U.S. Immigration Bill Could Exclude Many

us-immigration-bill

A bipartisan immigration bill soon to be introduced in the Senate could exclude hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally from ever becoming U.S. citizens, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals.

The bill would bar anyone who arrived in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2011, from applying for legal status and ultimately citizenship, according to the aide, who spoke on condition because the proposals have not been made public.

It also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before Dec. 31, 2011, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they’re likely to stay off welfare.

Those requirements could exclude hundreds of thousands of the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally from the path to citizenship envisioned by the bill, the aide said.

Although illegal immigration to the U.S. has been dropping, many tens of thousands still arrive each year, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. That may come as a disappointment to immigrant rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.

But Republicans in the immigration negotiating group had sought strict criteria on legal enforcement and border security as the price for their support for a path to citizenship, which is still opposed by some as amnesty.

The new details emerged as negotiators reached agreement on all the major elements of the sweeping legislation.

After months of closed-door negotiations, the “Gang of Eight” senators, equally divided between the two parties, had no issues left to resolve in person, and no more negotiating sessions were planned. Remaining details were left to aides, who were at work completing drafts of the bill.

“All issues that rise to the member level have been dealt with,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Thursday. “All that is left is the drafting.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the bill probably would be introduced on Tuesday.

The landmark legislation would overhaul legal immigration programs, require all employers to verify the legal status of their workers, greatly boost border security and put millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally on a 13-year path to citizenship. A top second-term priority for President Barack Obama, it would enact the biggest changes to U.S. immigration law in more than a quarter-century.

Deals gelled over the past two days on a new farm-worker program and visas for high-tech workers, eliminating the final substantive disputes on the legislation.

Next will come the uncertain public phase as voters and other lawmakers get a look at the measure. Already, some conservatives have made it clear their opposition will be fierce.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., complained that the bill would ensure that millions get amnesty but border enforcement never happens.

“This is also why it is so troubling that (Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.) has rejected the GOP request for multiple hearings and that members of the Gang of Eight have publicly announced their intention to oppose any amendments,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday. “To proceed along these lines is tantamount to an admission that the bill is not workable and will not withstand public scrutiny.”

Pro-immigrant activists also were gearing up for a fight even as they expressed optimism that this time, Congress will succeed in passing an immigration overhaul bill. Many of those pushing for the legislation were involved in the last major immigration fight, in 2007, when a bill came close on the Senate floor but ultimately failed.

“I think it’s a pretty remarkable breakthrough that eight ideologically diverse senators are working so well together on such a challenging issue,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a group advocating for an overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. “And I think the fact that they’ve come up with a bill they can all support and defend suggests that it’s the heart of a bill that will finally pass into law.”

Once the legislation is introduced, it will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday and likely will begin to amend and vote on the bill the week of May 6. From there, the bill would move to the Senate floor.

Both in committee and on the floor, the bill could change in unpredictable ways as senators try to amend it from the left and the right. The Gang of Eight — Schumer, Durbin, and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. — have discussed banding together to defeat amendments that could significantly alter the legislation.

Even more uncertain, though, is the Republican-led House, where a bipartisan group is also crafting an immigration bill, though timing of its release is uncertain. Many conservatives in the House remain opposed to citizenship for immigrants who have been living in the U.S. illegally.

- AP

21380011_BG1A week before mandatory budget cuts go into effect, the Department of Homeland Security releases illegal immigrants being held in detention centers across the country as a cost saving measure.

That reportedly includes releases from detention centers in Louisiana, Texas and Florida.

Bryan Cox, public affairs officer for the New Orleans office of US Immigration and Customs enforcement was unable to provide FOX 8 with exact numbers of detainees released in Louisiana. He says several hundred detainees were released nationwide. Cox confirms that ICE administrators directed field officers to review the detained population to be sure it is line with available funding.

In an e-mailed statement, Cox says “As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released across the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release.”

The Obama administration has made dire warnings of the impact of the sequestration. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the across-the-board cuts would impact the department’s core operations, including border security and airport screening.

- Fox8 Live

harry-reidUS Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is drawing a line in the sand on any congressional immigration reform proposals: No citizenship, no bill.

“There will be nothing done in my Senate [on immigration reform] without a pathway to citizenship,” the Democrat told the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday.

This could be a problem in the Republican-controlled House, where members have expressed reservations about letting any of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who could benefit from an immigration reform bill become citizens.

The Obama administration wants immigrants who overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally to prove they’ve resided in the country for several years, have not committed any crimes and will pay any owed back taxes. In exchange, they’ll receive temporary legal status that could lead to citizenship in about 15 years.

Republican House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia said on Wednesday that he would most likely not sign on to a citizenship-inclusive reform bill, but would consider giving noncitizen legal status to illegal immigrants.

But it’s possible that Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida who won office with support from the tea party, may be able to attract more conservatives to an immigration plan that includes citizenship. In an interview with conservative commentator Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, Rubio brushed off her theory that Democrats support immigration reform because they want a “vast path to voting rights” for immigrants in order to lock in more political support.

“Here’s the bottom line: This country needs a legal citizenship system that works,” Rubio said. He added that any path to citizenship would be gradual. Conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, meanwhile, called Rubio’s plan “fair” when the senator came on his show this week. – Yahoo News

Obama’s Immigration Reform Push to Begin This Month

obama_13The Obama administration will begin a push for immigration reform this month, the Huffington Post quoted an unnamed administration official as saying in an article on Jan. 2. The specifics of the potential bill are far from clear, however. Democrats have expressed a desire for a bill for comprehensive reform, from immigration assistance for undocumented workers to policy changes seeking to promote foreign investment in U.S. housing. Republicans have also indicated a willingness to change certain immigration laws; however, it is less clear what areas of immigration reform they are willing to look at, and “comprehensive reform” may not ultimately pass, replaced by laws targeting only certain areas.

The White House expects to work on a bill for the next several months before introducing it to Congress. A group of U.S. Senators are also attempting to form a bipartisan bill regarding immigration reform.

High-skilled workers

One area likely to receive attention is green cards for high-skilled workers. While the 112th Congress is now ended, there was a late push in the lame-duck session introduced by House Republicans that would have replaced the random lottery for green cards and instead given them to high-skilled workers. There is currently a backlog of high-skilled foreign workers seeking green cards. U.S. companies are seeking these workers because they cannot find qualified U.S. citizens to fill the positions.

While businesses support expanding the ability for companies to obtain high-skilled workers, some Democrats opposed the measure, as it would ultimately lower the total number of green cards issued to immigrants because there are not 50,000 high-skilled worker applications yearly, once the backlog is ended.

Changes in the law continue

While any comprehensive reform is at least months away, if it ever comes at all, that is not to say immigration laws are static. For example, on Jan. 2 federal authorities created a new rule that will prevent long periods of separation for certain families seeking green cards to remain in the U.S.

Currently, some undocumented immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen or who have a close relative who is a U.S. citizen must return to their home country before applying for a green card. However, this makes for situations in which families must be separated for years before reuniting in the U.S. The new rule will allow the undocumented immigrant to prove extreme hardship if separated from immediate family, potentially reducing the wait time to months rather than years.

Immigration law attorneys can help

U.S. immigration laws are shifting and complicated. Immigrants seeking green cards or temporary work visas should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to help them navigate the ever-changing landscape of immigration to the U.S.

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