Next Up — Immigration Reform

Filed in National by on January 28, 2013

This week will be very interesting on this front — as a bipartisan group of 8 Senators will release a plan to address issues with illegal immigration today and President Obama will release a plan tomorrow in Las Vegas. This comes after an election where Hispanics decisively voted for Barack Obama and the GOP spent a great deal of time demonizing them. While fixing the undocumented immigrant problem is indeed important, keep in mind that Democrats want to solidify their relationship to Hispanics and the GOP wants to start one. This deal would cover border security, a path to citizenship for approx. 10M people, and work visas for high tech workers. From the LA Times:

….The Senate proposal would allow most of those in the country illegally to obtain probationary legal status immediately by paying a fine and back taxes and passing a background check. That would make them eligible to work and live in the U.S. They could earn a green card — permanent residency — after the government certifies that the U.S.-Mexican border has become secure, but might face a lengthy process before becoming citizens.

….Less-controversial provisions would tighten requirements on employers to check the immigration status of new workers; increase the number of visas for high-skilled jobs; provide green cards automatically to people who earn master’s degrees or PhDs in science, technology or math at U.S. universities; and create an agricultural guest-worker program.

President Obama’s proposal :

Obama is expected to push for a faster citizenship process that would not be conditional on border security standards being met first. The structure of the citizenship process will probably be among the most hotly debated parts of any immigration plan.

The President met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week and Rep. Gutierrez remarked that the President’s Plan was in line with the CHC’s principles for immigration reform.

There isn’t alot of detail yet, but I’m not crazy about the “certification” deal for the border. This President has been aggressive in border enforcement and in deportations — and is sometimes criticized for that — but if this means that there is an expectation that the border will be completely non-porous before the process towards citizenship, then I think we’re looking at a pig in the poke. Still, it is good that this is getting to the front burner.

What do you think of this?

EDIT: The Washington Post has posted up the entire Senate proposal. It is organized around 4 legislative pillars:

1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;

2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;

3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,

4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

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  1. puck says:

    10 million jobs is a lot of jobs to give up for Americans. (I know, it probably won’t add up to quite 10 million in the end). But I’ve gotten comfortable with the amnesty portion, basically on the grounds they have acquired squatters’ rights, since we encouraged them to come illegally and looked the other way for so long.

    But if we are going to give out amnesty, I want them to go straight to full citizenship with no fines and no interim second-class status (after the usual citizenship test and background checks). The whole point is to bring them under the full protection of US law so US workers are no longer competing against labor with second-class rights.

    And WTF is the point of fines against an already exploited population, except to make angry white voters feel better?

    HOWEVER (using my Mike Castle voice)….

    They MUST rat out all their employers who employed them illegally. Then we can begin tracking those bastards (the illegal employers).

    We MUST impose harsh sanctions against illegal employers going forward. Otherwise we will be back for another round of amnesty in a few election cycles.

    Employer sanctions ARE border security. Without employer sanctions there is no comprehensive reform.

    If employers think they can make these people citizens and still keep exploiting them, they have another think coming. As soon as this batch of workers are citizens, employers will throw them under the bus for the next wave of cheap illegal workers.

  2. cassandra_m says:

    Edited to provide a link to the WaPo who has the complete text of the Senate proposal posted now.

  3. bamboozer says:

    Yikes! Near total agreement with Puck! I favor the Dream Act like portion, but am far from sold on the rest of the illegals gaining citizenship, “tough road” or not. But I also expect the Tea Party types to rise up and smite the GOP senators, arch hypocrite John “finish the dang thing” McCain included. And we’re dreaming if we think the employers of the illegals will ever be held accountable, when money is involved in America the most wins.

  4. SussexAnon says:

    “after the government certifies that the U.S.-Mexican border has become secure.” Yeah, like we could get the gov’t to agree and pass certification.

    Unless its a path to citizenship without this nebulus definition of “secure border” this is a bad idea. The Rs and anti-immigrant crowd can always claim the border is not secure thus keeping millions half-way legals in limbo.

  5. cassandra_m says:

    It isn’t just the government to agree to this certification — this seems to create a board of task force of southwestern representatives that would weigh in on this border security. Giving this group of people a blank check for passing on to defense contractors (the people doing the border security efforts now) seems like a futile effort.

    The other thing I have questions about is the actual process for getting immigrants into the “line”. Are they creating another process (with staffing) to do this, or are they just putting everyone into the existing queue? The existing queue is a MESS and piling on a few more million is a recipe for disaster.

    Interesting that they haven’t talked about potential costs for this.

  6. cassandra m says:

    Chris Coons’ office releases a statement on this announcement:

    Statement from Senator Coons on bipartisan immigration reform framework

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on the bipartisan framework for balanced immigration reform proposed by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others on Monday.

    “Immigrants have always played a critical role in this country’s success, but the system that makes it possible for them to do so legally is clearly in need of reform. The framework laid out by my colleagues today is a strong first step as the Senate considers a path forward on balanced immigration reform, and I applaud their work in getting to this point. Balance is the key. In my two years here in the Senate, I’ve supported measures that create a path to citizenship for those already in the United States, as well as measures that would expand the opportunity for the world’s best and brightest to come to the U.S. to pursue their ideas. There is a lot to like in this framework, including the creation of a path to citizenship and strengthened prohibitions against racial profiling. This framework also embraces the core premise of the SMART Jobs Act, which I introduced with Senator Alexander last summer and called for the creation of green cards for immigrants who have earned an advanced degree in a science, technology, engineering or math field from an American university.

    “This bipartisan framework can be the start of a constructive conversation in our country about how best to confront these challenges, and tomorrow, I will join Senators Hatch, Klobuchar and Rubio in introducing the first piece of legislation in this new conversation, the Immigration Innovation Act. This bill, like the SMART Jobs Act, the AGREE Act, and the Startup Act 2.0 before it, is rooted in a bipartisan commitment to bringing the world’s best and brightest into the American economy.

    “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and throughout the Senate on a responsible, bipartisan, and balanced path forward. The opportunity is unique and the moment is urgent. It is my hope that Congress will act this year and enact the long-overdue reforms to our nation’s immigration system that it needs to properly welcome the next generation of new Americans.”

    ###

  7. cassandra m says:

    Interesting as I read various Senators’ comments on this. They are all over the moon about the bipartisanship of the thing. Whether or not it is good policy isn’t exactly at the top of the list.

    Not that I object to bipartisanship. Just don’t want these guys to get the idea that they are supposed to come home with bipartisanship. Good policy is supposed to be the goal.

  8. Aoine says:

    It’s not 11 million American jobs that will be lost

    Of the 11 million only 5-6 million are of working age and not dependents.

    So it’s 5-6 million jobs- and after Several years they will be American too

    They will swell the ranks of the unions and hopefully pull the American workers with them

    Cheating employers won’t be able to exploit so let’s hope they do this right and fix this issue

    I do not want to see American jobs lost. But I don’t want to see the tired old meme they r taking jobs
    The draconian state laws passed to curb illegal hires failed miserably. The rotting fruits and vegetables in Georgia and Arizona and Mississippi tell THAT tale all to clearly….

    So, lets hope the GOP plan is nixed – immigration is reformed , they all join unions

    And VOTE DEMOCRATIC when the naturalize!

  9. Dave says:

    puck said “Employer sanctions ARE border security.”

    Absolutely correct. People come to America, legally and illegally because of opportunity. eVerify and other means should be required by all employers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is against immigration reform because it reduce the number of workers that will work on the cheap because they are afraid of being caught.

    While we need to enhance border security against terrorists, criminals and the like, border security for the generally law abiding (well they are here illegally) are the requirements and constraints that we put on employers.

  10. Jason330 says:

    Yeah. I agree, that was very well put.

  11. puck says:

    Requiring fines turns the US Government into coyotes and snakeheads, requiring impoverished people to buy their entry into the US.

  12. cassandra_m says:

    While we need to enhance border security against terrorists, criminals and the like

    Really? As of 2011, $90B spent with no stopping of drug importation, and little impact on illegal crossing or terrorists for that matter.

    $90B — with walls, fences, new stations, more police, you name it and we still need enhancements? When was the last time you saw the southern border? That border is never going to be perfectly sealed up and there needs to be an assessment of the costs v. benefits of more extraordinary measures for this.

    This is why the whole border security and the commission to certify it are a big question to me. 90B for 1600 miles of security that won’t ever be perfect. Time to depoliticize that, make it work as best as you can and move on.

  13. puck says:

    If we are itching to collect money from someone, we can collect a steep payment from employers who are sponsoring new immigrants, for example highly skilled workers. I mean a payment with teeth, like a year’s salary. Then they might think twice about whether they really can’t find an American to do the job.

  14. cassandra_m says:

    Jamelle Bouie at the Plum Line writes, noting that We Don”t Have a Border Security Problem , this time noting how much the Obama Administration has spent:

    Based on their push for greater border resources, Republicans seem to think that the border remains unprotected. In truth, the Obama administration has devoted tremendous resources to protecting the border and deporting undocumented immigrants. Last year, according to the nonpartisan Migration Research Institute, the Obama administration spent more than $18 billion on border security and immigration enforcement. That’s more than was spent on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. And a 2011 report from the Government Accounting Office found that 81 percent of the border with Mexico met one of the top three levels of operational control and security, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security.

  15. cassandra_m says:

    More from Senator Coons today — this time announcing a bill he is sponsoring for high-tech immigration:

    Senators Coons, Rubio, Klobuchar and Hatch introduce bill to boost U.S. competitiveness
    Bipartisan immigration reform legislation reforms employment-based H-1B and student visas, increases access to employment-based green cards, and promotes STEM education

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) teamed up with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today to introduce the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013 to bring long-overdue reforms to the nation’s immigration laws for high-skilled workers and maintain the United States’ global leadership in innovation.

    The bill focuses on areas vital to ensuring the United States can attract the type of workers needed to grow its economy: the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas), allowing for their growth depending on the demands of the economy; increased access to green cards for high-skilled workers by expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per country limits for employment based green cards; and reforming the fees on H-1B and green cards so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education.

    It is the first legislation introduced since a bipartisan group led by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced a major framework for comprehensive immigration reform on Monday.

    “The creativity, ingenuity, and determination that immigrants have brought to this county have been a large part of our economic success,” Senator Coons said. “Our immigration system is broken, though, and as the Senate gets to work on comprehensive immigration reform, it’s important that we take steps to ensure that the world’s best and brightest do their work here in the United States. Inspiration is a precious resource, and if we want those ideas to be turned into job-creating innovations here in the U.S., we need to make it easier for those individuals to earn status here. It is my hope that this legislation finds a home in the balanced immigration reform package ultimately considered by the Senate this year.” Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    “This bill is a common sense approach to ensuring that those who have come here to be educated in high-tech fields have the ability to stay here with their families and contribute to the economy and our society,” Senator Hatch said. “It’s a market-driven path forward to fulfilling a need in our immigration system and growing the economy. It’s good for workers, good for businesses trying to grow, and good for our economy.” Senator Hatch is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee

    “America must be a country that makes things again, that invents things, that exports to the world, and to do that we need the world’s talent,” Senator Klobuchar said. “Right now we’re educating and training our competition by sending students who obtain advanced degrees here in the U.S. back to their home countries. We don’t want them creating the next Medtronic or 3M in India, we want them creating it right here in Minnesota and across America.” Senator Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    “Our immigration system needs to be modernized to be more welcoming of highly skilled immigrants and the enormous contributions they can make to our economy and society,” Senator Rubio said. “This reform is as much about modernizing our immigration system as it is about creating jobs. It’ll help us attract more highly skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, which will help our unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid American workers find better jobs.”

    Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are all original cosponsors of the bill.

    The bipartisan legislation is the result of constant outreach with leaders in the immigration community and high-tech industry. The legislation has been endorsed by Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Company, Facebook, Texas Instruments, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Association of Manufacturers, BSA – The Software Alliance, Compete America, The Semiconductor Industry Association, TechNet, TechAmerica, The Consumer Electronics Association, The Software & Information Industry Association, The Internet Association, The Computer & Communications Industry Association, The Information Technology Industry Council, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, TechServe Alliance, The Association for Competitive Technology, The Telecommunications Industry Association, CTIA – The Wireless Association, Sabre Holdings, The Council of Chief State School Officers, and Immigration Voice.

    A summary of the bill is below:

    Employment-Based Non-immigrant H-1B Visas
    Increase H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
    Establish a market-based H-1B escalator so that the cap can adjust – up or down – to the demands of the economy (includes a 300,000 ceiling on the ability of the escalator to move)
    If the cap is hit in the first 45 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 20,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately
    If the cap is hit in the first 60 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 15,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately
    If the cap is hit in the first 90 days when petitions may be filed, an additional 10,000 H-1B visas will be made available immediately
    If the cap is hit during the 185-day period ending on the 275th day on which petitions may be filed, an additional 5,000 H-1B will be made available immediately
    Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)
    Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders
    Increase portability of high skilled foreign workers by:
    Removing impediments and costs of changing employers;
    Establishing a clear transition period for foreign workers as they change jobs; and,
    Restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P nonimmigrant visa categories
    Student Visas
    Allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States
    Immigrant Visas and Green Cards
    Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used
    Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
    Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
    U.S. STEM advance degree holders
    Persons with extraordinary ability
    Outstanding professors and researchers
    Provide for the roll-over of unused employment-based immigrant visa numbers to the following fiscal year so future visas are not lost due to bureaucratic delays
    Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas
    U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative
    Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states

  16. Dave says:

    “and there needs to be an assessment of the costs v. benefits of more extraordinary measures for this.”

    Yes, there needs to be. Building a 2000 mile long fence was a silly thing to do. Be that as it may, I don’t have enough information to opine on how secure the border is or how secure it needs to be.

    I do know that companies are using H1B Visas for other than high tech positions. For example, Sallie Mae did a H1B Visa hire against a position for Director, Financial Planning & Analysis. Someone would have explain to me why this nation has no one that could fill that type of position. H1B Visa does provide a benefit for companies and immigrants. But honestly, are we not producing the people that can fill many of these positions?

  17. puck says:

    Coons’s bill is depressing. Calling it reform is enraging.

  18. Tom McKenney says:

    We subsidize our corn then complain when Mexican farmers can’t compete and come north for work

    I believe we should work for open borders worldwide

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