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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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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.


“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.”


“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.”


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.


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.”


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.


“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.


“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.”


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.


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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In honor of the State’s Centennial year, the State Records Center and Archives will host an Open House on May 2, 2012, to commemorate the drafting and adoption of the 1910 New Mexico Constitution. The public will be able to view the Constitution and other important documents of statehood. Concurrent with the Open House, the Office of the State Historian will host an exhibit, New Mexico’s Cultural Landscapes, by photographer Sharon Stewart.

You could find automobiles on the streets in many a New Mexico town back in 1912, and yet it was just as likely you’d see a cowboy ride his horse up to a restaurant to get a bite to eat. The railroad, the telegraph and the telephone brought progress, news and visitors. “We were rural and poor, but New Mexico wasn’t disconnected from the nation,” Rick Hendricks, state historian, said Wednesday. New Mexico cemented its connection in 1912 by attaining statehood and effectively creating a state government based on its own constitution, a goal that was a good 60 years in the making.

“Morley’s Map of New Mexico” Compiled from the Latest Government surveys and other reliable surveys. Ent. Acc. of Congress in the Year 1873 by Harry Whigham and G.A. Bushnell in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, Washington, D.C.

“A fair public school education is due every child and is of the utmost importance not only to the individual but to the welfare of the state.” photo source: NM History

Delayed and foiled over the years by, among other measures, bad timing, racism, anti-Catholic bias, Manifest Destiny, the untimely death of a statehood-supporting president (Zachary Taylor) and opposition by a neighboring territory, the 24-article constitution was finally adopted by a Constitutional Convention in November 1910, ratified by the people a year later and made law in January 1912.

Dedication: To the men of New Mexico who have fought the hard fight for statehood and to those who formed the constitution of the Great New State of New Mexico this book is dedicated.                               photo source: NM History

The original state constitution, normally locked up in a climate-controlled vault, went on display alongside a number of other historical documents on Wednesday — for one afternoon only — at the State Records Center and Archives on Camino Carlos Rey near Cerrillos Road.

“People should have the opportunity to see historical documents we have in the archives,” Hendricks said Wednesday at the records center, noting that usually only historians can request access to the original constitutional document.

Hendricks and New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels both gave short presentations regarding the creation and importance of the state constitution during a noon opening ceremony. Among the visitors were David and Mary Darling of Albuquerque. Her grandfather, Sen. William Dennis Murray, was one of 69 state lawmakers who signed the constitution. Her husband’s grandfather, who ran a newspaper in Deming, was good friends with Murray.

New Mexico State Constitutional Convention, Santa Fe, NM 1910 photo source: NM History

“He ran a general store in Central New Mexico and opened the Murray Hotel in Silver City,” Mary Darling said of her grandfather. “I was such a child when he died; he didn’t speak about the constitution. Later, I read about him and realized he did a lot more important things for this state than I was aware of.”

General Stephen Kearny photo source: Son of the South

The history of the constitution, as far as this exhibit is concerned, dates back to 1846, after Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny declared New Mexico an American Territory at the outset of the Mexican-American War. The exhibit includes Kearny’s proclamation, which asks the Spanish-speaking residents of the city of Santa Fe not to take up arms against the American military, as well as Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid’s Spanish translation of that proclamation. Vigil y Alarid was the last Mexican governor of the territory of New Mexico.

photo source: NM HIstory

Jerry Vigil of Albuquerque, who said he is a descendent of Vigil y Alarid, was reading over that document at the state records building Wednesday. “These documents are wonderful,” he said. “This [proclamation] makes me very honored.” He said he was aware of his ancestor’s role in state history, but said he was not aware of this specific document. The state constitution — which in some ways mirrors the Constitution of the United States while also including provisions preserving the ethnic and cultural diversity within the state — “still speaks to who we are today,” Vigil said, though he acknowledged there always has been an undercurrent of racial divide within the territory.

The Reunion of the Constitutional Convention of 1910 photo source: NM HIstory

The exhibit showcases the many abortive attempts by state leaders to draw up and ratify a state constitution in 1850, 1866, 1872 and 1889. In 1906, the state came closing to having both a constitution and statehood when its residents were given the chance to vote to become part of the United States as the state of Arizona (which would have enveloped New Mexico in that case).

“That was then, this is now!”

“New Mexicans voted 2-to-1 for it, and Arizona voted 5-to-1 against it … primarily because of our ethnic diversity,” Daniels said in his remarks to the crowd. “Our Hispanic population concerned the people of Arizona. … There was a fear we wouldn’t quite be Americans.”

He praised the original constitution as a document that tried to preserve the culture, language and civil rights of New Mexicans, noting that one of the early provisions included ensuring the teaching of both Spanish and English in the public-school system.He noted that amendments to the constitution must be approved by three-quarters of both of the state’s legislative bodies — as well as state voters. Still, in the past 100 years, there have been more than 160 amendments.

photo source: NM State University

“It’s a surprising number considering how difficult it is to do,” Hendricks noted. “Yes, it’s been changed. But it hasn’t been thrown out.”

Read More: Chicago Tribune Learn More: New Mexico History

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photo source: AP

1986: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 both tightens controls on illegal immigration and extends amnesty for many illegal immigrants. It requires that employers attest to employees’ immigration status and make it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. It also grants amnesty to some seasonal agricultural workers and to illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to 1982 and have lived in the country continuously.

President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which provided amnesty to illegal immigrants who qualified.

1990: The Immigration Act of 1990 created a lottery program that randomly assigned a number of visas, and increased the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. The law also included exceptions for the English-language portion of the naturalization test.

The green card lottery is held annually to randomly select 50,000 applicants to be awarded with green cards.

1996: Under President Bill Clinton, several pieces of legislation are enacted that crack down on various facets of immigration. Specifically, there is a sharp increase in the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including permanent residents, can be deported. The laws also impose mandatory detention for certain types of deportation cases, and as a result deportation rates skyrocket.

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sept. 11, 2001: Terrorists attack New York and Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. The events put immigration under a microscope because the attackers were foreigners, and change the way many politicians and Americans view immigration. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox goes so far as to say that if it were not for the attacks, Congress would have passed reform legislation that benefited Mexican emigration to America.

President George W. Bush walks with Mexico President Vicente Fox, left, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin upon their arrival Wednesday, March 23, 2005, at the Bill Daniels Activity Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. White House photo by Eric Draper

2003: The Supreme Court upholds mandatory detention regardless of flight risk for any immigrant offender, even permanent residents.

2005: In 2005 and 2006, Congress holds field hearings on immigration and border security across the country. The Senate introduces a significant bipartisan effort to create a path for legalization for many illegal immigrants.

Pullman Daily News photo: Dean Hare

December 2005: The House passes a bill criminalizing illegal immigrants, sparking massive pro-immigrant protests nationwide. The Senate refuses to take it up.

photo source AP

May 2006: Instead of the House bill, the Senate passes a tougher version of a bill crafted by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., which includes a path to legal residency for many illegal immigrants.

October 2006: The fiscal year 2007 budget boosts funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by more than 20 percent, about $1 billion more than President George Bush requested, mostly for detention and transport of immigrants.

Thousands of immigrant rights advocates pack the National Mall during an immigration reform rally in Washington, Sunday, March 21, 2010. (AP Photo)

November 2008: President Barack Obama is elected, and Democrats sweep both chambers of Congress, giving hope that a major immigration reform bill will be enacted. Obama had signaled interest in reform that included enhanced border enforcement, crackdowns on people who overstay their visa and employers who hire illegal immigrants and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

Body language experts interpret that a hand placed over the mouth, as Obama is pictured doing, indicates negative impulses and disapproval. photo source: AP

2009: A comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in the House fails despite efforts by the Obama administration to get it traction.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 in April 2010. (Photo courtesy of the Arizona Office of the Governor)

April 2010: Saying the Congress had failed to enforce U.S. immigration laws, Arizona passes a law to crack down on various facets of illegal immigration. Most controversial is that the law directs police to ask for immigration papers from anyone they stop or arrest who they suspect may be in the country illegally.

Sep 20, 2010 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Los Angeles Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA during a rally that supports the Dream Act which allows temporary legal status for immigrant students.
(Credit Image: © Mark Samala/

December 2010: The so-called Dream Act, which would allow illegal immigrant students a path to citizenship, passes the House in the lame duck session. The Senate GOP filibusters, effectively killing the bill.

Hundreds of immigrant rights activists rallied outside the Supreme Court building Wednesday as did several dozen supporters of Arizona’s law. Photo: Creative Commons/Talk Radio News Service

April 2012: The Supreme Court takes up the Arizona law. While a decision isn’t expected until June, during initial arguments the justices appear to have little issue with provisions requiring police to check the legal status of people they stop for other reasons.

Courtesy of the AP to Read More: Washington Post

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College student Jasmine Oliver, of Warwick, R.I., top left, and Javier Gonzalez, of Pawtucket, R.I., top right, display a banner and shout their support for allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates while attending public colleges in the state, during a Board of Governors of Higher Education meeting on the campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, in Warwick, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

President Barack Obama said Congress should take one step toward overhauling the country’s immigration system by passing the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some children of undocumented migrants.

In an interview with Oakland, California-based Radio Bilingue that was rebroadcast Wednesday via Internet, Obama said his administration prioritizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants with criminal records and tries to avoid separating families.

The president said his administration is doing all it can to make the immigration system more humane, but that the most important priority is to fix the country’s immigration laws.

He noted that during his State of the Union address last month he urged lawmakers to approve the DREAM Act, which passed the House of Representatives in December 2010 but has stalled in the Senate.

That bill would offer permanent residence to undocumented high school graduates who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces or attend college.

Obama said that legislation should be a priority this year, although he lamented that hard-line Republicans were refusing to work in a bipartisan fashion on the issue.

According to the president, it is important that Congress listen to the Hispanic community and other communities affected by the country’s broken immigration system.

An estimated 5,000 U.S. children whose parents have been deported or detained because of their immigration status have been placed in state foster care nationwide, according to an investigation made public late last year by the Applied Research Center.

Obama has acknowledged that his administration’s enforcement policies have caused the break-up of families in some instances and pledged to ensure that children are not separated from their parents without due process.

The president, who will seek re-election in November, supports a “comprehensive” immigration overhaul that would strengthen border security while simultaneously putting many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States on a path to citizenship.

By contrast, most of the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, who on Wednesday squared off in a debate in Arizona, oppose such a plan because they say it would provide amnesty for lawbreakers.

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