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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IMMIGRATION REFORM AND BORDER SECURITY

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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IMMIGRATION DEBATE TAKES CENTER STAGE

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

(Credit: AP Photo/Getty Images)

No longer a backburner issue, immigration is roiling the presidential contest as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney seek to court the nation’s swelling Hispanic population. The outcome could influence political battle lines and shape American politics for generations.

 The Supreme Court is about to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law, and just last week the Democratic president announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants. With Election Day less than five months away, Hispanic voters are energized and paying close attention.

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“There’s a lot at stake. We’re talking about a significant share of the American electorate that could well decide this election,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “It’s only now that both candidates are turning their attention to the Latino vote.”

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Indeed, both sides are crafting aggressive strategies to appeal to a demographic that is by no means monolithic but has supported Democrats in recent elections. Some Republicans fear — and Democrats hope — that Obama could capitalize on this moment to help solidify Hispanic voters as predominantly Democratic this fall and for years to come, much as President Lyndon Johnson hardened the black vote for Democrats as he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The stakes are high not only for states with larger Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, but for a growing number of other battlegrounds — Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, among them — where even a modest shift among Latino voters could be significant. The United States‘ Latino population surged from about 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

Obama is riding a wave of Latino enthusiasm over his decision to allow hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants can avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. The new policy could help anywhere from 800,000 young immigrants — the administration’s estimate — to the Pew Hispanic Center‘s estimate of 1.4 million.

The move was politically timely, in the heat of the campaign and with Obama needing to energize a key part of his base of supporters — many of whom had grown disenchanted over the past three years. While the direct beneficiaries of the directive can’t vote for Obama, his action has widespread support among American Latinos. In fact, Obama has long enjoyed support among Hispanics — he won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008.

But he risked losing their enthusiasm, partly because Hispanics have been among the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. Obama also lost some support because he hasn’t fulfilled promises of a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system and because his administration has been aggressively deporting illegal immigrants. A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent of Latinos disapproved of the president’s handling of deportations.

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Obama senior adviser David Axelrod predicts that the president could exceed his 2008 performance with Hispanics this year, noting that his opponent then was Sen. John McCain, who had initially pushed for an overhaul of the immigration system. Axelrod contends that Romney is “hopelessly twisted up on this issue.” Obama had troubles of his own before the administration announced the recent initiative. Supporters of many illegal immigrants — students as well as workers— had been mounting protests at Obama campaign headquarters this month in places such as Denver and Los Angeles.

Marco Saavedra, a Dream Act protester, participates in a sit-in Friday at President Barack Obama’s Walnut Hills campaign headquarters. The office has been closed since Saavedra and other protesters arrived Wednesday. / The Enquirer/Cara Owsley

 The Romney campaign has struggled to offer a consistent response to the president’s move. Romney has assailed Obama’s “broken promises” on immigration in recent days but has focused on the new policy’s temporary status as his prime criticism.

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“These people deserve to understand what their status will be long term, not just four and a half months,” Romney said on Fox News Radio this week. “And that’s why I think it’s important for me and for Congress to come together to put together a plan that secures the border, that insists that we have an employment verification system and that deals with the children of those who have come here illegally on a long-term basis, not a stopgap measure.”

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As is typical, Romney intends to focus on the economy when he faces the Latino convention on Thursday. The former Massachusetts governor argues that his economic credentials would benefit all people who have struggled under Obama’s leadership in recent years — women, younger voters and Hispanics among them. Still, Romney’s own immigration policy is unclear as he works to distance himself from harsh conservative rhetoric that was common during the extended GOP primary season earlier in the year.

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Facing a Rhode Island audience in April, for example, Romney drew large cheers when he said, “We want people to come here legally. And we like it when they come here speaking English.” He did not support the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s hardline immigration law. And he said that he would veto the DREAM Act that would have given legal status to some children of illegal immigrants. Romney has refused so far to say whether he would reverse Obama’s new policy that does much the same thing, albeit on a temporary basis.

A Spanish language ad from the Obama campaign targeting Latino voters.

Even before he announced the new rules, Obama was looking to build his support among Latinos, vastly outspending Romney on Spanish-language television and radio. But Romney has released targeted TV and radio ads in Spanish, including some that feature one of Romney’s sons who is a fluent Spanish speaker. Simon Rosenberg, who follows immigration matters as head of the liberal-leaning group NDN, said the president’s move on immigration not only helps him energize Latino voters, it also helps cast him as a president willing to take bold steps. For a Latino community that worried that neither party was doing enough, “they now have a champion,” he said. But, he added, “There will be a resonance beyond the Latino community.”

Besides the new immigration initiative, the Obama camp has been using the new health care law to appeal to Hispanic voters, a rare use of the signature Obama measure in the campaign. An ad campaign this week in Nevada, Colorado and Florida focuses on the benefits of the health care law for Hispanics and features Cristina Saralegui, a popular Spanish-language television personality who endorsed Obama this week. She says in the ad that Obama’s health care law guarantees that “the great majority of Hispanics” will have access to doctors and hospitals.

Read More: Christian Science Monitor

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WHAT WILL VOTER TURNOUT BE LIKE IN 2012: HERE ARE THREE SCENARIOS

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

Will strong turnout by minority voters lock up the November election for President Barack Obama? Or will the enthusiasm of the 2010 midterms carry over to boost white voter turnout, helping the Republican nominee? William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, examines that question in a new paper.

photo source: Dallas Observer blog

The minority vote in 2008 played a decisive role for Mr. Obama both nationally and in several key states. He lost the white vote but outperformed among all other races. In North Carolina, where Mr. Obama won by a mere 14,000 votes, African Americans accounted for nearly a quarter of the electorate, and 95% of them voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls. Minority voters also helped push Mr. Obama over the top in Indiana, Virginia and New Mexico, while expanding his margins in big states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

photo source: ThirdCoast Digest

Indeed in 2008, the paper notes, turnout by African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans was a few percentage points higher in each group than in 2004 (65% in 2008 vs. 60% in 2004; 50% vs. 47%; and 47% vs. 44% respectively for each group), while white turnout was one point less (66% vs. 67%).

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the RNC State Chairman’s National Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., Friday, April 20, 2012.

Also, the margin of votes for the Democrats among minority groups, already sizable in 2004, expanded greatly in 2008. That is, more minorities were voting, and those votes were much more heavily Democratic. For white voters, which lean toward Republicans, the margin narrowed, but was still in the Republican column. In short, white turnout slumped, and whites who did vote voted less Republican than four years earlier.

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With this as background, Mr. Frey poses the question:
As we approach November, minorities will account for a slightly larger share of eligible voters than in 2008. At the same time, white support for the Republican candidate may be greater than in 2008. Which dynamic will prevail?

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He has three scenarios:

Scenario A assumes that the 2008 turnout and voting patterns again apply to 2012 voters. If that occurs, Obama wins with 29 states and 358 electoral votes. (270 electoral votes are needed to win.)

Scenario B applies 2004 turnout and voting patterns to the 2012 population. In this scenario, Mr. Romney beats Mr. Obama, with 286 electoral votes in 30 states.

Scenario C assumes strong partisan participation for both whites and minorities in 2012. This scenario is perhaps the most likely of the  three, says Mr. Frey. In this scenario, whites in each state are assumed to have more enthusiasm for the GOP nominee (likely Mitt Romney) in 2012 than in 2008 (John McCain) and as a result will mimic their 2004 patterns. Meanwhile, minorities are presumed to follow their strong 2008 turnout and voting margins. In this scenario, Mr. Obama wins, narrowly, with 292 electoral votes spread among 24 states.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

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WILL THE SB 1070 SUPREME COURT CASE CHANGE THE ELECTION?

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

PHOENIX – APRIL 25: Opponents of Arizona‘s new immigration enforcement law protest outside the state capitol building on April 25, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. More than 1,000 gathered to protest the passage of Arizona’s tough new law which was signed by the state’s Republican governor Jan Brewer two days before. Critics of the law say that it will encourage racial profiling by law enforcement and endanger civil rights in the state. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) Original Filename: GYI0060270245.jpg

With the Supreme Court likely to uphold portions of Arizona’s infamous immigration law, the state will remain front and center in national headlines up until this year’s general election. While Hispanic voters in the state have no control over the Supreme Court’s decision, they will be able to have their voices heard at the Arizona ballot box in November.

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Immigration-rights demonstrators march to the Arizona state Capitol in April 2006. These immigration protests sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets this spring and promised to leave behind a surge of new Hispanic voters.

The Obama campaign certainly believes that the agitation of Hispanic and independent voters in Arizona puts the state in play for the general election.  Historical evidence and recent polling indicate that the states may well be up for grabs this year. Putting Arizona’s 11 electoral votes in play would not only shake up the electoral map but also send a clear message that extremist immigration laws are political poison. In 2008 – with minimal investment from the Obama Campaign – the President commanded a large share of the Hispanic vote in Arizona, besting hometown Senator John McCain 56% to 41%. If the President can boost Hispanic turnout, the statewide electorate could become much more Democratic. With recent polling showing Arizona as a toss-up, a solid investment in Hispanic mobilization could make the state very competitive.

A Hispanic youth holds up a sign questioning Latinos’ support for President Barack Obama during a protest outside local Democratic Party headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. (EFE)

A recent NBC News/Marist Poll reveals that President Obama is only trailing in Arizona by 5 points. The real eye-popping numbers for the President, however, are the preferences of independent voters. Among independents in Arizona, the President outperforms Romney 45 percent to 36 percent, with 19 percent undecided. Another poll by the Merrill/Morrison Institute puts the race within the margin of error. 42 percent of Arizona registered voters preferred Mitt Romney, while 40 percent supported the President. With a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, so if the election were held today the contest for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes would be a toss-up.
The real question on everyone’s mind is; can an investment in maximizing the Hispanic vote in Arizona generate enough support to push Obama and down ticket Democrats over the top? Trends in Hispanic turnout from neighboring states with similar demographics suggest that these investments could pay off. Significant efforts to boost turnout in 2008 resulted in substantial increases in Hispanic voter participation.  Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada saw Hispanic voter participation increase by 33 percent, 62 percent and 32 percent respectively from 2004 to 2008. The overwhelming majority of that increased Hispanic vote went to Obama. The growing voter turnout from Hispanics helped the President carry all three of those states on his way to the White House, and this same dynamic could bring Arizona into the fold later this year.

Hispanics nationally are breaking nearly three to one for the President, if this holds true in Arizona increasing the vote of this population could swing the general election vote for more moderate voices in Arizona as well.  For the first time ever there is viable Hispanic Senatorial candidate in former Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

If this former U.S Surgeon General is any example, you can be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it–high school dropouts included. In 1967 Carmona quit Dewitt Clinton High School at age 16 and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he eventually earned his GED. Carmona graduated at the top of his medical program at University of California, San Francisco in 1979. President George W. Bush appointed Carmona Surgeon General of the United States in 2002.

Carmona, a military veteran, has a huge lead with Hispanic voters. Politico notes that Hispanic voters favor him 61% – 25% percent statewide. Hispanic women are even more supportive, giving him a 70% – 14% advantage over Flake. At this point in the race he is an unknown quantity. Just 22 percent of voters can identify Richard Carmona, including just 19 percent of white voters, giving him room to expand support. The reality is the more Carmona is able to galvanize Hispanic support in Arizona the better off the Obama campaign will do in the state.

Tens of Thousands March in Phoenix, AZ Against SB 1070. (Photo: José Muñoz) 2010

If any segment of the Arizona population should want to change the dynamic of the state’s political apparatus it would be Hispanics. The current political environment in Arizona is toxic for Hispanics, and has been hijacked by political extremists. For those in the state vested in sending a strong message to the country that Arizona is turning a corner on this brand of governance, voting against the likes of Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, and Russell Pearce would speak loud and clear. With the Supreme Court likely to uphold parts of SB1070, November will be the earliest that Arizona voters can let the country know where they truly stand on this law.
Read more: Fox News Latino

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