Friday, January 31, 2014

Like it or not, the compromising begins

House GOP leaders: Unlawful immigrants should be able to stay, but under certain circumstances

Republican House members will debate how to move forward on the issue.

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled a list of “standards” for an immigration reform plan that would allow unlawful immigrants to remain in the United States if they meet certain standards and requirements.

The document, which was provided to House leaders during the conference’s annual policy retreat here, outlines how party leaders wish to proceed on the issue.

“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law,” the document reads. “Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.”

Though the Republican principles say there will be no "special" path to citizenship, they also are not explicitly saying that immigrants cannot apply for citizenship eventually. That is not dissimilar from the Senate's plan, which would allow immigrants to apply for temporary legal status and, eventually, a green card. (Green card holders can apply for citizenship after five years.)

The “standards” document goes on to say that none of those reforms for unlawful immigrants can occur until “specific enforcement triggers have been implemented.”

Concerning children brought to the U.S. illegally, House Republican leaders recommend offering citizenship “for those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree.”

The document also calls for massive increases in border security and enforcement and “a zero tolerance policy” for those who enter the country illegally or overstay a visa. House leaders also call for a federal employment verification system as part of the standards, an “entry-exit visa tracking system” and an increase in the number of high-skilled workers allowed in the United States.

House Republicans are under significant pressure to act on immigration from President Barack Obama, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and a coalition of activists that span the political spectrum.

In a statement, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the lead authors of the Senate version of the bill, suggested that the standards document was a step in the right direction for supporters of  immigration reform.

“While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept," Schumer said. "It is a long, hard road but the door is open.”

As a matter of process, House Republican leaders have vowed not to adopt an immigration overhaul package in a single, comprehensive bill. But they have indicated that they intend to pass bills piecemeal as they arrive from the House Judiciary Committee.

House Republicans plan to discuss the principles during closed meetings at the retreat, and leaders hope to move closer to a consensus on the issue by week’s end.

“It’s time to deal with” immigration, Boehner told reporters before meeting with House members on Thursday. “But how we deal with it is going to be critically important.”

The full document:


Our nation’s immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced. Washington’s failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security. The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America’s national interests and that is not the case today. The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them. But they cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand, and therefore, we will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill. The problems in our immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures. These are the principals guiding us in that effort.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First

It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders, and the United States is failing in this mission. We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure. In addition, we must ensure now that when immigration reform is enacted, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future. Faced with a consistent pattern of administrations of both parties only selectively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, we must enact reform that ensures that a President cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System

A fully functioning Entry-Exit system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. We must implement this system so we can identify and track down visitors who abuse our laws.

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement

In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System

For far too long, the United States has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country. Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America’s colleges and universities, particularly in high skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in U.S. industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren’t available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity to other countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy.

The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.


One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.

As reported by Chris Moody, Yahoo News

Ben Ferro

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sen. Sessions: Immigration Not Good For The U.S. Poor

Immigration spikes income inequality

Newcomers cost Americans millions of jobs.

By Senator Jeff Sessions

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to discuss the plight of American workers. At the same time, he is pushing Republicans to pass an immigration plan making the problem worse by increasing the flow of immigrant workers to compete against unemployed Americans and those struggling to get by in low-wage jobs. Yet, alarmingly, the move is regarded as a part of Obama's agenda that has a chance of becoming law.

House Republicans should reply to the president's immigration effort with a simple message: Our first duty is to help struggling Americans find good work and rising wages.

The president's own economic adviser, Gene Sperling, recently noted that there are three unemployed people for every job available. Wages today have been flat since 2000. Last year, a record one in five American households received food stamps.

This is a national emergency.

So what is the president's proposal? With three job seekers for every open job, he proposes doubling the number of guest workers entering every year, granting immediate work permits to millions of illegal immigrants, and tripling the number of new immigrants granted permanent residency over the next decade.

Today, the U.S. admits 1 million immigrants a year. The plan supported by the president and Senate Democrats would increase that to 3 million a year, or 30 million largely lower-skill immigrants over the next 10.

Did anyone ask the American people whether they wanted to triple immigration?

Polling shows that the public opposes these increases. The opposition is particularly strong among lower- and middle-income Americans. Those earning under $30,000 prefer a reduction to an increase by 3-1.

This is not hard to understand. From 2000 to 2013, a period of record immigration, the number of U.S.-born Americans with jobs declined by 1.3 million while the number of immigrants with jobs increased 5.3 million. On net, all employment gains went to immigrant workers.

Harvard professor George Borjas determined that high levels of immigration from 1980 through 2000 resulted in a 7.4% wage reduction for workers without a high school diploma. Similarly, he found current immigration policy resulted in a net wage loss of $402 billion for workers competing directly with immigrant labor.

Republicans have the opportunity to give voice to the working and middle-class Americans whose wages and job prospects have eroded drastically in recent years. House GOP leaders are reportedly planning to release their "immigration principles" this week. Unfortunately, leaks reveal the leaders' plan mirrors central elements of the president's plan, combining work permits for millions of illegal immigrants with large permanent increases in the flow of new workers from abroad. This would be an extraordinary act of self-sabotage.

Would it not be in the national interest to help move Americans off of welfare and into good paying jobs that can support a family? Is there not an argument to be made that we should slow down and allow wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and both immigrants and citizens to rise together into the middle class?

Republicans have a chance to recapture the trust of millions of disaffected voters who have turned away. But it will mean resisting the influence of corporate interests acting on the president's behalf. And it will mean recognizing the practical real-world concerns of everyday Americans.

The choice is clear. Either the GOP can help the White House deliver a crushing hammer blow to the middle class — or it can stand alone as the one party defending the legitimate interests of American workers.

Reprinted from USA Today
Sen. Jeff Sessions is an Alabama Republican.

How do you feel about the Senator’s concerns? Post your comments below or send an email to

Ben Ferro

Thursday, January 23, 2014

ICE Too Nice?

ICE Is Too Nice to the Dregs of the Dregs of F-1 Issuing Schools

By David North, January 10, 2014

If an immigration compliance matter is such an obvious problem that even our lackadaisical Congress does something about it, then it must be pretty serious. But you would not know it from the way a DHS agency acted the other day.

There is such a problem, and it deals with unaccredited schools of English and their ability to cause the issuance of F-1 visas for international students. The Government Accountability Office has determined that such schools are particularly likely to be used as pathways for illegal aliens.

More than three years ago, Congress passed, and the president signed, the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act. It gave unaccredited ESL schools three full years to secure a clearance from any of the academic accreditation organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. If the ESL schools could not qualify in this generous time period by December 14, 2013 — a date that passed recently — they could no longer issue the form allowing their students (and customers) to apply for F-1 visas.

Those unfamiliar with such matters might ask two questions:

  1. Do you mean that the Department of Homeland Security was recognizing unaccredited schools for visa-issuance purposes?

  1. More fundamentally, why admit aliens to study English in this country when one can study English just about anywhere in the world? Further, as a matter of fact, the language evolved somewhere else, long before the United States came into existence.

The answer, of course, is that the private, for-profit entities that run most of these schools convinced a sloppy Congress in the past that both such practices were good for the tiny enclave of the U.S. economy where they prospered. It apparently did not matter to decision-makers that such schools often create more illegal aliens than gifted English speakers.

After a number of years, Congress, in 2010, decided to limit such activity. When it did so, it singled out the language schools for special treatment. Unaccredited schools in other fields (other than flight training) can continue to admit foreign students.

So, now that the deadline has passed, what has Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a segment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), done about it?

It essentially decided to ignore the 2010 law and has granted these primarily for-profit ESL schools more time (apparently unlimited) to either get themselves accredited or, after all appeals have been exhausted, become unaccredited. Until then they can apparently keep issuing the I-20, the form that allows the holder to apply for an F-1 student visa. ESL schools that have actually been denied accreditation, if any, can no longer issue the I-20.

The verbiage used to describe the SEVP posture is that the agency, "does not intend to take any administrative compliance enforcement action" against those without accreditation, as long as they follow the rules of the accreditation entity and the school has not been denied accreditation.

As you think about this permissive decision, bear in mind that there are no hearts-and-flowers stories available in this arena; no "broken" families, no illegal aliens deported to their homelands, no valedictorians denied "the American dream". All the law means (were it to be obeyed) is that some obviously not very impressive, largely for-profit institutions would no longer be able to accept (via form I-20) some paying customers, customers who are probably more interested in coming to the United States than in studying the language (which they could do much less expensively at home.)

If the administration can't be trusted to handle such a open-and-shut compliance issue, how can it be trusted to enforce any part of the immigration law?

One should bear in mind that there are three tiers of SEVP-certified English-language schools in the U.S. There are:

  1. Those that were accredited prior to the 2010 act;

  1. Those that were accredited after the act and before December 14, 2013; and,

  1. Those that had, despite three years warning, remained unaccredited on that date.

It is only the last grouping, surely neither numerous and nor distinguished, that SEVP has singled out for its perhaps illegal discretionary action.

Perhaps some entity in either class 1 or class 2 above could sue SEVP for giving those in class 3 financial benefits that are clearly against the law and contrary to the economic interests of schools in the other two classes. I volunteer to be among the expert witnesses for the plaintiff!

The reporting here on the latest SEVP action or non-action regarding the unaccredited ESL schools is based on a news item on p. 2396 of the December 16, 2013, issue of Interpreter Releases, the immigration bar's usually reliable trade paper (not available online). That article states: "School officials who have questions about the Accreditation Act should visit SEVP's Frequently Asked Question Web page." It gives this citation in a footnote.

There is nothing I could find on that website or among SEVP and ICE news releases that related to the Interpreter Releases news item. The latter strikes me as perfectly in tune with what SEVP and the administration does in regard to the enforcement of the immigration law, so I believe the reporting, but Interpreter Releases apparently scooped the SEVP website with this item.

Of course, the SEVP website and the agency itself are not exactly au courant; a lead item on its current (January 9, 2014) "What's New" page dated November 27, 2013, says that the agency

Ben Ferro

Friday, January 17, 2014

Immigration Reform Debate Heating Up Again

Boehner to Release Immigration 'Principles' Next Week

House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders are expected to release their one-page list of principles next week for U.S. immigration reform before President Barack Obama makes his State of the Union address.

But there's no indication when the provisions on the supposed far-reaching plan will come up for a vote.

The proposal stops short of the pathway to citizenship endorsed by the Senate in its citizenship bill passed last year, sources tell The Wall Street Journal, while representing a step toward recasting the immigration system that could appease immigration advocates and Democrats, who have led an outcry over the House's inaction on a national plan.

Boehner and his team — which includes Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy; GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers; and immigration-law expert Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — are expected to circulate the plan to build support among lawmakers before it is released publicly, a move that Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, says may help win hard-to-get GOP support.

"If it doesn't lead to a pathway to citizenship, I think you will get more people to at least embrace that or be OK with that," Terry said. "It will still be a very difficult sell."

Critics say the new principles are a political move that may or may not work to attract Hispanic votes as the fall elections near. Boehner and other Republicans, after the groundswell of Hispanic voters that helped elect Obama to a second term said, have said they favor a broad immigration overhaul.

And as Obama's ratings are dropping among Hispanic voters, now may be the time for the GOP to attract people who are turning away from the Democratic ticket. According to a December Gallup poll, Obama's ratings have fluctuated widely among Hispanics, peaking at 80 percent and dipping down to 49 percent.

But even if the House does not approve of Boehner's plan, he could still come out looking like a winner, reports The National Journal. If the plan fails after conservatives object to any part that resembles amnesty for immigrants, Boehner and other Republican leaders can still say they tried for legislation.

"We can win in 2014 without resolving it. We can't win in 2016 without resolving it," Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said.

The new plan, while stopping short of endorsing amnesty, still provides a legal process that will require immigrants admitting guilt and paying fines, plus back taxes, before they are legally allowed to live and work in the United States, insiders familiar with the draft told The Wall Street Journal.

However, immigrants will not automatically qualify for a "pathway to citizenship" that is called for in the Senate bill. Instead, it will allow newly legalized immigrants to seek legal permanent residence, or a green card, and after that be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who supports that approach, told Telemundo Sunday that he is open to new legislation, saying he sees "no reason" illegals can't gain citizenship.

But there are still many Republicans who oppose legalization, and Boehner and his team may have a difficult time getting them to agree with his plan.

"Illegal immigration is a crime and ought to be treated that way," Rep. Tom McClintock of California said Thursday.

Democrats may also oppose the Boehner plan; many believe any proposal that does not allow citizenship is unacceptable. But some Democrats are optimistic about the potential of a new list of immigration standards.

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, while calling the GOP's plans "a very important moment," said the debate has also been framed as either including citizenship for all, or "justice for no one."

He said he is not endorsing the GOP approach, while admitting it could be better than the rules already in place that result in thousands of people being deported each week.

The National Foundation for American Policy said this week the GOP's proposal could result in 4.4 million to 6.5 million illegal immigrants qualifying for green cards, compared with 8 million under the Senate's bill.

Boehner's plan also calls for increased border security, increased employment verification, a temporary worker program for low-skilled workers, allowing more visas for high-tech workers, and a pathway to citizenship for people brought to the country illegally while they were children, said sources who have seen a draft.

If the extensive plan gets positive feedback, it will allow Goodlatte, Cantor, and California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa to advance legislation that has been under discussion for some time, reports The National Journal.

Cantor and Goodlatte talked about a pathway to citizenship for those who came to the United States as children, and Issa is considering broader legalization for unauthorized immigrants.

ImmigrationWorks USA President Tamar Jacoby, a Republican advocate for immigration reform, said the proposals sound "dramatic."

"[There are] at least five and maybe six or seven House Republicans getting ready to introduce legalization bills — House Republicans competing to write bills for what they once called amnesty. I think that's pretty dramatic, as I understand from the outside," Jacoby said.

Originally Published in NewsMax, Article by Sandy Fitzgerald 
Ben Ferro