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In Strong Bipartisan Vote, Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill

June 28, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On June 27, the Senate voted to pass the sweeping immigration reform legislation introduced in April by the bi-partisan “gang of eight.” The vote on final passage was 68 to 32. Majority leader Reid underscored the importance of the vote by having Senators vote from their desks, while the clerk called the roll— a formality generally reserved only for the most momentous votes. Vice President Joe Biden presided.

The final vote marked the end of several procedural hurdles in the final days leading up to the vote. The first hurdle was raised by Senator Vitter (R-La.). He had raised several “budget points of order” against the bill, asserting that spending included in the bill violated spending limits set in the Senate’s budget bill. There was a vote on a motion to waive all budget points of order, and that motion was agreed to in a vote of 68 to 30.

Immediately following that vote, there was a vote to accept the Corker Hoeven amendment to the bill that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee. That amendment was agreed to in a vote of 69 to 29.

That vote was followed by another cloture vote, to end debate on the bill, as amended, that came out of the Judiciary Committee. The motion to invoke cloture was agreed to in a vote of 67 to 31 (with 60 needed).

[A little Senate arcania (which I am oversimplifying): Getting to the final vote on the bill required a complicated sequence of voting on substitutes to the bill, each requiring a cloture vote to protect it from a filibuster, with 30 hours required between each cloture vote and vote on the amendment itself. First, the Corker-Hoeven package had to clear the hurdles. Next up was the Judiciary Committee bill which the Corker-Hoeven package amended. Finally, the original bill, which was amended by the substitute that came out of the Judiciary Committee.]

After these procedural votes, Senators continued to negotiate which amendments out of the dozens filed might still get a vote on the floor. Late in the afternoon, Senator Reid came to the floor with a list of 17 Republican amendments and 15 Democrat amendment that he asked consent to bring up for votes. As has been the case for the past two weeks, opponents of the bill objected.

On Thursday, there was one more effort by Senator Reid to bring up a package of non-controversial amendments. Again, a bill opponent objected, and the amendments were not considered. Coincidently, that same opponent of the legislation was speaking on the Senate floor at that time, complaining about the lack of amendments considered during the Senate floor debate.

The Senate then voted on the final two procedural hurdles before final passage:

  • The vote on the Judiciary Committee substitute amendment to the bill was agreed to in a vote of 68 to 32.

  • A vote to invoke cloture on the underlying bill, setting up the final vote, was also agreed to in a vote of 68 to 32.

DREAMers celebrate passage of senate billThe final vote took place before a packed Senate Gallery, with a few dozen DREAMers looking on. It was a remarkable day for DREAM advocates (who would gain a faster track to citizenship in the Senate’s reform bill). Three years ago, a minority in the Senate was successful in blocking passage of the DREAM Act. This time around, while opponents of the legislation were able to prevent most amendments from being considered, they ultimately were unsuccessful in persuading senators to vote against this bill. Opponents did not even manage to delay the bill beyond the goal of having it pass the Senate by the July 4 recess. The procedural votes all indicated strong bipartisan support, and that is what the bill got in the end.

Now pressure will be on the House to act. Anti-reformers are in a stronger position in the House, but the eyes of the nation are now focused on House leaders.

For now, though, advocates around the country can celebrate the fact that all of their hard work, coupled with the efforts of new constituencies who are demanding action from Congress, has had an impact.

Immigration Reform

Policy Update: Immigration Bill Enters Home Stretch in Senate

June 25, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On June 24, the Senate voted to end debate on an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that has been on the Senate floor for the past two weeks. The amendment, sponsored by Senators Corker (R-Tenn.) and Hoeven (R-N.D.) changes the underlying bill in a number of ways, particularly in the border enforcement section (briefly summarized below). The cloture vote on the amendment has set up subsequent votes on the underlying bill that is expected to lead to a final vote on June 27 or 28. The vote on the cloture motion was 67 to 27 (60 votes are needed to cut off debate.)

Corker-Hoeven Amendment

For complicated procedural reasons, the Corker-Hoeven amendment substitutes the entire bill. The amendment was meant to satisfy political needs of the moment—some Senators felt the bill as it came to the floor did not go far enough on border enforcement. Experts on the border would not consider the amendment good policy. Nevertheless, the amendment provides more support for a bill that legalizes the current undocumented population and provides more legal avenues for immigrants coming in the future.

It also contains several other changes to the bill that other Senators added. Given the refusal of bill opponents to agree to move amendments, this amendment became a train to which several amendments were attached. Here is a very brief summary of major provisions of the amendment.

The amendment adds “triggers” to the bill’s pre-title. At least six months before Registered Provisional Immigrants can be adjusted to permanent status, the Secretary of DHS must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy has been deployed and certain border security measures are in place. Those “triggers” include the completion of 700 miles of pedestrian fencing on the border (approximately 350 miles are already in place); implementation of mandatory E-Verify; an electronic biometric exit system at all sea and air ports of entry where CBP personnel are stationed; and the deployment of at least 38,405 Border Patrol agents on the southern border (doubling the Border Patrol on the southern border). The amendment also includes a long list of technology that must be deployed in each Border Patrol sector.

The amendment increases authorization for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to $46 billion (up from $8 billion), and the Secretary of DHS is authorized to add a surcharge to the fees of immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions to pay for the enforcement functions in the bill, should the fines and fees established by the bill prove not sufficient. Of the $46 billion, $30 billion is authorized over a ten-year period to double the Border Patrol; $4.5 billion is authorized to pay for the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy; $8 billion is authorized for fencing and border monitoring technology.

Title I
In Title I, having to do with border enforcement, in addition to specifying that the Border Patrol be increased to 38,405 by 2021, there are a number of other changes. Among them, the Secretary of DHS is directed to initiate removal proceedings or otherwise resolve the cases of 90% of non-immigrants who have overstayed their visas by more than 180 days. It also requires additional reports on visa overstays. It authorizes a pilot program to notify non-immigrants that their period of authorized stay is about to expire.

Title II
In a change made to Title II of the bill, an undocumented immigrant who had been working and contributing Social Security taxes would not be able to claim credit for taxes paid during any quarter that the immigrant was not authorized to work. This applies to any quarter during the period January 2004 to December 2013.

Implementation of the merit-based visa point system would be moved up one year. The three- and ten-year bar to reentry is waived for merit-based track II applicants.

For employment-based workers in the STEM fields, the amendment extends the waiver of labor certification requirements (provided by the underlying bill only to national interest professionals).

Immigrants who have received certain military honors are considered to have met certain requirements for naturalization, including the English/civics test requirement.

Title III
In Title III, the part of the bill dealing with interior enforcement, the amendment adds a new Subtitle I, providing protections against trafficking for exchange visitor program participants.

Title IV
In Title IV, the amendment clarifies that the number of H-1B visas would not exceed 180,000 in a given year. There are minor changes pertaining to protection of U.S. workers regarding the H-1B program, including clarification that non-profit education and research institutions are not considered H-1B-dependent employers. There also is a provision to bar payment to states for medical assistance (except emergency medical care or medical care for pregnant women and children) for temporary workers or students.

New Title V
The amendment adds a new Title V to the bill, which establishes a youth jobs program, and will provide $1.5 billion over two years for that program.

Senate Action to this Point

Over the past two weeks leading up to the cloture vote on the Corker-Hoeven amendment, the Senate has slowly proceeded through other amendments to the immigration reform legislation. Dozens of amendments have been introduced, but only a handful have been considered. Opponents of the bill have been able to prevent the Senate from working through the amendments, because their consent is needed to bring amendments to a vote without going through the procedural hoops necessary to cut off debate for each amendment. Ultimately, proponents of the bill, in order to have business concluded by the Senate’s July 4th recess, resorted to one big amendment designed to increase support for the bill, and to file cloture to limit debate on that amendment.

Here is a summary of what was considered prior to the cloture vote on June 24.

To begin, there were two procedural hurdles to get over before actual consideration of amendments. On June 11, there was a vote to end debate on the motion to proceed with consideration of the bill. That vote was 82 to 15, and paved the way for the vote on the motion to proceed, with a similar result of 84 to 15
The first amendment to be considered, on June 13, was a Grassley amendment, #1195, which would prohibit the granting of Registered Provisional Immigrant status until after DHS maintains “effective control” of the border for six months. There was no agreement on whether that amendment would require 60 or 51 votes to be adopted, so a motion to table that amendment was offered, and the motion was agreed to by a vote of 57 to 43. A motion to table effectively kills the amendment.

It was June 18 before another batch of amendments came up for a vote:

  • Amendment #1197 by Sen. Thune (R-S.D.) would require 350 miles of double-layer fencing before Registered Provisional Immigrant status could be granted, and an additional 350 miles of fencing before provisional immigrants may adjust to permanent residence. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 39 to 54.

  • An amendment by Sen. Landrieu (D-La.) #1222, would apply certain provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 retroactively for international adoptions, and would make certain other changes concerning children born abroad to U.S. citizens. This amendment was adopted by voice vote.

  • An amendment by Sen. Vitter (R-La.) #1228 would require the US-VISIT entry and exit system be fully implemented at every land, sea, and air port of entry before any undocumented immigrant could be granted provisional status or be adjusted to permanent status. The amendment provided for a fast-track Congressional approval process of the Secretary’s certification that the system is sufficiently implemented. It was defeated in a vote of 36 to 58.

  • An amendment by Sen. Tester (D-Mont.) #1198 would provide for the inclusion of representatives of tribal governments in the Border Oversight Task Force. The amendment was approved in a vote of 94 to 0.

On June 19, a few more amendments were dispensed with:

  • A motion to table an amendment by Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) #1200 that would require a host of new enforcement resources to be deployed prior to implementation of the legalization program was agreed to by a vote of 61 to 37 (thus killing the amendment).

  • Amendment #1268 by Sen. Manchin (D-W. Va.) to limit the executive and employee salaries of contractors working on border security was agreed to in a vote of 72 to 28.

  • Amendment #1208 by Sen. Lee (R-Utah) would have required fast-track congressional approval of the Secretary’s notification of Congress that border security strategies have been implemented and are substantially operational. The amendment was rejected in a vote of 39 to 59.

  • Amendment #1298 by Sen. Pryor (D-Ark.) requires efforts to recruit former members of the Armed Forces to for positions in Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The amendment passed by voice vote.

  • Amendment #1227, by Sen. Heller (R-Nev.) will add a representative from the state of Nevada to the Southern Border Security Commission. That amendment was accepted in a vote of 89 to 9.

  • Amendment #1237, by Sen. Merkley (D-OR), requires additional steps for employers seeking to hire H-2B workers in the forestry industry in order to ensure American workers have an opportunity to fill those jobs. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.

On June 20, there was only one vote during the day, on Sen. Cornyn’s (R-Texas) amendment #1251, which would set additional border security triggers prior to adjudicating Registered Provisional Immigrant status and permanent status. The vote was on a motion to table, and the motion passed in a vote of 54 to 43, thus killing the amendment.

CBO Score

On June 18, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) came out with its cost estimates on the version of the immigration bill that passed out of the Judiciary Committee.

The CBO analyzes bills moving through Congress and projects the impact of the bill on federal finances over the first 10 years after enactment. In these times of feigned concern for federal budget deficits, a high score from the CBO—a projection that implementation of the bill will cost more than it produces in revenues, can significantly affect the fate of a bill.

In this case, the CBO estimated that S. 744 will result in a reduction of federal budget deficits of approximately $197 billion over the next 10 years. With its cost estimate for this bill, the CBO also looked at a 20-year time horizon and concluded that the bill will result in a reduction of deficits of approximately $700 billion over that period.

In the case of this bill, the CBO also did an analysis of the bill’s impact on the broader U.S. economy. CBO found that, “[t]aking account of all economic effects … the bill would increase real (inflation-adjusted) GDP … by 3.3 percent in 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033….”

It was the cost savings projected by CBO that spurred the drafting of the very expensive border security measures in the Corker-Hoeven amendment. The Senators decided to spend some of the savings CBO projected on border security, to satisfy concerns of some senators.

On June 24, CBO sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chair Leahy with a preliminary analysis of the impact of the Corker-Hoeven amendment on the bill’s financial impact. While the amendment substantially increases spending on border enforcement, the amount relative to the surplus projected did not change the overall picture for the bill:

    “As a result [of the amendment], 10-year savings would be smaller than the $197 billion projected for the committee approved bill by something less than $40 billion.”

House Action

In the House, no comprehensive bill has been introduced, though the House’s “gang of eight” (now a gang of seven, with the departure of Rep. Labrador (R-Idaho)) has been negotiating over a legislative package for months. Instead, Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte (R-Va.) is bringing up bills focusing on immigration enforcement, temporary worker programs, and the immigration of skilled workers.

On June 18, the Judiciary Committee passed the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (H.R. 2278), sponsored by House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Gowdy (R-S.C.). Among other things, this bill gives states and localities authority to enforce immigration laws, and provides resources for them to do so. It toughens laws governing removal of immigrants committing certain crimes. It requires mandatory detention for certain immigrants who have committed crimes. It limits efforts to mitigate immigration consequences of criminal convictions, including pardons by a governor or the President. The bill tightens oversight over student visas and educational institutions that sponsor foreign students. The bill provides for the hiring of an additional 2,500 ICE officers, and creates an ICE Advisory Council to advise Congress on enforcement issues. The bill eliminates discretionary relief from removal for immigrants who have been ordered removed. The bill also waives the applicability of environmental laws within 100 miles of the border if those laws interfere with immigration enforcement. And the list goes on.

The bill passed out of committee on party-line vote of 20 to 15.

On June 19, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 1773), sponsored by Rep. Goodlatte. The bill would replace the current H-2A temporary agricultural worker program with an H-2C program with fewer worker protections and no provision to legalize the existing, largely undocumented, workforce. (Farmworker Justice summarizes the bill here.)

This bill also passed out of committee on a party line vote, 20 to 16.

The House bills present a challenge for House leadership as to what to do next. The partisan, enforcement-only approach in the House Judiciary Committee presents a stark contrast to the bi-partisan comprehensive approach followed in the Senate. House leadership will have to decide how to manage the tension between those in the Republican party who are concerned about the party’s long-term viability in national races (and who have generally spoken favorably about a comprehensive approach to immigration reform) and those whose only concern is a primary challenge from the right. House Speaker Boehner has stated he would not simply vote on the Senate bill, but without a comprehensive House bill, he will need to decide how best to try to get immigration reform passed in the House by August recess, a goal he has also stated.

The Judiciary Committee will be taking up additional bills this week.

Immigration Reform

The Week Ahead: June 24-28

June 24, 2013 - Posted by Communications Intern

“To force all those here illegally to leave is neither politically viable nor humanitarian. To offer blanket amnesty to those who broke the immigration laws of our country and their countries of origin is disrespectful of the rule of law. A solution that respects the rule of law, treats undocumented immigrants in the nation compassionately, and provides them a tough, yet achievable, earned pathway to citizenship is necessary.”
— Dr. Russell Moore, newly elected president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in a June 20 letter sent to every Senator.

Showtime in the Senate
By the end of this week, ahead of Congress’ July 4 recess, the Senate is likely to vote on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, S. 744.

In a strong bipartisan vote on Monday, Senators voted 67-27 to end debate on a key amendment that centers primarily on tougher border security measures. The “Corker-Hoeven amendment” — named for its negotiators, Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D. — is likely to increase support among Republicans for the final bill.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the bill, as negotiated by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would result in a net gain of $897 billion in the next 20 years. The latest amendment’s requirements for personnel and fencing would mean spending an additional $38 billion on border security, for an eye-popping total of $46 billion. Already our border is as secure as it has ever been.

However, the amendment also would preserve the roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans who lack documentation. And the strong bipartisan support the amendment could earn for the final Senate bill would put enormous pressure on the House of Representatives to follow through with broad, bipartisan immigration reform as well.

The U.S. Senate is on the cusp of voting for historic change. After years of work and months of intense negotiation, S. 744 would create a 21st century immigration system that meets the needs of our nation. A difficult road lies ahead in the House, but that road will include opportunities to improve final immigration legislation.

Evangelical Groups Pray for Reform near Capitol
With the Senate vote approaching, evangelical leaders are holding daily prayer gatherings before the U.S. Capitol, around a mobile billboard bearing the message “Praying for Immigrants. Praying for Congress.” As part of the Pray for Reform campaign, groups will gather to pray for senators to pass strong legislation that reflects the God-given dignity of every human being, protects family unity, respects the rule of law, keeps our borders secure and includes an achievable pathway to earned citizenship.

These gatherings are happening at 10 a.m. every day this week on Peace Circle, near the Senate side of the Capitol. Following these gatherings, the billboard will make its way around Washington.

Different Evangelical Immigration Table organizations are hosting each day. Participating groups include the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Community Development Association and World Relief.

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: DESERET NEWS: Evangelicals turn up the heat on immigration reform with group prayers
Compiled by Matthew Brown, Deseret News
Sunday, June 23 2013
Evangelical leaders are adding daily group prayers outside the U.S. Capitol to their lobbying efforts for immigration reform.
Beginning Monday, pastors and other leaders will gather at the Peace Circle, near the Senate side of the Capitol, for prayer. Following these gatherings, the billboard bearing the message “Praying for Immigrants. Praying for Congress” will make its way around Washington.
The demonstrations will take place the same week the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill that would offer U.S. citizenship to millions.
The prayer campaign follows a letter-writing campaign by hundreds of pastors to their senators and representatives from 10 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
"The letters speak to the urgent need for reform that respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects family unity, respects the rule of law, guarantees secure national borders, ensures fairness to taxpayers and establishes a path toward earned citizenship for those who qualify," stated a press release from the National Immigration Forum.
The prayers, letter writing and advertising are all part of a 92-day "Pray for Reform" campaign organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of Evangelical churches, leaders, universities and organizations working together to build support for the immigration bill introduced in the Senate by the so-called "Gang of Eight."
Choosing a 92-day time period was no accident.
Read more:

FINANCIAL TIMES: US immigration bill would aid deficit
By Anna Fifield
June 18, 2013
The comprehensive immigration reform plan outlined by the Senate would reduce the US’s federal deficit by a net $175bn over the first decade and by almost $700bn over the second, according to estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
In its “scoring” of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, the CBO forecast that the reforms would have a broadly positive impact on the economy, with the taxes paid by newly legal citizens far outweighing any benefits they might receive.
The CBO also said there would be other positive effects that it would not yet measure – including increased productivity of labour and capital, and increased wages for workers with different skills.
“The increase in the number of legal residents stemming from the bill would boost direct spending for federal benefit programmes; direct spending for enforcement and other purposes also would rise,” said the report, released on Tuesday. “Under the bill, federal revenues would be higher as well, mostly because of the larger size of the labour force.”
The positive economic impact could help tip the balance on Capitol Hill by making it easier for fiscally minded Republicans to explain to their constituents why they were supporting the bill.
“The Congressional Budget Office’s report confirms what business leaders have been saying all along: commonsense immigration reform is good for the economy,” said Ali Noorani, executive director at the National Immigration Forum. “This is the push Congress needs to move broad reform past the finish line.”
Read more:

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Republican Lawmakers Unveil Border-Security Plan
By Sara Murray
June 20, 2013
Republican lawmakers unveiled a border-security plan Thursday afternoon that could secure broad bipartisan support for immigration legislation, paving the way for it to sail through the Senate.
"This is border security on steroids," said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who helped craft the compromise.
The agreement may prove to be the linchpin that provides cover for fence-sitting Republicans to sign on to the sweeping immigration bill in the Senate. The bill provides a path to citizenship for millions currently living in the U.S. illegally, increases border security and creates new visa programs.
"We know that we need a very large number of Republicans and a very large vote. We were not getting that," said Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican member of the group that wrote the bill. The latest compromise "brings on a lot of Republicans," said Mr. McCain, though he declined to estimate how many.
The agreement would double the number of border-control agents to roughly 40,000, require 700 miles of fencing on the southern border to be completed and wrap in a handful of other measures designed to wrangle GOP votes.
Lawmakers effectively killed an amendment Thursday by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, that would have required a stricter border metric. His proposal would have required border-patrol agents to apprehend 90% of illegal immigrants who attempted to cross the border before immigrants living in the U.S. illegally could receive green cards.
Senators voted 54 to 43 in favor of tabling the amendment. Immigration supporters were concerned that such a metric
Read more:

The Week Ahead: June 17-21

June 17, 2013 - Posted by Communications Intern

“If we don’t get this done now, in 10 years we are going to have problems that are twice as big as the problems we have now. If you want a solution, this is the process. My great grandfather came here from Ireland as a teenager fleeing the potato famine. He came here to work. That is so essential about America. People didn’t come here because they were going to be given prosperity; they came here to work and earn it.” — Haley Barbour, Former Governor of Mississippi, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Institute Immigration Task Force and Founding Partner of BGR Group, speaking at Bibles, Badges and Business to DC, June 12

Both Houses of Congress Focus on Immigration
Last week, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 84-15 vote, the Senate moved to a full floor debate on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. On Tuesday, senators will return to their debate over amendments to the bill, with a flurry of votes on amendments likely this week.

Already much discussed are possible border security–related amendments such as one from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would tie the fates of millions of aspiring Americans to extremely stringent border-enforcement measures — possibly delaying or denying the roadmap to citizenship. In reality, U.S. borders are as secure as they have ever been. The existing Senate language continues to prioritize border security and provides for a road to citizenship — a necessary balance for reform to be effective.

Also likely this week is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “score” for the Senate bill — a report on whether it would increase or decrease the national debt. A “positive” score, meaning the bill would decrease the debt, is likely. The CBO score may affect what amendments are introduced.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is taking up a bill that would essentially allow states and localities to take the reins of enforcing federal immigration laws. H.R. 2278, the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act,” is slated for markup Tuesday morning. The bill would empower county and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law, similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, parts of which the Supreme Court struck down a year ago. \

Local Evangelical Pastors to Send Letters Supporting Reform
This week, local evangelical leaders from states including Florida, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Illinois and Wisconsin are sending letters to their members of Congress in support of broad immigration reform. The letters call for bipartisan reform based on biblical principles and note that the Senate bill does align with these principles.

The letters come more than a month into the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “Pray for Reform” campaign, in which more than 6,000 prayer partners have participated. Prayer partners have sent more than 800 letters to members of Congress. The campaign corresponds with the Table’s call for immigration reform to pass both houses of Congress by August.

Local pastors who have sent letters will be on a press call Thursday to discuss their efforts. The call also will preview a week of prayer — and a mobile billboard effort — to take place in Washington, D.C., next week as the debate in the Senate comes to a head.

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

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:


THE HILL: Crunch time for lobbyists on immigration

By Kevin Bogardus
June 13, 2013
Washington’s lobbying powers are bearing down on the Senate in an attempt to push immigration reform over the finish line.
Business lobbyists, labor leaders and activists of all stripes are swarming Capitol Hill to ensure that senators don’t turn back from the biggest overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in decades.
“Starting today, it’s real,” said Ali Noorani, executive director for the National Immigration Forum. “We have a comprehensive immigration bill going through the amendment process.”
The bill cleared the first hurdle on Tuesday when senators voted overwhelmingly to open debate. But the stiffest tests are yet to come, as Republicans push for changes on border security that Democrats say could sink the bill.
Many advocates are focused on securing enough Republican support to create a filibuster-proof majority, and they are turning up the pressure on senators with a barrage of events and advertising.
“At this point in time, it’s all about getting to 60 votes,” Noorani said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight who helped draft the immigration bill, told law enforcement officials, church leaders and business executives on Wednesday that he would need their help to move the bill through a gauntlet of amendments.
“We still have a lot of work to do. They are five Republicans committed to this bill — that’s it,” Schumer said.
Read more:

FOXNEWS.COM: Voters want immigration reform
By Dana Blanton
June 13, 2013
Voters want Congress to pass an immigration bill this year, and most support the main provisions in the legislation being considered on Capitol Hill.
After a vote on Tuesday, the Senate will now officially begin debate on an immigration reform bill. The legislation would strengthen border security and create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the country.
A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that most voters generally favor those provisions.
The new poll shows 81 percent of voters want to strengthen border security and stop additional illegal entry into the country.
In addition, 74 percent favor finding a way for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country to remain -- and eventually become citizens -- if they meet certain requirements, such as paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check.
Republicans (90 percent), people over the age of 65 (87 percent) and whites (83 percent) are among the groups most likely to favor additional border security.
Read more:

The Week Ahead: June 10-14

June 10, 2013 - Posted by Communications Intern

“Immigration reform is now a gateway issue: Many Hispanics won't be open to Republicans until it is resolved, which could take the rest of the year. But there is little doubt [this] week's Senate deliberations will shape for some time to come the Hispanic community's perceptions of the GOP.” — Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, June 5

Immigration Reform Debate Moves to Senate Floor
This week, the full Senate will take up S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Right now, senators are debating the “motion to proceed” with the bill, a requisite precursor to the floor debate.

A pair of votes on whether to proceed to debate is expected this afternoon, paving the way for a debate in coming weeks that will include hundreds of proposed amendments. Key to the success of the bill will be rational, respectful dialogue that takes into account the desire for a new immigration process among voters across the political spectrum.

The floor debate is expected to continue through June, with a vote on the bill possible before Congress’ July 4 recess.

Wednesday: Bibles, Badges and Business Leaders Come to DC
Just as the Senate immigration bill reaches the floor, leaders from the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform (BBB) network are coming to Washington to reinforce their support for broad reform. During a breakfast meeting Wednesday that is open to press, more than 100 leaders from around the country will hear from speakers including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is now Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Institute Immigration Task Force; Revolution LLC Chairman and CEO Steve Case.

Following the morning session, faith, law enforcement and business leaders will spend the day meeting with members of Congress and their staffs to urge support for bipartisan immigration solutions such as those in the Senate bill. About 60 meetings are scheduled.

Other speakers Wednesday morning include Eddie Aldrete, Vice President of IBC Bank; Jana Barresi, Director of Federal Government Relations for Wal-Mart; Mark Curran, Sheriff, Lake County, Ill.; Jesus Loya, Angel Investor and former DREAMer; and Carlos Moran, Board Member, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

In addition, a group of BBB leaders met this morning at the White House and stood with President Obama as he called for support for the Senate’s bipartisan bill and spoke of the urgency for 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:


ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Evangelicals pushing Republicans to back immigration reform

By Daniel Gonzalez
June 6, 2013
The radio ad opens with Valley megachurch Pastor Don Wilson declaring that “Christians should be known for their love,” while soothing guitar music plays in the background.
But the ad’s religious tone quickly segues into the thorny political issue of immigration reform, with Wilson imploring evangelicals to join a movement that asks political leaders to support changes rooted in biblical values.
Those values, Wilson intones, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers and, finally, “establish a path toward citizenship” for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
“Our Arizona elected officials need your prayers,” concludes Wilson, senior pastor of the 20,000-member Christ’s Church of the Valley, based in Peoria. “They need to hear your voice.”
The 1-minute ad has been running all week on two Valley radio stations: conservative talk-radio station KKNT-AM (960), “The Patriot,” and Christian radio station KPXQ-AM (1360).
Similar ads narrated by other prominent evangelical Christian leaders from around the country have been running this week in 13 other key states.
The ads are part of a growing campaign by politically influential evangelical Christian leaders using Bible Scripture to drum up support for immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.
The ads are timed in advance of the full U.S. Senate’s debate over the sweeping immigration-reform bill, which is expected to start next week. The bill, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight, will need to gain the support of conservative Republicans to ensure passage in the Senate and later in the GOP-controlled House.
Read more:

THE HILL: Paul Ryan endorses immigration bill after Labrador walks away
By Russell Berman
June 6, 2013
A bipartisan group negotiating a House immigration bill earned a key endorsement Thursday from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a day after one of its eight core members quit the effort because of a dispute over healthcare policy.
Ryan, the House GOP budget chief and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, told The Hill that he supported the legislation the House group hopes to introduce this month, despite the departure of conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho).
“I do support what they’re doing,” Ryan said. “I think they put out a good product. It’s good policy.”
Ryan has kept in close contact with the group since the November election, but as recently as Wednesday he had declined to endorse the substance of their emerging proposal, and it was not clear whether he would side with Labrador or the three remaining Republicans in the group: Reps. John Carter (Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.) and Sam Johnson (Texas).
Labrador, a former immigration attorney, informed his colleagues on Wednesday that he was leaving the group because he was not satisfied that taxpayers would not have to foot the bill for immigrants in the country illegally in their legislation.
Rather than agree to detailed language on healthcare, the group decided instead to essentially punt the issue and hew to the contours of the Senate Gang of Eight legislation, which makes clear that undocumented immigrants in a provisional legal status cannot receive federal benefits from the 2010 healthcare law.
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Preliminary Debate on Immigration Reform Begins on Senate Floor

June 07, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Senate took an important step as it began the preliminary proceedings for a full debate and vote on S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. A vote that allows substantive debate, including amendments, to proceed is expected Tuesday.

Also expected in coming days is a report from the Congressional Budget Office, which “scores” bills based on whether they would increase or decrease the national debt. A fair but conservative CBO report is likely.

The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:

“The debate just beginning in the Senate marks a crossroads for immigration reform. As the Senate moves forward, leaders from both parties must come together for a rational debate. They must take to heart the will of voters across the political spectrum who recognize that a better immigration process is in the best interest of all Americans.

“In the coming weeks, we urge our senators to engage each other candidly and respectfully, always keeping in mind the sizeable contributions that immigrants make to our economy and communities.

“At the end of the day, the Senate must pass immigration reform worthy of our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

The Week Ahead: June 3-7

June 03, 2013 - Posted by Communications Intern

“To those who say that this immigration effort undermines the rule of law, the rule of law has been undermined for the past thirty years by the federal government’s refusal to take a stand on this issue. We must hold our representatives accountable for the current mess and make them vote between this possible immigration solution and the broken status quo.”
—Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller at a Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform event in Frankfort, Ind., May 30

Congressional Budget Office to Announce Findings on Senate Immigration Bill
As Congress returns to Washington from its Memorial Day recess, the Senate immigration bill resides with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for “scoring.” All legislation must go through the CBO, which “scores” bills based on whether they would increase or decrease the national debt.

A fair but conservative CBO report is likely in the coming days. Key elements to watch for include whether the report includes economic benefits that would stem from creating a pathway to legal status and eventual U.S. citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already living in the country. Such benefits are likely to be substantial.

Immigrants — whether newly arrived via legal channels or newly empowered through legalization — are workers who add value to the economy through what they produce. They are consumers and entrepreneurs who create jobs through their purchasing power and the businesses they establish, both of which sustain U.S. jobs and generate new streams of tax revenue.

Further substantive action in the Senate will follow the CBO’s announcement. The bill is likely to proceed to the Senate floor next week.

June 12 ‘BBB to DC’ Event Will Showcase Breadth of Support for Reform
Just as the full Senate is likely to be taking up the immigration-reform bill, faith, law enforcement and business leaders from the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform (BBB) network will come to Washington from around the country to show their support for broad, commonsense reform.

“BBB to DC” will feature a breakfast program, open to press, with a keynote address by Haley Barbour, among other speakers. Barbour is former governor of Mississippi, former chairman of the Republican Governors Association and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center Immigration Task Force.

Following the program, Bibles, Badges and Business leaders will deliver their message of support for reform directly to members of Congress and their staffs in meetings on Capitol Hill — possibly while debate is under way on the Senate floor. The event follows a recess week during which BBB leaders from Indiana, Missouri and Kansas and California held events to continue the momentum for bipartisan immigration solutions.

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

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:


TIME: Undocumented in Moore: Why Evangelicals Want Immigration Reform

By Elizabeth Dias
May 30, 2013
Pastor Isaías Vargas leads a Latino evangelical church just a mile from Plaza Towers Elementary, the Oklahoma school that was flattened in last week’s devastating tornado. When the storm hit, Vargas immediately knew his church, Ciudad de Dios, would become a center point for Latino relief efforts. Soon he learned that nineteen Latino families in the church’s neighborhood suffered total or near total loss. But there was a catch: At least thirteen of the families were undocumented immigrants.
Thirteen families may not seem like much, but it is a lot for a small church of only 50 to 75 people, especially given the enormity of their need. The basic needs of these families are the same as their documented neighbors—water, food, transportation, clothes—but their resources are far more limited. You need a social security number to get FEMA assistance. Applications demand your address, contact numbers and insurance information. In other words, going to FEMA means telling the government you are in the country illegally, and that’s a risk many families are not willing to take.
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WASHINGTON POST (Rubin Post): Immigration opponents’ arguments are really poor
By Jennifer Rubin
May 28, 2013
Immigration opponents usually fall into one of two categories — those who know nothing about what is in the bill and those who fancy themselves as experts and can recite it chapter and verse. What both categories of opponents lack, however, is a coherent argument against an immigration-reform bill. (Understand the bill in its current version will not be the final law. It will get amended on the Senate floor, and a wholly different House bill will emerge, followed by a conference with more wrangling.)
Let’s start with the strain of argument that says the border provisions are too weak and therefore won’t solve the problem or will encourage more illegal immigration. These very same people were often in favor of nearly identical measures (double fencing, more money for security, drone surveillance, etc. ) with the only difference being that this version includes a pathway to citizenship. Were the anti-Gang of 8 types proposing useless measures or did they think that border security was worth doing when they were pushing all those border-security steps?
Well, they respond, you can’t trust the Obama administration and by allowing a path to citizenship with a less-than-airtight border you’re going to wind up worse than before.
With due respect, this makes no sense. You don’t draft legislation with the idea that President Obama will be in office forever (and in fact he’ll be gone well before many of the provisions kick in). Moreover, which is better — Obama with no meaningful border-security legislation (and deciding by executive order to grant legal status to certain groups) or Obama with a ton of border-security measures and oversight by Congress?
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