Monday May 13, 2013
The Gang of Eight's proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill has started its formal journey through Congress, and already there have been volleys of poison-pill amendments intended to derail the legislation as it goes through the Senate's committee mark-up process.
Complaints from Republicans on the far right, including Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, are that the proposal doesn't do enough to stop illegal traffic across the U.S.-Mexico border. Cruz proposed an amendment that would triple the number of Border Patrol agents to 60,000 and greatly increase border surveillance equipment. His amendment was voted down in committee however.
On the left, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., offered a proposal that would prevent Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano from deporting unauthorized immigrants to dangerous areas in their homelands. That proposal also died.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the Gang of Eight leaders, says there's room for improving the bill and that he's "encouraged that we are witnessing a transparent and deliberate process" to get it amended and passed.
The path to citizenship and ensuring a more secure border (a so-called "border trigger") with Mexico remain the two major potential stumbling blocks for passage.
Monday May 13, 2013
One reliable sign that the U.S. economy is recovering from the Great Recession is the steady increase in immigrant remittances to their homelands over the last five years.
According to research released by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, immigrant workers living in the United States are still trying to get back to the income levels they had before the recession took hold late in 2007, but remittances are stabilizing.
The MIF says that remittances sent from the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean reached $61.3 billion last year, down from the peak of $65 billion in 2008 but a substantial improvement from the steep decline in 2009 and 2010.
The Obama administration's use of "temporary protected status" has helped Haitian immigrants send money home to bolster the recovery from the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Monday May 6, 2013
One of the many contentious ideas in the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill is a largely overlooked provision that eliminates the diversity visa lottery (popularly known as the green card lottery) in exchange for making more visas available to highly skilled, highly educated immigrants in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
The tradeoff was intended to draw more votes from Republican lawmakers who believe U.S. businesses need more educated immigrants to fill openings for skilled workers.
Many Democrats in Congress oppose the move.
"A plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty famously reads, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,'" says Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La. "One-hundred thirty years after Emma Lazarus penned those famous words, some lawmakers want to change the meaning to 'give me your scientists, engineers and STEM grads.'"
Richmond, whose district includes much of New Orleans, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are pushing to keep the diversity visa program going.
They correctly argue that it has been responsible for bringing people into the country who without it would not have the opportunity to come. The idea behind the lottery is to give immigrants who don't have family or prospective employers in the United States a chance to come here and help the country become more ethnically diverse.
Only 50,000 diversity visa spots are available each year.
A random selection process determines who gets them.
Saturday May 4, 2013
President Obama is continuing to press his case for comprehensive immigration reform during his meetings with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City.
"I'm optimistic about us getting this done because it's the right thing to do. We've seen leaders from both parties indicate that now's the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done," Obama said at a joint press conference with Pena Nieto.
"If we're going to get that done, now's the time to do it."
The Mexican president has tried to steer clear of the immigration debate in the United States, only saying to Obama that "Mexico understands that this is a domestic affair for the U.S. and we wish you the best push that you're giving to immigration."
Improving border security with Mexico could be an important factor in getting the deal done with Congress. President Obama said there is room for improvement on security issues on both sides of the border.
"We've put enormous resources into border security," Obama said, allowing also that "there are areas where there's still more work to be done."