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The Top Immigration Stories for 2013

Senate OKs Reform, Deportations Fall, Pope Speaks Out


It's fair to say that 2013 will go down as a year that started with great expectation for reform but ended with disappointment and political stalemate.


1. Senate Passes Historic Immigration Reform Bill

In June 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that was the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. system since the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986.

The legislation called for a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country, as well as enhanced border security, a guest-worker program and help for childhood arrivals -- the self-described DREAMers who entered the country illegally as children.

Unfortunately, the bill has hit a brick wall in the U.S. House and gone nowhere.

2. Deportation Hits New Lows for Obama Administration

Deportations in the Obama administration fell to the lowest level since the president took office and are poised to hit the government's lowest level since 2007, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

About 364,700 unauthorized immigrants were deported during the 2013 fiscal year, down 11% from the roughly 410,000 that the government deported in 2012. The CIS obtained internal numbers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and says the decline in deportations comes because the administration has changed its policy about what immigrants the government should remove.... Read more

3. Pope Francis Speaks Out for Immigrants

Only weeks after becoming the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis spoke out for immigrants, criticizing the growing backdrop of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe. He said there was a “globalization of indifference” to migrants and he called their suffering “a painful thorn in my heart.”

"We have become used to the suffering of others," said Francis. "Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion."

4. Renunciations Continue Rise, Including Tina Turner

The Treasury Department, which tracks renunciation cases, reported that 560 Americans renounced their citizenship or gave back their green cards during the third quarter of 2013. That brought the total to 2,369 for the year, which is believed to be the highest total since 2011.

Rock legend Tina Turner is giving up her U.S. citizenship, according to the U.S. State Department. Turner, 74, who has lived in Europe for decades, announced her intention to become a Swiss citizen.

5. Obama Names Johnson To Replace Napolitano at DHS

President Obama selected Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson as his replacement for outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Johnson has a distinguished record as a federal prosecutor and military legal expert who helped make the government's case for ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that kept gays in the closet.

But one thing that Johnson doesn't have is a record on immigration.

Since a DHS secretary must deal with border security, enforcement and distribution of immigration benefits, this could turn out to be a big deal.

Some members of Congress, Republicans naturally, are complaining that Johnson's inexperience with immigration issues makes him unqualified to run DHS. Some GOP lawmakers are accusing the president of selecting a longtime political supporter instead of a qualified candidate.

Napolitano, after all, came to DHS after serving as governor of Arizona, a border state that is on the front lines of the U.S. immigration debate.

All this makes his confirmation hearings intriguing and potentially contentious. Still, the president believes he can get Johnson confirmed and get Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of the year.

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