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Dan Moffett

Immigration Issues


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Jeb Bush Defends His Comments About Unauthorized Immigrants

Monday April 14, 2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is feeling the heat from his comment earlier this month that unauthorized immigrants are not committing a felony but rather, an "act of love."

"I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place," Bush told Fox News on April 6. "The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally ... and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family."

Bush quickly became the target for criticism from the right wing of the Republican Party. Conservatives and Tea Party members charged him with condoning illegal immigration, undermining the rule of law and compromising the party's principles.

At a GOP dinner in Connecticut last week, Bush defended his remarks: "I made some statements about immigration reform (that) apparently generated a little more news than I anticipated," said Bush, adding "You know I've been saying the for the past three or four years. I said the exact same thing that I've said regularly."

However, in March 2013, Bush released a book on U.S. immigration in which he appeared to reverse his longstanding position that unauthorized immigrants should be allowed a pathway to citizenship. In Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, written with attorney Clint Bolick, Bush rejects the idea of U.S. citizenship for undocumented residents. So it's easy to see why many are confused about where Bush stands on immigration.

Bush now says that with the right approach to comprehensive immigration reform, the country could enforce its laws and still treat immigrants fairly and with sensitivity.

Republicans have been working overtime trying to agree on a plan for reform since Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, due largely to a huge advantage for President Obama among Hispanics and Latinos.

Immigrant Baseball Players Will Contribute Mightily to MLB

Monday April 7, 2014

The Major League Baseball season is underway and once again, with 223 foreign-born players on opening-day rosters, immigrants will have a lot to say about deciding who wins the World Series.

Foreign-born players make up 26.1% of MLB rosters, according to the commissioner's office, down from 28.2% last year and 28.4% in 2012.

Not only are the immigrants here in big numbers they are also bringing big talent, with stars such as Jose Fernandez, Luis Pujols, Yasiel Puig, Miguel Cabrera and Robbie Cano primed for huge seasons.

Immigrant players come from 16 countries, the most since MLB started tracking the numbers six years ago. The Dominican Republic continues to lead the way with 82 players, down from a high of 99 in 2007.

Venezuela follows with 59 players, followed by Cuba with 19, Puerto Rico (players who by birth are U.S. citizens) with 11 and Canada with 10. Japan and Mexico have nine each. Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes became the first Brazilian to make an opening-day roster.

The minor leagues are even more reliant on foreign-grown talent with immigrants making up 47.8% of the players.

Most foreign-born players come to the United States with visas reserved for talented athletes, and many of them have gone on to become permanent residents or even naturalized U.S. citizens.

Supreme Court's Inaction Is Victory For Immigrant Rights Advocates

Monday March 31, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on two much-anticipated cases involving local immigration enforcement in March, and the justices' inaction was good news for advocates for immigrant rights.

The high court decided against hearing the appeals of cases involving Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa. The two towns had sought to overturn appeals court rulings that found their immigration ordinances had overreached and infringed on federal immigration law. The justices let stand the appeals court rulings.

The court also stayed out of the debate over local authorities' power to arrest people on immigration violations by not hearing a Frederick County, Md., case involving a Salvadoran immigrant.

In that case, Roxana Orellana Santos said she was arrested in October 2008 after being questioned by county sheriff's deputies while she was eating her lunch in an outdoor area at the restaurant where she worked as a dishwasher. Santos sued the county after 45 days in jail, saying that the arrest violated her Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.

Immigrant advocates said it was a clear case of profiling by police who used "Arizona-style tactics."

Two years ago, the justices struck down several provisions of the controversial Arizona law that has become the model for local immigration lawmaking in places like Farmers Branch and Hazleton.

USCIS To Start Accepting Petitions For H-1B Visa Program on April 1

Sunday March 30, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is ready to begin accepting petitions for H-1B visas beginning Tuesday, April 1, for the 2015 fiscal cap.

The government restricts the number of H-1B visas to 65,000 per year, with an exemption for the first 20,000 petitioners who have earned master's degrees or higher in the United States.

The H-1B program is an important immigration tool for U.S. businesses because it allows companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require "theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge."

Leaders in both political parties have supported the H-1B program as a way to bring in the foreign talent that can help the U.S. economic recovery. The Obama administration and members of Congress have been particularly supportive of H-1B visas for professionals in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

Demand for the visas is high. USCIS says it expects to receive more than enough petitions to reach both H-1B caps by April 7.

Pew Study: Federal Immigration Prosecutions Show Dramatic Rise

Monday March 24, 2014

The Pew Research Center has released an analysis of federal prosecutions and convictions that shows the dramatic impact immigration policy has had on the courts.

According to the researchers, between 1992 and 2012, the number of offenders sentenced in the federal courts more than doubled, and that increase was caused largely by a 28-fold rise in the number of convictions for unlawful re-entry. During the Obama administration's first term, deportations soared to record levels.

Because the federal convictions grew more closely aligned with deportation cases, the demographic makeup of offenders changed, the researchers found. In 1992, Hispanics and Latinos made up 23% of sentenced federal offenders. By 2012, they accounted for nearly half, 48%.

And the percentage of non-citizen offenders rose sharply, too, more than doubling from 22% to 46%, as the government targeted unauthorized immigrants for prosecution.

According to the Pew study, nearly all of the federally sentenced unlawful reentry offenders received prison sentences in 2012.

Last month, President Obama called for a review of the government's deportation laws. Hispanic and Latino groups have complained for years that the government should focus its deportation efforts on felons and violent offenders, not unauthorized immigrants without criminal records.

Obama Orders DHS To Review Government's Deportation Laws

Monday March 17, 2014

President Obama has ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review the way the government enforces the nation's immigration laws, specifically how it handles deportations.

According to a White House statement, Obama wants DHS "to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of law."

During its first term, the Obama administration sent deportations to record highs and drew criticism from Hispanic and Latino groups, as well as immigrant advocates, for deporting working people instead of focusing on those with criminal records. During the last two years, the rate of deportations has declined.

Obama used an executive order to give reprieves to childhood arrivals -- unauthorized immigrants who entered the country as children -- and more than 500,000 have taken advantage of his "deferred action" program.

But the president has said he can't use executive orders to reduce deportations further and has urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation to fix the broken U.S. system.

President Obama announced the review of deportation policy after a meeting with the Hispanic congressional caucus last week.

Pew Poll: Large Majority Still Supports the Path to Legalization

Friday February 28, 2014

A new national poll released by the Pew Research Center has found that Americans still support a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants but are divided equally over whether the increase in the number of deportations is a good thing.

The Pew researchers found that an overwhelming majority of 73% of respondents believes that unauthorized immigrants should be allowed to remain in the country, either by applying for citizenship or permanent residency.

But when asked about increased deportations, the responses are equally divided about whether it's a good or bad thing: 45% on each side.

Since President Obama took office, the government has deported 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants, a higher rate of deportation than any of his predecessors.

The path to legal status is a critical component of the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year and supported by Obama and Democrats.

More Americans Giving Up Citizenship Than Ever Before

Monday February 24, 2014

A record 2,999 Americans gave up their citizenship in 2013, according to statistics from the U.S. Treasury Department.

The number of renunciations has grown steadily through the last decade as more U.S. citizens and green card holders have sought to avoid taxes by moving abroad and giving up their citizenship.

In 2000, only 431 people renounced their citizenship, but the number had swelled to 1,534 by 2010.

Unlike most countries, the United States requires all its citizens to file tax returns, no matter where they live or where they earn their income.

Renunciation is governed by Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the U.S. Department of State oversees the process. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and rock star Tina Turner are among the famous Americans who have decided to give up their citizenship in recent years.

The U.S. government takes renunciations very seriously and has stringent requirements for those who wish to surrender their citizenship. And there's no turning back once you give up being an American.

Obama Says Congress Will Pass Immigration Reform by 2017

Monday February 17, 2014

President Obama says Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform before he leaves office in 2017.

"I believe it will get done before my presidency is over," he told Univision Radio on Feb. 14. "I would like to get it done this year."

House Speaker John Boehner put a halt to negotiations over an immigration reform bill this month because he said President Obama "couldn't be trusted" to enforce tougher border controls, though the Obama administration has deported more unauthorized immigrants than any administration in history.

The president says the real reasons Republicans have balked on reform is that they're afraid of political consequences in the mid-term elections later this year.

"They're worried and they're scared about the political blowback," Mr. Obama said. "We can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year."

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a member of the Senate's Gang of Eight, said on CNN's State of the Union that his party can't stay on the sidelines forever.

"I have not given up hope that we would act and we must act," McCain said, pointing to demographic changes in his state and the Southwest, where Hispanic voters will insist on immigration reform.

Obama has urged supporters of reform to call and write their Republican representatives and push for change. "I think sending a strong message to them that this is the right thing to do, it's important to do, it's the fair thing to do, and it will actually improve the economy and give people a chance," the president said.

Brookings Study Urges Overhauling EB-5 Visa Program for Investors

Monday February 10, 2014

The Brookings Institution, a non-partisan Washington-based think tank, has released a study that says the EB-5 visa program for foreign investors and entrepreneurs isn't being run as efficiently as it should.

The researchers found that the program is overly complicated for immigrants to navigate, and that too often there isn't enough coordination between U.S. immigration officials and the local economies the program is supposed to be helping.

The study suggests involving the U.S. Commerce Department in the program to gain more expertise and connections with the business community. The researchers also want the program to keep better records and statistics to help assess its effectiveness.

The EB-5 program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and with the Obama administration as a way to use immigration to stimulate the U.S. economy.

The program allows foreign investors and entrepreneurs to obtain green cards and permanent residency for themselves and their family members if they invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. business and create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs.

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