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Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

The Bipartisan House Immigration Bill You’ve Never Heard Of

December 9th, 2013

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By now we’ve heard all the doom and gloom predictions of the chances of passing immigration reform. The media may paint a pretty pessimistic picture, but secretly Congress agrees on more than you think they do.

In May, the House Committee on Homeland Security voice voted—unanimously—in favor of the Border Security Results Act of 2013. Almost as shocking as a bipartisan vote in support of an immigration bill is the fact that the bill focuses on border security—one of the most contentious and partisan issues in the immigration policy debate. And rest assured, this is no minor messaging bill.

The Border Security Results Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a national strategy for border security based on an analysis of the state of the border—a common sense approach to avoid both over-spending and over-militarizing at the Southern border. The bill would put Department of Defense sensor technology no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan to work monitoring the border so border patrol troops and resources can be allocated where they are truly needed. DHS would have 180 days to submit a data-based plan for maintaining control of the border and 90 days to craft a strategy for implementation. Within 2 years of the submission of the implementation plan, the strategy must lead to the apprehension of 90% of illegal border crossers in high traffic areas. Within 5 years, 90% of all illegal border crossers must be apprehended. Homeland Security must certify that these goals have been met. The strategy, implementation plan, and the metrics they rely upon must be verified by the Government Accountability Office, a National Laboratory that specializes in border security, and the DHS centers of excellence network. No money can be spent on new resources until the strategy has been evaluated by these independent experts. In addition, the bill requires the implementation of a biometric exit program at ports of entry to better track who is leaving the country and when, as well as a review of border security duplication and cost effectiveness.

Surely, if the House can figure out how to come together on border security, the rest of a comprehensive immigration reform package is in reach. When the Senate was considering this issue, the border security “surge” amendment was the final step in negotiations before a bipartisan bill was passed. Perhaps this House Committee on Homeland Security bill is a good omen—and at the very least, it is place to start. Americans—even the ones in Congress—aren’t really as far apart on immigration as it seems. Seventy-four percent of the country says current immigration policy either needs major changes or to be completely rebuilt. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said reform is “going to happen” and Speaker Boehner proclaimed immigration reform is “absolutely not” dead. The Senate’s Gang of 8 set an example of how it can be done—but there isn’t only one route to fixing our broken system. If the House could come together on a bill or a series of bills, built off of the foundation of the Border Security Results Act, they could give Congress a chance to do what we elected them to do—make progress on the issues that matter.

Keeping the World’s Best and Brightest

October 31st, 2013

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You think the Obamacare website is difficult to navigate? Try the immigration system.

Suppose you run a business and want to hire your top-performing summer intern – a master’s degree graduate in electrical engineering from India. Good luck. Because just as many of our international competitors are snatching up the highest-skilled workers around the globe, the quirky and outdated U.S. immigration system seems intentionally designed to hold back American employers and entrepreneurs.

Take, for example, Australia and Canada. There, your former intern could likely obtain a visa based on the employment offer and his in-demand skills. But here, that visa would come through in about five years – a wait that repels talent, rather than attracting it.

The reason is that the U.S. sets a strict and meager quota of giving out only 14 percent of each year’s green cards (for lawful permanent residents) based on skills – compared to Canada’s 63 percent and Australia’s two-thirds. That means out of a million green cards our government awards each year, only 140,000 go to immigrants petitioning to come to or stay in the country based on their exceptional economic value. Moreover, about half of those green cards are actually claimed by spouses and children of applicants, not the super-skilled workers our economy craves.

Our immigration policies are so retrograde that we offer the same number of employment-based green cards today that we did in 1990 – the year the internet was invented (with a great degree of help from high-skilled immigrants, incidentally). To complicate matters further, the U.S. immigration system also discriminates against exceptional workers from certain countries. In other words, if your intern was from Iceland, there would be no waiting period for a green card; if she was from China, you’ll wait more than half a decade. That’s because current law establishes hard country caps to prohibit citizens of any one country from claiming more than 9,800 employment-based visas – whether that country is the size of India (1.2 billion population) or Iceland (315,000).

What’s most stunning is that many of these high-skilled immigrants already live here, and then we force them to leave. Our world class colleges and universities attracted more than 225,000 new international students in 2011-12, and that number is increasing every year. Many earn advanced degrees in fields that create jobs and wealth, such as engineering, computer science and advanced mathematics. But after graduation, we force them to return home. There is only one winner when our immigration system prevents a business owner from hiring that ideal employee after graduation – the country who puts the student we educated to work for its economy.

For the last five years, Congress has sought to reform our immigration system in fits and starts. The best opportunity for reform is now with a bipartisan immigration bill that Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., steered through the Senate with deep bipartisan support. This bill addresses the vexing problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here in a tough, fair, and practical way. Those provisions have garnered the most headlines. But for the economy, the bill brings U.S. immigration into the 21st century.

The Senate’s plan would exempt those with a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from green card caps and vastly increase the number of temporary high-skilled visas available. It would move the future flow of immigration into the country from one principally based on family and proximity to one that also recognizes economic value and skills. It acknowledges that immigrants of all skill levels are essential to economic growth, but that those of the highest skill levels are urgently needed. After all, where do we want the next Intel, Facebook, Amazon, Apple or Google to start – here or in another country?

Across America, business owners are dreaming of hiring the best-educated, most exemplary workers they can find to help grow their companies and our economy, and they need Congress to fix our broken immigration system which currently stands in their way. If we want to compete in the 21st century global economy, we need to pass 21st century immigration reform.

The last true overhaul of our immigration laws was in 1986. A lot has happened since then. Our country and our economy need an updated system, and we can’t wait any longer.

This piece was originally published via US News & World Report.

Perfect could be enemy of the good on immigration

January 31st, 2013

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This piece was originally published in The Hill.

The phone rings in the house of an undocumented immigrant who has lived here for decades. The person on the line offers her a deal. If she registers with the US government, goes through a criminal background check, and pays a fine, she will be forever allowed to work, travel, and conduct her affairs in America without fear of deportation. For her children, even better — they will be given a fast-track path to citizenship. And down the line, once more is done to secure the border, she can get in the back of the line and eventually earn her citizenship as well.
 
Is there any chance she would say no?

On Monday, a bipartisan group of 8 Senators released an immigration reform proposal that would offer exactly that scenario to undocumented immigrants. Yet many reform advocates reacted warily to the plan, and even the Administration offered a few pointed criticisms in its otherwise favorable statement. In particular, they argued that using a “trigger” of border security to determine when some immigrants can move from a provisional legal status to a permanent one with a path to citizenship is unacceptable.

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What’s on the Ballot? (UPDATED with Results)

November 7th, 2012

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President Obama’s re-election was not the only important issue on the November 2012 ballot. Several states’ voters faced important initiatives with possible national implications, and the results of those votes are listed below.

Here’s a Quick Overview:

  • Of the 4 marriage votes, all 4 were in support of marriage (ME, MD, and WA legalizing, MN not banning).
  • Of the 2 abortion votes, 1 restriction passed (MT) and 1 restriction failed (FL).
  • Of the 2 immigration votes, 1 went in favor of immigrants (MD DREAM Act) and 1 went against immigrants (MT proof of citizenship).
  • In the 1 affirmative action vote, the practice was banned (OK).
  • In the 1 dying with dignity vote, the effort failed (MA).
  • Of the 6 marijuana votes, 4 passed (MA, CO, MT, WA), 2 failed (AR, OR).

Marriage for Gay Couples:

Abortion:

  • Florida Amendment 6: FAILED - state constitution not amended to prohibit the use of any public funds for abortion (including through Medicaid or the purchase of insurance covering abortion in a state exchange) except in the cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. Had it passed, the amendment also would have overruled any court cases where the Florida Constitution was found to provide a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution and prohibited the state constitution from ever again being interpreted to provide any abortion rights not guaranteed federally.
  • Montana Legislative Referendum 120: PASSED - requires doctors to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor under 16 years old, except in cases of emergency or where a judge allows it.

Immigration:

  • Maryland Question 4: PASSED - allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at a community college and at a four-year school after transfer if they meet certain requirements.
  • Montana Legislative Referendum 121: PASSED - requires anyone seeking a state service to show proof of citizenship. DHS will be notified of any noncitizen applicants unlawfully within the U.S.

Affirmative Action:

  • Oklahoma State Question 759: PASSED - amends the state constitution to prohibit the use of affirmative action based on race, gender, ethnicity, or nationality in employment, education, and contracting.

Crime and Guns:

  • Arizona Proposition 114: PASSED - amends the state constitution to ensure that no crime victim can be sued for damages if he injures or kills the person committing the crime against him.
  • California Proposition 34: FAILED - the state’s use of the death penalty is not eliminated.
  • California Proposition 36: PASSED - amends the state’s Three Strikes Law to apply only where the third strike is for a serious or violent felony.
  • Louisiana Amendment 2: PASSED – amends the state constitution to explicitly classify the right to bear arms as fundamental, making it very difficult for courts to uphold any law infringing upon that right.

Religion:

  • Florida Religious Freedom Amendment 8: FAILED - state constitution not amended to ensure that no person or entity can be denied public funding because of religious identity, and did not reverse the current statewide ban on the direct or indirect use of public funds to aid religious providers.

Dying with dignity:

  • Massachusetts Question 2: FAILED – doctors are not allowed to prescribe medication to terminally ill patients to end their lives at the patients’ request.

Marijuana:

  • Arkansas Issue 5: FAILED - medical marijuana is not legalized.
  • Massachusetts Question 3: PASSED - legalizes medical marijuana.
  • Colorado Amendment 64: PASSED – decriminalizes marijuana use and possession for people 21 years of age or older.
  • Washington Initiative 502: PASSED - decriminalizes marijuana use and possession for people 21 years of age or older.
  • Montana Initiative Referendum 124: PASSED – overturns a recent bill that medical marijuana supporters call a “de facto repeal” of the old medical marijuana law, and ensures the legality of medical marijuana use.
  • Oregon Measure 80: FAILED - medical marijuana is not legalized, nor will a state-wide commission be established to regulate and tax its sale.

Unions:

  • Michigan Proposal 2: FAILED - state constitution not amended to include a right to collective bargaining through unions for all public and private sector employees.
  • Idaho Propositions 1 and 2: FAILED - two recent education bills that limited the collective bargaining rights of teachers are not repealed.

Health Care:

  • Alabama Amendment 6: PASSED - amends state constitution to prohibit any person, employer, or health care provider from being forced to participate in any health care system.
  • Wyoming Amendment A: PASSED - amends state constitution to prohibit any person, employer, or health care provider from being forced to participate in any health care system.
  • Florida Amendment 1: FAILED - laws not prohibited from forcing people or employers to purchase, obtain, or provide health insurance.
  • Montana Legislative Referendum 122: PASSED - prohibits anyone from being required to purchase health care or from being punished for refusing to do so.
  • Missouri Proposition E: PASSED - prohibits the establishment/creation/operation of any health insurance exchange unless explicitly passed as a state statute, referendum, or initiative.

Clean Energy:

  • Michigan Proposal 3: FAILED - by 2025, 25% of the retail utility sales in the state are not required to come from renewable sources and rate increases from the use of these renewable sources are not limited to only 1% per year.

Election Reform:

  • Arizona Proposition 121: FAILED - party-based primaries are not replaced by a single primary for all candidates from which the top-two vote earners would move into the general election.
  • California Proposition 32: FAILED – contributions to state or local campaigns by unions and corporations are not banned, government contractors are not prohibited from contributing to politicians who control their contracts, and automatic deduction of employee wages for political use by corporations, unions, and the government are not banned.
  • Colorado Amendment 65: PASSED - instructs the state government to support a federal limit on campaign contributions.
  • Minnesota Amendment 2: FAILED - state constitution not amended to require voters to show photo identification.
  • Montana Initiative 166: PASSED - establishes as state policy that corporations are not people, requires the legislature to prohibit corporate campaign contributions, and charges the state’s congressional delegation with proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that corporations are not people and are therefore not entitled to constitutional rights.

What’s on the Ballot?

October 16th, 2012

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Voting via Flickr

The Presidential & Congressional elections are not the only important votes on the November 2012 ballot. Several states will also ask voters to weigh in on key ballot initiatives that could have national implications. We’ve put together a guide to some of the most important initiatives and referenda below. We’ll update this cheat sheet after the election so that you can see how they fared with voters in their states!

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Mr. President, an idea on immigration

January 24th, 2012

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This piece currently appears on CNN.

Count on it. President Obama will devote three sentences to immigration reform in the State of the Union.

Two dozen lawmakers will jump to their feet and applaud. One-third of the audience will give an obligatory clap. The rest will sit silently, stifling a yawn.

Five years ago, comprehensive immigration reform legislation seemed possible and deeply bipartisan. Now it seems as unlikely and distant as President Bush’s mission to Mars. And as for bipartisan? In the last go around, a Republican president led the charge. Today, no serious GOP presidential aspirant has the guts to support reform—evidenced again last night as both front-runners promised in the Florida debate to veto even the initially-Republican authored DREAM Act, and Romney grasped for straws by suggesting “self-deportation.”

Can immigration reform be saved?

To read the rest of the piece, click here.