A strong, bi-partisan effort continues
Last week the President met with GOP Senators to talk about immigration legislation.
According to the Senators the meeting went very well, and they believe that the President will be flexible. While details were not discussed on the record, the talk is that both parties understood the pathway to citizenship will be tied to border security.
A small group of Senators from both parties continues to meet each day to work on comprehensive legislation, and based on comments from participants in both parties, there is strong optimism that an agreement will be reached. The House is a bit different.
The talks there are much more delicate because they have to pass a Republican-controlled chamber where a majority of members represent districts with a Hispanic population of less than 10 percent, and while theyre in safe Republican Districts, they fear a challenge in their primary. This week it was illustrated when a potential 2016 Republican Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, positioned himself to the right of Marco Rubio, one of the Senators working on the bi-partisan bill.
GOP leaders are engaging in listening sessions to educate members, and will probably approach the overhaul in pieces instead of moving one comprehensive bill, working on the low hanging fruit first, and then working on tougher elements later. The details are being circulated but its hard to tell whats real and whats a trial balloon. One a good note, last week the House Judiciary Chairman said he did not support an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, however, this week he seems to be more open to compromise.
This week the Presidents Cabinet Secretary for Homeland Security Secretary said that immigration reform is the top priority for her Department this year, but she also came under fire for releasing immigration detainees due to the budget sequester. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security will need to release 1,000 detainees a week through March to deal with the budget cuts. Republicans accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement of releasing people charged with serious crimes and are concerned that up to 10,000 detainees could ultimately be released. Some Members of Congress are also accusing the Administration of using the sequester as a way to enact immigration changes that would not get through Congress, and they feel that this illustrates that even with comprehensive immigration reform, the Administration cannot be trusted to enforce the law if passed.
As a footnote, there was also a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week where members of both parties questioned the H-1B visa program. There is concern that some employers have abused the program by hiring people at entry-level wages which ultimately undercuts many American workers. There was an effort last year to categorize 50,000 green cards, that are usually offered as part of a lottery, for graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Democrats objected that it favored one group of immigrants over another. Democrats supported simply increasing the number of green cards for the STEM category. This may be one issue that moves early in the House.
What you can take from this weeks activities is that all parties are making a strong effort on this issue. So far there has been minimal political posturing, and its the only issue in Washington where you see cooperation