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.
A record 2,999 Americans gave up their citizenship in 2013, according to statistics from the U.S. Treasury Department.
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.
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.
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.
Congressional Republicans are meeting in Cambridge, Md., this weekend and their annual retreat figures to be more controversial than usual because of a looming internal debate over immigration reform.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says its time for the party to put a plan to counter the one Democrats support and helped pass in the Senate last year.
Instead of a comprehensive approach to reform, Boehner favors incremental changes to fix the country's broken immigration system.
"Doing immigration reform in a common-sense step-by-step manner helps our members understand the bite-sized pieces," he said. "And it helps our constituents build more confidence that what we're doing makes sense."
The problem is what to do about the path to citizenship. The right wing of the Republican Party and Tea Party members want no part of allowing citizenship to the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants.
However, national polls have consistently shown most Americans favor the Democrat-supported path. It could be that Boehner and the Republican leadership will try to legislate around the issue, putting up a bill that doesn't support the path but doesn't explicitly prevent it either.
One of the biggest changes to the U.S. immigration system over the past decade is also one of the most frequently overlooked.
That is the explosion in Internet services offered by the federal government.
Today, foreign nationals looking to immigrate to the United States can take advantage of a wide spectrum of information, forms and advice available free of charge on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Prospective immigrants can learn how to become a U.S. citizen and get started online, or how to apply for a green card online and get all the paperwork that they need to do it. And you don't have to pay an immigration attorney to navigate the process.
Immigrants who already have green cards can find out how to replace them if they're lost or stolen. There are also inspirational stories about people who risked everything to come to the United States as refugees or asylum-seekers.
For prospective immigrants, the USCIS site is essential to visit, learn and enjoy.
Justin Bieber is unlikely to have visa problems or suffer any damage to his immigration status because of his recent arrest on DUI charges in Miami Beach, Fla.
Generally, it takes a felony conviction or a jail sentence of more than a year for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to step in and revoke an immigrant's visa or deny re-entry to the United States.
The 19-year-old Canadian singer faces several charges besides the DUI, including one for resisting arrest and another for an expired driver's license, but is unlikely to be convicted of an offense serious enough to warrant a change in his immigration status.
Police said Bieber admitted smoking marijuana, drinking and taking prescription medication before he was clocked driving close to 60 mph in a 30 mph zone.
During recent years, the Obama administration has directed immigration officials to shift their enforcement priorities to removing immigrants, both legal and illegal, with serious offenses and criminal records, not those with minor drug charges or traffic violations.
Professional sports stars and entertainers such as Bieber often get a P Visa to enter the country, a designation reserved for foreign visitors with extraordinary talents.
It appears that Bieber may have decided to exercise some temporary "self-deportation," however. He hastily left the United States and was spotted on the beach in Panama two days after his arrest.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is saying it will "pull out all stops" to help get a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress during the next year.
"We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted," said Tom Donohue, the chamber's president and chief executive officer during his annual state of American business address in Washington on Jan. 8. "The Chamber will pull out all the stops -- through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with unions, faith organizations, law enforcement and others -- to get it done."
Donohue and the Chamber of Commerce have been longstanding advocates for comprehensive reform, arguing that fixing the broken system would be good for business, good for U.S. workers and help stimulate the nation's economy.
Donohue and the chamber are a powerful lobbying force that helped get the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last June.
Supporters of reform are hoping that Congress can make progress on a bill before the political climate heats up for the mid-term elections in November.
Immigration reform optimists are hoping that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner may be willing to break ranks with the Tea Party as Congress gets back from its holiday break.
The right wing of Boehner's Republican party has opposed comprehensive immigration reform and threatened to go after the seats of members who do. But Sunday, on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he believes Boehner is ready to ignore the Tea Party and work with Democrats on a reform bill.
"For the first time, Speaker Boehner said he won't let the minority of his caucus -- the Tea Party minority -- run the show," Schumer said on ABC. "The Republican leadership realizes that if we don't do immigration and get immigration reform done, it hurts them politically."
The Hispanic and immigrant vote cost Republicans dearly in the 2012 presidential election and they do have political motivations for reaching out to those communities. Heightened border control and more visas for skilled immigrants could be two issues that bring more Republicans into reform cause.
Schumer was part of the "Gang of Eight" that got a comprehensive reform bill passed in the Senate last June.
After months of often heated, partisan debate, the U.S. Senate has confirmed the top two officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
Jeh Johnson, President Obama's nominee to run the department, was confirmed on an overwhelming 78-16 vote. Alejandro Mayorkas, the No. 2 official at DHS, was confirmed on a 54-41 roll call vote that came under the
Senate's new rules that make confirmation of nominees possible with a simple majority instead of the previous 60-vote requirement.
Johnson won the votes of 23 Republican senators, not an easy achievement for a Democratic nominee in Washington these days. He replaces Janet Napolitano who resigned earlier this year to run the California university system.
"I hope to be a visible leader (and) remind people of the importance of the overriding, unifying mission of homeland security," Johnson told senators.
A highly-regarded lawyer for the Pentagon, Johnson, 56, is essentially an unknown quantity when it comes to immigration policy. He has virtually no record to suggest how he might lead the department's enforcement efforts.
Mayorkas' confirmation was more contentious because he is the subject of a DHS inspector general inquiry over allegations of mismanagement in the visa program that he oversees at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.