IMMIGRATION REFORM: A PATH TO RESIDENCY

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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A draft of a White House immigration proposal obtained by USA TODAY would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa, under the draft bill being written by the White House. If approved, they could then apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country, according to the draft.

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The bill is being developed as members in both chambers of Congress are drafting their own immigration bills. In the House, a bipartisan group of representatives has been negotiating an immigration proposal for years and are writing their own bill. Last month, four Republican senators joined with four Democratic senators to announce their agreement on the general outlines of an immigration plan.

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One of those senators, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Obama‘s bill repeats the failures of past legislation and would be “dead on arrival” in Congress. “It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders,  (and) creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally,” Rubio said. “It would actually make our immigration problems worse.”

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The draft was obtained from an Obama administration official who said it was being distributed to various agencies.  The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the proposal publicly. The bill mirrors many provisions of the bipartisan 2007 bill that was spearheaded by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and ultimately failed.

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In his first term, Obama often deferred to Congress on drafting and advancing major legislation, including the Affordable Care Act. He has openly supported the efforts in Congress to take the lead on immigration legislation, and just this week met with Democratic senators to discuss their proposals. But two weeks ago in Las Vegas, while outlining his immigration plans, Obama made clear that he would not wait too long for Congress to get moving. “If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away,” he said.
White House spokesman Clark Stevens said Saturday that the administration continues to support the bipartisan efforts ongoing in Congress.
“The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based,” Stevens said. “We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit.”

READ MORE: USA TODAY

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IMMIGRATION REFORM AND BORDER SECURITY

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The effort in Washington to pass immigration reform is headed for a potential showdown over border security – with the Senate and White House plans putting different emphasis on the issue, and Democrats and Republicans appearing to disagree over the extent of the problem.

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The likely conflict was highlighted earlier this week when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared U.S. borders secure and said Republicans have a flawed argument about border security needing to precede comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe the border is secure,” Napolitano said Monday in San Diego, during a three-day swing of the Southwest border. “I believe the border’s a safe border (but) that’s not to say everything is 100 percent.”

She said the Republicans have failed to recognize yearly improvements in contraband seizures and the number of people caught trying to cross the border illegal. They also think border security is unrelated to interior immigration enforcement such as visa tracking and employment verification and the pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States, Napolitano also said.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

While the plan by President Obama, who has made immigration reform a second-term priority, includes tighter border security, the plan by a bipartisan Senate panel is contingent on securing the borders. Still, both sides agree that border security has improved since the Bush administration.

Roughly 365,000 people attempted to cross U.S. borders illegally in fiscal 2012 — a nearly 50 percent drop since fiscal 2008 and 78 percent drop from its peak in fiscal 2000, according to a Feb. 1 report by the U.S. Border Patrol, which based the findings on apprehensions. Borders agents also seized more than 4.2 million pounds of narcotics and $100 million in unreported currency over that period, the report states.

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AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite

However, Republicans on the eight-member Senate panel, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, says more needs to be done. “There remain several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people’s homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night,” he said last month in a statement. “But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years.” Still, the situation is far from perfect.

Chris Crane, president for the union for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, told a House committee Tuesday that agency morale is sagging in part because the country is allowing illegal immigrants to stay.

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“Agents cannot make arrests because of overstayed visa,” Crane said. “It’s not illegal anymore. … The agency is falling apart, morale is at an all-time low.”

The Senate plan calls for improving border security through more agents, improved technology such as unmanned drones and the better use of existing resources. The National Guard in December purportedly agreed to a one-year extension with the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the Southwest border. Roughly 1,200 Guardsmen began patrolling the region with Board Patrol and U.S. Customs agents in 2010, but their ranks have been trimmed to about 300 and their role is now largely to support the roughly 18,000 U.S. Border agents in the region – including more aerial observations.

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Despite Napolitano arguing that Republicans have missed the point about border security being tied to visa tracking and employment verification, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican on the Senate panel, publicly made the connection weeks earlier. Rubio told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that his goal is to ensure border security is part of the reform plan because “if not the workplace enforcement, the visa tracking … don’t happen.”

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“Then we are going to be right back here again in five to 10 years with another three, four, five million people who are undocumented,” he said.

The Senate plan includes a component to evaluate the Southwest border – a commission composed of governors, attorneys general and community leaders from that region to monitor security progress and make recommendations. However, the weight of their findings and to what extent border security is included in the potential-but-likely legislation remains unclear.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to discuss,” Rubio told Hewitt. “That’s part of turning a principle into a bill, into a law. … It’s important that we have input from the people that are affected by the border, because it’s one thing to say that the border is certified from, you know, an air conditioned office in Washington. Another thing is to have to deal with it on the ground as a law enforcement person.

Read more: FOX NEWS

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WHAT IS THE LATEST WITH IMMIGRATION AND THE ELECTION?

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

This has been a historic week on immigration policy in an election year.

If upheld, the Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona “show me your papers” provision would have a huge mobilizing effect on Latino voters.  At the Supreme Court’s Arizona v. United States hearing on Wednesday, the narrow legal focus of the proceedings and Justices’ related discussion led many commentators to speculate that the “show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law would likely stand.  A ruling to uphold the law would not only unleash widespread discrimination in Arizona and other states with copycat legislation, it would mobilize Latino voters and other voters for whom the immigration debate is important and viewed through a personal lens.  Regardless of the outcome, the ruling will have major political ramifications in 2012 presidential race.
Coming in the heat of a race in which Democrats hope for huge Latino turnout and Republicans hope for just the opposite, the decision will draw a sharp contrast between a President who fought the Arizona law and a Republican nominee who supports it.

“Will Mitt Etch-a-Sketch on immigration?”

Probably not, but if he does, it won’t work. In diagnosing Mitt Romney’s problem with Latino voters, many commentators have concluded that Romney will tack toward the middle on immigration. We beg to differ. He may come up with some legal immigration package designed to soften his image a bit, but it’s our view that he has pandered too much and too recently to the nativist minority in the GOP to flip flop now. The last thing the Romney campaign wants is a fight with the right over immigration combined with a week of stories about his “Etch-a-Sketch” on immigration. And if we are wrong and he does shift positions, would it work? We think not. He’s already branded with Latino voters.  As Ron Brownstein notes of recent polling, “Obama’s share of the vote among Latinos notably exceeds his approval rating with them.
That’s a telling measure of how much Romney has alienated those voters, because it’s unusual for a president to poll much above his approval rating with any group.”  And Latino voters are not stupid.  They are not going to fall for a little general election shuffle.  Just ask Meg Whitman.  Some salt and pepper for the stew: Andrew Sullivan predicts Romney will stay hard right here; Michael Tomasky thinks Romney will bust a move to the center but argues it wouldn’t work here.

Marco Rubio’s DREAMs: looking past 2012 to 2016? 

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The chatter surrounding Senator Marco Rubio’s impending legislation modeled on the DREAM Act has reached a fever pitch. Much of the commentary focuses on what Rubio and the DREAM legislation might mean for Romney in 2012 and Rubio’s chances in the Veepstakes.  Again, we beg to differ.  We doubt Rubio will be the VP choice and we believe he has a longer-term vision in mind. Our take is that Rubio knows Romney is cooked with Latino voters and is already focused on Republican Party’s post-2012 effort to repair its image among Latino voters.  Eventual passage of a Rubio-championed DREAM Act would indeed help Rubio’s chances to be the leader of a more Latino-friendly GOP going into 2016.

Pundits and insiders agree – immigration helping Democrats and hurting Republicans:

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What a difference a few years makes.  During 2005 and 2006, many Republicans thought they would reap the political rewards of using a hard line immigration stance as a wedge issue.  Though post-election analyses in 20062008, and 2010 showed that a hardline immigration position did not help politically, and in many cases hurt candidates politically, it seems as though the conventional wisdom has finally caught up with the election results.  A National Journal’s political Insiders generally agreed across the aisle that the issue of immigration stands to help Democrats and hurt Republicans in the November elections.  Almost half of the Democratic Insiders said the immigration issue would “help a little” while a little more than a third said it would “help a lot.” Among the Republican insiders, more than half believed immigration would “hurt a little,” a handful predicted it would “hurt a lot,” while three in ten said the issue would have “no effect.”

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RUBIO HAS A DREAM

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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Hoping to defuse an issue hurting Republicans among Hispanic voters, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is working on a compromise alternative to the DREAM Act, a proposal backed strongly by Democrats and Hispanics to offer a normal life to children of illegal immigrant families.

But Rubio is taking a risk that his compromise will please neither side. It could anger tea party-style Republicans while failing to satisfy many of his own Hispanic constituents. So far, he hasn’t persuaded even leaders of his own party, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and House Speaker John Boehner, to get in line.

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“It’s a significant risk,” said retired University of South Florida political scientist Darryl Paulson, a Republican. “The primary thing any political candidate wants to do is solidify his base, and this could fracture that base.” 
Rubio has been accused of using the issue as an election-year ploy, but his spokesman Alex Conant said, “There’s just as much political peril as there is potential benefit in doing anything like this.”
Originally proposed by members of both parties 10 years ago, the original DREAM Act would allow a path to citizenship for young people brought here as children when their families illegally immigrated, if they attend college or serve in the military. The name is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. Such young people, not having known any other home, often are prevented from going to college because of their undocumented status, even after serving in the military. The DREAM Act would allow student loans and work-study jobs but not federal higher education grants for the students.

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One recent case involved the valedictorian of North Miami High School, Daniela Pelaez, an aspiring surgeon. Admitted to the University of Florida and Dartmouth College, she instead faced deportation because her family came here illegally from Colombia when she was 4 years old. Pelaez got a respite from deportation last month after her case made headlines and sparked demonstrations by fellow students.

Daniela Pelaez 18, Alberto Carvalho, superintendent for Miami-Dade Public Schools, and Dayana Pelaez 26, at press conference, where over twenty-five hundred students protest the possible deportation of student Daniela Pelaez 18, this Friday morning, March 2, 2012, at the North Miami Senior High School. Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Rubio recently told The Huffington Post he wants “a bipartisan solution … that does not reward or encourage illegal immigration by granting amnesty, but helps accommodate talented young people like Daniela, who find themselves undocumented through no fault of their own.” Throughout his career, Rubio has had to thread the needle on immigration issues, trying on the one hand to please his conservative base, but also satisfy his Hispanic constituency. That has led him to compromise or to take ambivalent positions on issues, including official English and tough state anti-illegal immigrant laws. The son of a Cuban immigrant family, Rubio has said the original DREAM Act is flawed because allowing a path to citizenship could lead to “chain migration,” in which family members sponsor each other.

His proposal, which he hopes will be considered this summer, will include a temporary student visa rather than citizenship or legal resident status for students. But it likely would allow the students eventually to apply for legal residency without returning to their parents’ home countries. Those honorably discharged from the military, Conant said, also would be able to seek legal residency or citizenship.

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Democrats who back the original DREAM Act, a 10-year-old proposal that passed in the House last year but failed in the Senate, decry Rubio’s idea as creating a permanent underclass of “bracero” non-citizen workers.

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“It makes a very limited offer to a small segment of the population,” said Rodolfo de la Garza, a Columbia University political scientist who specializes in Hispanic voters. “I think what most Latinos are going to pick up on is what I have to characterize as either a political ploy or profound disingenuousness to the point of deceit on Rubio’s part.” He called the DREAM Act “the one issue on which there is a clear Latino position — they are 75-80 percent in favor of it in numerous polls.”
Conant called the bracero allegation “nonsense.” “Nothing is in this proposal that would prohibit these kids from someday seeking permanent residence or citizenship.”

Immigrants chant slogans during a rally Monday, May 1, 2006, in Miami. Hundreds of thousands of mostly Hispanic immigrants skipped work and took to the streets Monday, flexing their newfound political muscle in a nationwide boycott that succeeded in slowing or shutting many farms, factories, markets and restaurants. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

In a national poll of Hispanic voters in January by Univision, ABC and Latino Decisions, respondents cited “immigration reform/DREAM Act” as tied with the economy and jobs as the top issue in their voting decisions for the November election. In Florida, where large numbers of Hispanics are either Cuban refugees, who automatically receive resident status, or Puerto Ricans who are citizens, immigration and the DREAM Act were still in second place, with 17 percent, to 23 percent for the economy. Despite that, Romney said during the primary campaign that he would veto the DREAM Act, although he favored the idea for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) after Romney was introduced by Rubio during a town-hall-style meeting in Aston, Pa.
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Earlier this week, Romney declined to endorse Rubio’s compromise, even though he was standing next to Rubio in a joint news conference in Pennsylvania at the time. “It has many features to commend it,” Romney said, “but it’s something that we’re studying.” He said he expects to lay out immigration proposals before the November election, but added, “Obviously our first priority is to secure the border.”
Also this week, Boehner said it is unlikely Rubio’s proposal could pass the House this year, citing “a very hostile political environment.” “To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best,” he said. Conant called Romney’s reluctance “totally understandable, that he would want to see the plan’s details before endorsing the plan. But the idea isn’t likely to be popular with the tea party Republicans to whom Romney and Boehner must appeal. 

Boehner To Rubio: DREAM On, Dude! photo by Jeff Malet

“It’s an amnesty bill — it rewards lawbreaking,” said Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal immigration advocacy group. “Rubio is marching off into McCain-land” — a reference to Ariz. Sen. JohnMcCain’s support for an immigration reform bill that would have allowed a path to citizenship. “Whatever support he’s going to pick up from Hispanics is probably going to be far outweighed by what he loses from his conservative base.” he said. Rubio’s idea may get a better reception, but still not unanimous approval, from tea partiers in his home state, who consider him a hero.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah waits to speak during a Tea Party Express town hall meeting at the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday.
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“Some people draw the hard line, absolutely no amnesty, but some tea party groups understand you’re trying to address a difficult issue,” said tea party leader Karin Hoffman, who said she formed her opinion from online forums and message boards. “They acknowledge you’re providing a way for them (young illegal immigrants) to be a contributing member of society, and it’s not blanket amnesty — it’s for the individual alone.”

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WILL SENATOR MARCO RUBIO BE THE NEXT VICE PRESIDENT: HE SAYS HE CAN’T DELIVER, “YOU’VE GOT TO EARN THE HISPANIC VOTE”

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, widely speculated to be a top pick for the Republican presidential running mate, once again firmly denied he would join the GOP ticket.

“I’m not going to be the vice president,” Rubio said Friday in an interview with CNN en Español‘s Ismael Cala. “I’m not.”

photo source AP

“I’ll tell you, the Hispanic vote has to be earned,” he said. “You can’t just put somebody on there and say, ‘This is gonna deliver it.’ You’ve got to earn it, and primarily I think you earn it through economic policies.”

Last month, Rubio rolled out a big endorsement for Mitt Romney, adding fuel to the fire in talks over whether Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, would possibly be tapped for the Republican veep spot. Rubio, however, has repeatedly shot down the notion. With Latino-Americans becoming a more influential voting bloc, politicians are increasingly growing more aggressive in their efforts to court their votes. But the junior senator argued Friday that choosing him as a running mate would not do the trick.

In Florida, Republican Marco Rubio won the senate seat convincingly, with a strong turnout from Latino voters. Photograph: Gary Rothstein/EPA

“I think a better approach is the one I’ve talked about, and that is providing these kids some sort of non-immigrant visa status so they can continue to study and then work in the U.S.,” Rubio said. “Then at some point in the future they would be able to get in line, same line as everybody else in the world.”

Elected in 2010, Rubio was dubbed early on a rising star in GOP. He’s known for bucking popular policies within the Latino community, such as the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant a path to citizenship for minors in the country illegally, providing they served in the armed forces or attended college. Instead, he sides with positions more inline with the Republican platform on immigration.

Asked if he was setting aside a vice presidential spot in hopes of aiming for higher office in the future, Rubio said:

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, works in his Washington office. (EFE)

“Well I haven’t thought about that in that way. I don’t know what the future holds. I want to do a good job as a U.S. senator. “I think if I do that, I’ll have opportunities to do different things in future.”

READ MORE: KTBS

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