IMMIGRATION REFORM: A PATH TO RESIDENCY

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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WHY IS TEXAS SILENT ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM?

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Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Republicans have been relatively silent on the renewed push to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Despite the state’s nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants and 1,200-mile long border with Mexico, Perry and the Texas legislature have kept mum on the issue. They’re not resurrecting dozens of contentious immigration bills that roiled the statehouse in 2011. They’re not making the rounds on TV and radio to talk about President Barack Obama’s plan for legalizing immigrants. They’re not even saying the word “immigration.”

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When Perry delivered his State of the State recently — his first since his failed presidential run — glaringly absent in the 37-minute speech was any mention of the issue at all. The silence speaks to the sudden political shift in immigration since last fall’s presidential election, in which Hispanics voted Democratic by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and created a powerful incentive for Republicans to change their approach to this growing ethnic group.
r-MARCO-RUBIO-IMMIGRATION-large570In Congress, Republicans have softened their opposition to accommodating immigrants, and a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators unveiled a bill framework that includes a pathway to citizenship for those already in the U.S. so long as border security is beefed up.
But in Texas, the party has been left speechless in the Capitol. Only two years ago in his State of the State address, Perry called for punishing “sanctuary cities” that bar police officers from asking detainees about their immigration status. There’s no talk of such measures now.
“You want an answer? That tried and that failed,” said Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri. “Responsible leadership is now focusing on things that have a chance to get passed.”
Immigration isn’t an easy subject to ignore in Texas, though. About 16 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States live in the state, according to a Department of Homeland Security report in 2012, and immigration leaves an outsize footprint on the state’s infrastructure.

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So red-hot was immigration for Texas Republicans in the last legislative session that state Rep. Debbie Riddle camped outside the clerk’s office to make sure her bills targeting undocumented immigrants were filed first. About 50 bills related to immigration were filed in all. This time, Riddle, who once famously warned of immigrant mothers in the U.S. giving birth to “terror babies” who would grow up to attack the country as unsuspecting citizens, has not submitted any immigration proposals.
“Establishment Republicans are trying to brand a different message,” said Maria Martinez, executive director of the Immigration and Reform Coalition of Texas that backed “sanctuary city” proposals in 2011.

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READ MORE: FOX NEWS LATINO

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IS JOAQUIN CASTRO THE NEW LATINO POWER?

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

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It struck two months before, more than 1,000 miles from his home district of San Antonio, Texas. But Hurricane Sandy, which caused death and destruction in so much of the Northeast, was weighing heavily on Joaquin Castro on a blustery day in mid-January. That is when he cast his vote in favor of a $50.7 billion emergency bill to provide help to Sandy victims – his very first vote as a U.S. congressman.
“It was an awful tragedy,” Castro, 38, said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “It was my first real vote in Congress. It reminds you of how connected we all are despite the fact that we all represent a different geographic area.”
The former Texas state legislator may be in a bigger pond, but he’s no small fish. Joaquin Castro is already one of the most watched new members of Congress. Shortly after being sworn in, Castro was elected by his Democratic peers in the House to head their freshman class.

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“It’s quite an accomplishment that your colleagues have that kind of faith in you that they elect you to be president of their class,” said former Texas Congressman Charles Gonzalez, whose decision not to seek an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives opened the door for Castro to make his move. “It’s pretty hard to get elected. There are no slackers in there. Everyone who got elected rose above other people in what generally were very contested races.”

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“Many have admirable records either in the public or private sector,” Gonzalez, a Democrat, said. “He’ll be trying to keep that class of Democrats united not just for this Congress but for the next.”

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Those who have watched Joaquin Castro and his twin brother, Julian, for some time say they are not surprised that they are – at a relatively young age – causing a sensation at the national political stage. Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, was the bigger star of the two last summer when he was picked to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He made history, becoming the first Latino chosen for that role.

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But in November, Joaquin – who until then was described more often than not as “Julian’s brother” – commanded the brighter spotlight when he was elected to Congress.
“The possibilities are endless for Joaquin,” said Mickey Ibarra, a former Clinton administration official who is founder and chairman of the Latino Leaders Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together Latino movers and shakers. “Now he and Julian have a national platform. It’s potentially the start of something that lasts a very significant amount of time.”

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In Texas, Joaquin Castro was known for pushing for improvements to education, and raising high school graduation levels among Latinos. Critics find him personally affable though they take issue with his liberal-leaning politics and Democratic views on government spending. Castro said he started entertaining the thought of political office beyond Texas just a few years ago, when he realized there were some things he could not fix as a state lawmaker.

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“I remember when the No Child Left Behind blueprint came out,” he said, “I read the whole blueprint. I attended meetings with folks in education. I noticed that not once did the blueprint mention the word ‘counselors.’”
High school counseling long had been a pet concern of Castro, who saw it as lacking because, he said, the student-to-counselor ratio in much of Texas was 420-to-1. It was something he pushed to address in the state legislature. But improving counseling – which, he said, often is hampered because advisors’ workloads are spread too thin – was critical at the national level, he said.

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“I realized the way I wanted to approach some issues, I would have to deal with them at the federal level,” he said. “There were gaps in my ability to do things at the state level.”

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Joaquin Castro, arguably, is the face of manifold trends involving Latinos and politics.
“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority part in our state,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and also a first-timer in Congress, was quoted as saying in The New Yorker.

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Some media reports are already spinning visions of a contested Senate race in six years between Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who was just elected in November, and Joaquin Castro. In the race for Gonzalez’s seat, Castro defeated Republican David Rosa.

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“BIBLES, BADGES AND BUSINESS” UNITE FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

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

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A new alliance between conservative pro-reform constituencies including religious leaders, law enforcement and the business community adds momentum to the push for a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. On a conference call Monday, leaders from the Texas Association of Business, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the National Immigration Forum joined former top law enforcement officials to announce the alliance, calling it “Bibles, Badges and Business.”
“For the last two years, conservative leaders who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business have gathered in the mountain west, the midwest, the southeast and our nation’s capital to forge a new consensus on immigrants in America, moving our nation closer to a 21th century immigration process,” Ali Noorani, the executive director of National Immigration Forum, told reporters. “And across the country and on the hill, these conversations are turning into action.”
He said “Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform” will not formally take positions on legislation but will espouse principles including creating a “road to lawful status and citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, respecting those who are waiting in line to become immigrants, modernizing laws for future flow of employment- and family-based immigration and recognizing the need for border security.

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WILL REPUBLICANS CONSIDER A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP?

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

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A new bipartisan task force on immigration reform led by Republicans Condoleezza Rice and Haley Barbour and Democrats Henry Cisneros and Ed Rendell still has a number of issues to resolve, including what may be the most challenging: whether undocumented immigrants currently in the country should be given a pathway to citizenship.
“I come in with an open mind on this,” Rice, former secretary of state to President George W. Bush, told reporters on Monday. “I don’t actually have an exact answer at this point because I think this is actually the hardest and most vexing issue. So I look forward to sharing views with other members of the task force.”
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Members’ lack of consensus on certain immigration issues is precisely what makes the group important, according to organizers from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Barbour is a former Republican governor of Mississippi; Cisneros was a Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Bill Clinton; and Ed Rendell is a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. They will join with about a dozen other members, yet to be announced, to advocate for immigration reform.

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The group plans to hold events, meet with lawmakers and come up with its own policy proposals. As it stands now, the four former officials said they agree that reform should address worker visas, border security, internal enforcement and the undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

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Barbour said he supports a pathway to citizenship so long as it includes provisions such as fines and taxes.
“I don’t know where this task force will come out, but for myself, I think it would be productive if there is a path to citizenship that is separate from a green card, separate from a guest worker but is a much more strenuous path that requires more than just allowing guest workers to come here and work legally,” Barbour said on the same call with reporters.
He added the group is open to a number of options, including a piecemeal approach. “We are not going to say it has to be an across-the-board comprehensive bill or nothing else, because we want to get the most done that we can get done,” Barbour said.

Read more: HUFFINGTON POST

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