Immigration reform was still hot last week (and this week)
by Bill Stiers, February 25, 2013
On the good news front, Republicans got over the leaked Obama plan, discussions continued, committee hearings moved forward and legislation is expected before April.
The talks in Congress boil down to two main issues border security and a process for checking the immigration status of workers. The latter is of greatest importance to employers, who will likely bear the responsibility of any new process for ensuring work authorization or immigration status of workers. Securing the borders before allowing the nations illegal immigrants to move toward citizenship is a critical issue for conservatives, while a simplified and cost effective employment verification system is essential to business.
The AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed on basic principles for low-skill workers, this compromise would likely mean that U.S. workers should get the first crack” at jobs, it would also create a new guest worker program process, and establish an oversight office to provide transparent, data-based labor information to Congress.
Now for the not-so-good news. The House Judiciary Committee Chairman said he does not support an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Border State House members voiced opposition to the Senate plan, and a recent Reuters poll shows more than half of U.S. citizens believe that most or all of the countrys 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported. When broken down by party, 75% of Republicans think most undocumented immigrants should be deported, while only 40% of Democrats would send them away. No wonder Republican Members of Congress are reluctant to endorse immigration reform until they see the details.
Some of those Republicans are scarred from the battle in 2007, but most of them have never debated immigration reform. In fact, more than half of Congress has turned over since comprehensive immigration reform legislation was last considered. House leaders have been moving at a deliberate pace so that they can educate more than 100 first and second term members, and Republicans believe the poll numbers can be moved at the grassroots level.
A new GOP super PAC has been created to push for immigration laws supporting a conservative, broad-based approach to immigration reform, funded by a cross-section of industries. The Democratic controlled immigration PACs are far ahead of their Republican counterparts, and although their contributors are different, they are ultimately working together for the same outcome.  Motivations may be different, but these unusual bedfellows both understand, No peso, no say-so.

Although the noise from the sequester debate overshadows these developments, today Republican Senators head over to the White House for a chat with the President, and Congress holds a hearing to define Border Security things are moving and still look good…

THE GAME Immigration

On Friday, immigration reform looked good, then came Saturday…

by Bill Stiers, February 18, 2013

Last week, immigration reform looked possible. The Administration had been giving small bi-partisan groups in the House and Senate room to work on compromise legislation, comments from both sides of the aisle were very positive, and things generally looked good.

That was Friday.

On Saturday, the Administration draft proposal was leaked to the press. On Sunday, Republicans denounced it. Now its Monday, a Federal holiday, the government is shut down, and Congress is in recess for the rest of the week. Where will this go now?

Forget about how or why the Administration proposal was leaked. Yes, its interesting, but not important. It is the substance of the proposal you should examine.

The Presidents proposal would create a new visa entitled Lawful Prospective Immigrant which would allow illegal immigrants to work and travel after paying fees and passing a criminal background check. Immigrants holding the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa could apply to become a legal permanent resident (green card) after eight years. Current law allows green card holders to apply for full U.S. citizenship after five years.

Some Republicans call this Amnesty and will not support any plan that contains a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, but many seem willing to move forward as long as the borders are secured. Reluctant GOP members point to the last immigration reform legislation in 1986  that granted blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants, and allowed them to cut into line for a green card if they could prove they had been in the U.S. for five years. On top of that, they also argue that it does nothing to address guest workers or future immigration.

There are some things that the Republicans do like – increased funding for Border Patrol, additional immigration judges and expanded use of the E-Verify system for employers to check the immigration status of job applicants. There were other tidbits for the GOP mentioned in the Administration proposal like requiring Lawful Prospective Immigrants to pay back taxes and pass English and civics tests currently only required for citizenship applicants. Nevertheless, this is a draft proposal. Democrats interpret it as a trial balloon while Republicans see it as a veto threat, but I see it as a good sign.

Congress was making progress on the issue, and moving forward quickly. The Administration realized it, and knew that they needed to quickly define its position more clearly than it did in the State of the Union Address. While it was clumsy, putting their unofficial position on the table as Congress left town for a week was probably a good idea. Theyve said their piece, appeased their supporters, ticked off the Republicans, and can now work on other agenda items. When Congress gets back to town next week, the Republicans will have cooled off, the Administration leak will be old news, and the working groups in the House and Senate can get back to work. And, it would be a good idea for the Administration to hold their peace until Congress starts moving legislation.

There is still a very good chance well see something move forward in 2013, but then comes 2014, a mid-term election year