conservatives-immigration-reform-89649.html
ABC NEWS: What Would Jesus Do? Evangelists Launch Immigration Ad Campaign
By Jim Avila and Serena Marshall
April 3, 2013
It started in South Carolina with Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham urging evangelists to back immigration reform as a way to "fix the problem."
Conservative faith leaders in the Palmetto state are now being joined by church leaders in North Carolina, Texas, Colorado and Florida producing and airing a series of ads designed to change the hard-line views of conservative Christians on the issue.
The Evangelical Immigration Table says the commercials will "educate" the faithful on the Bible's point of view on immigrants.
"White evangelicals have been listening to the voice of the extreme," said the Rev. David Fleming, the senior pastor for Champion Forest Baptist Church of Houston. "Give education to our people, they are changing their minds on this issue."
Fleming said that the undocumented are caught in a system that "isn't working," and is "not only ineffective and inefficient" but treats individuals like "political footballs."
Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/jesus-evangelists-launch-immigration-ad-campaign/story?id=18865476#.UVwZUaKG18E
April 08, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno
Local business, faith and law enforcement leaders came out in full force during the congressional recess the past two weeks to call on their representatives in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. With both the Senate and House expected to introduce legislation this month, these leaders laid out the urgency and necessity for immigration reform in their communities. Check out their top seven quotes from the busy recess break—and then add your voice to the fight by joining Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform:
Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (TN): “It is past time for the President and Congress to do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform that enhances our national and law enforcement security, bolsters our economy, and is consistent with the rule of law and our notions of fairness and compassion.”
Megan Ritter, Director of Public Policy, Indiana Farm Bureau: “Immigration reform is critical for Hoosier farmers who rely on a non-domestic workforce to ensure our crops and livestock continue to be a pillar of Indiana’s economy.”
Rev. Dr. David Fleming, Senior Pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston: “We see the immigrant as a person created in the image of God. They’re husbands and wives, they’re parents, they’re children. My experience has been here in Texas that conservative Christians and evangelicals are rising to support a biblical approach to this very complex issue.”
Allie Devine, Former Kansas Agriculture Secretary: “Congress needs to address immigration issues. The states are not the appropriate forum to implement immigration policy. We need a national solution and we need it soon.”
Matthew Soerens, U.S. Church Training Specialist, World Relief (FL): “We are working to build a moral movement of evangelicals who believe in just and practical immigration solutions that include an earned process for citizenship. Tens of thousands of Christians have accepted the ‘I Was a Stranger Challenge’ and are reading 40 days of Bible verse to learn about God’s heart for the immigrant. This is inspiring a new and productive conversation in our churches about the value of immigrants and immigration to our nation.”
Teresa Hernandez, local business owner and Lincoln Club Board Member (CA): “I am a business owner, a member of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, and a conservative Republican, and I favor immigration reform based on free market principles. Immigrant workers and their families are already an integral part of our economy and our communities. Study after study shows that immigrants are a net benefit to our economy.”
Michelle Warren, MPA, Colorado Immigration Specialist, Christian Community Development Association: “Immigration is a biblical justice issue. As we learn to value people as equals in humanity, deserving to be treated with dignity and respect, we will look at all life and justice issues with new understanding. The Bible clearly spells out how we are to welcome the stranger among us, to care for and have compassion for them. As Christians we need to learn and practice the spirit of hospitality to the nations that are coming to our doors and not allow our politics and fear to hinder that spirit.”
April 01, 2013 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Sen. Chuck Schumer
"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the "Gang of Eight … I am very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week. Senator Leahy has agreed to have extensive markup and debate on the bill in April, and then we go to the floor, God willing, in May.”
—Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on NBC’ s “Meet the Press” expressing confidence in the immigration reform negotiation process. March 31, 2013
Push for Reform Intensifies over the 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 picking up steam this week, with multiple events in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Utah with influential local, regional, and national faith, business, and law enforcement voices.
Similarly, the Evangelical Immigration Table continues their national and local efforts in support of immigration reform. Tomorrow, they will announce significant radio ad buy in key states such as Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. In addition, evangelical leaders are planning an April 17 Day of Prayer and Action on Capitol Hill.
For more information about immigration recess events, please visit http://bbbimmigration.org/events.
Senate Close to a Deal on Immigration
Key negotiators in the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” signaled optimism on Sunday that an immigration reform bill could be introduced as soon as next week in light of the tentative deal on guest worker programs by labor and business groups. Disagreements over the guest worker program were one of the remaining significant hurdles to drafting immigration reform legislation in the Senate.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached a “tentative agreement” about a guest worker program that would grant up to 200,000 new visas annually for low-skilled workers. The agreement marks a major breakthrough and improves the odds of passing immigration reform legislation. Senate negotiators have already reached agreements over other controversial aspects of the reform bill, including border security and a pathway to citizenship.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) cautioning to not rush the reform bill through his committee and to hold new hearings on immigration.
CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page to find this week's immigration-related events.
Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration: http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/2012/LegBulletin.pdf
MUST READ: POLITICO: House group nears immigration deal
By: Jake Sherman
April 1, 2013
A small, bipartisan House group is nearly finished with its immigration reform plan, which it hopes to announce the week of April 8 when Congress returns from recess.
But lawmakers and leadership are carefully eying several significant lingering technical issues to bring it across the finish line.
The key issues causing concern are fears about the price tag of immigration reform, the pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants and the process by which a slow-moving House Republican Conference might introduce and vote on a bill that would overhaul the system.
These items — described by several sources involved in the secret talks — are under active consideration by the group and the senior members of the Republican leadership as the House group readies for its roll-out when Congress returns from a two-week long break.
That the House is this far along is significant because of the deep partisanship that has slowed legislative action on the issue over the last three years. Historically, the House has stuck to small-bore immigration fixes, like securing the border, instead of comprehensive reform. Talks have progressed to the level that both Democratic and Republican leadership are being kept in the loop.
The elements of the plan, which were described by multiple sources, are very fluid and subject to change.
Sources describe the House plan as not differing to starkly from a compromise being drafted by the Senate’s Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group that is also nearing the finish line. Business and labor interests reached a deal Saturday on a long-thorny issue regarding visas for low-skilled workers, which significantly increases the chances of an overall deal in the Senate.
But the GOP-controlled House has always been seen as a less hospitable place for full-scale immigration reform. Nonetheless, the recent progress made by the House group is promising. Among Republicans, Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida are seen as key.
There are still issues to work out.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/immigration-reform-deal-house-89499.html
NEW YORK TIMES: Guest Workers Are at Crux of Groups’ Deal on Immigration
By ASHLEY PARKER and STEVEN GREENHOUSE
March 29, 2013
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top business and labor groups were near agreement Friday on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, closing in on a deal that would eliminate one of the last significant obstacles to a new proposal for a broad overhaul of immigration laws, officials involved in the talks said.
The progress in the talks, which stalled late last week, had members of a bipartisan group of eight senators that has been working on an immigration bill increasingly optimistic that they would be able to introduce comprehensive legislation in the Senate when Congress returns the second week of April.
“We are very close, closer than we’ve ever been,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Senate group. “We are very optimistic, but there are a few issues remaining.”
The intense talks, and the willingness of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. — two groups that have often found themselves deeply divided over the immigration debate — to try to hammer out an agreement, was an indication of how much the climate has changed on overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
When President George W. Bush pushed to revamp immigration laws in 2007, the inability of business and labor to agree on a plan for temporary guest workers was among the main reasons that effort failed. But now the two groups have weathered leaks to the news media and other setbacks in a sign of how serious both Democrats and Republicans are about getting a bill on President Obama’s desk by the end of the year.
Some involved in the negotiations remained hopeful that a deal would be reached by the weekend, but the Congressional recess, along with the Good Friday observance, made it difficult to lock all the moving pieces in place, those close to the talks said. And, while the members of the bipartisan group were optimistic, aides cautioned that no deal would be final until all the senators had signed off on every piece of the legislation.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/us/politics/guest-worker-program-low-skilled-immigrants.html