GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s statements on immigration in Florida last week and the reaction of immigration-enforcement-only policy supporters seems to be having an impact on the Florida Legislature.
Democrats in both houses of Congress plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
At a Wednesday press conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that the bill would get a vote on the floor of the Senate, but it’s hard to imagine how he’ll pull that off. The Senate fell five votes short of killing a filibuster on the bill during the lame duck session in December and the Democrats now have a smaller majority than they did at the time.
President Barack Obama called for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, in a speech in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday. It was Obama’s first trip to the border as president.
Obama said the lack of progress on immigration reform occurred despite work from people on both sides of the aisle.
“We’ve seen leaders of both parties who try to work on this issue, but then their efforts fell prey to the usual Washington games,” Obama said. “And all the while, we’ve seen the mounting consequences of decades of inaction.”
Obama said that Republicans have been looking to “move the goal posts” on securing the border.
“They wanted a fence,” Obama said. “Well the fence is now basically complete.”
“We’re here at the border because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants,” Obama said in his address at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.
Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in the New Mexico delegation, said before Obama’s speech that the president should have met with constituents in border communities in New Mexico.
“We cannot possibly address immigration without first facing our border security problems,” Pearce said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the President missed an opportunity to hear from my constituents about the need for serious measures.”
Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, said that he supported former President George W. Bush’s call for immigration reform and praised Obama for bringing it up again.
“Comprehensive immigration legislation is necessary to fix our broken borders and advance the educational and economic progress of the country,” Udall said in a statement. “I hope that the president’s speech is just the beginning of a bipartisan effort to pass real reform.”
Sen. Jeff Bingaman also called for immigration reform.
“Obviously, we must make security a centerpiece of comprehensive immigration reform,” Bingaman said. “But I do believe Congress needs to finally find a way to create a more thoughtful immigration system that works for our economy.”
After being “encouraged” by Obama’s speech, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights called for Obama to change its focus “on a costly, enforcement-only model.”
“Our national security, while critical, should never come at the expense of civil and human rights,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights. “At the very least, we need more transparency, accountability and oversight to prevent the border region from becoming a Constitution-free zone.”
Any sort of immigration reform seems unlikely over the next two years. The House of Representatives is controlled by a Republican majority, while the Senate has a Democratic majority. The two chambers have been unable to agree on a number of high-profile issues.
Watch the speech:
UPDATED at 11:58 p.m., with details on how to watch the speech live.
Acknowledging that America’s current immigration system is “broken,” President Obama is planning to tell Americans how to fix it when he gives a speech Tuesday afternoon near the border of Texas and Mexico.
Following a tour of the cargo facility at the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry (according to the White House, of the half-billion inspections conducted every year at 327 ports of entry nationwide, approximately 10 percent enter through the El Paso Port of Entry), at 3:30 p.m. EDT, the president will speak at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, to lay out a plan for immigration reform and improving national economic and national security, so that “America can win the future,” according to a White House press release.
The speech will be live-streamed at WhiteHouse.gov/live, starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Among his planned points, the president will address ”how Americans can work together to foster a constructive national conversation on this important issue as we work to build a bipartisan consensus in Congress.”
In recent meeting,s Obama has asked Democrats and Republicans to elevate the immigration debate publicly and has organized 30 community conversations around the country, according to the White House, including a conference call among business, labor, law enforcement and faith leaders on Wednesday; a roundtable community conservation in Omaha, Neb., among business leaders, administration officials and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra on Thursday; and also on Thursday, a community conversation in Silicon Valley among AOL found Steve Case and senior administration officials. On May 19, Asian-American and Pacific Islander leaders are scheduled to converse on a national conference call with Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, and on May 31, Solis is scheduled to speak in Albuquerque, N.M., at a roundtable hosted by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
Roll Call notes that Tuesday’s speech will mark the fourth week the president has publicly addressed immigration reform and calls it a re-election campaign move to win over Latino voters.
From Roll Call:
Republicans maintain that the administration needs to commit more resources to protect the border before any legislative action is taken on immigration. Additionally, GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that sweeping reforms that grant citizenship to more immigrants would harm the nation’s economy.
Obama supports legislation known as the DREAM Act that would create a path to citizenship for college students and members of the military. But Democrats were unable to pass that bill or other immigration legislation during the previous Congress, despite controlling both chambers, and action this year is unlikely.
The politically difficult issue has taken a back seat to jobs, the economy and, more recently, foreign affairs in the wake of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, the senior officials said Obama is pressing immigration in an attempt to rally supporters and potentially prompt legislative action.
Less than an hour after delivering his immigration plan, Obama is scheduled to fly to Austin, Texas, where he will speak at two Democratic National Committee events, one at the Moody Theater (located on Willie Nelson Boulevard), where the PBS program Austin City Limits is taped live, and another at a private residence.
Even as Utah’s package of immigration reform measures is being pointed to as a model for reform, the ACLU brings suit to prevent some of the laws from being implemented.
The ACLU and others say that one component of the package will lead to racial profiling as police will be empowered to require proof of citizenship under some circumstances.
Meanwhile, the United States Department of Justice is considering a suit to block other aspects of the reform package–specifically a law that would have Utah establish a guest worker program.
As a model for reform, Utah’s package–passed earlier this year–may indeed be model for how immigration reform is handled these days in that it seems to anger everyone while making more noise in the courts than on the streets.
Maryland is set to join ten other states in passing a DREAM Act allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.
Texas was the first state to institute a DREAM Act in 2001, and other states have formally or informally used the term to refer to similar bills ever since. The federal DREAM Act, which would have offered a path to permanent resident status for undocumented immigrants who graduate from college, failed in the U.S. Senate in December.
The vote approving the bill in both the Maryland House and Senate came in the last hours of the state’s regular legislative session. The vote is galvanizing news for immigration reform advocates, who have in recent months condemned attempts like several in Texas seeking to repeal DREAM Act legislation. The three Texas bills that would undo in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants have been languishing in committee since their introduction.
The Maryland bill (PDF) is actually a bit stricter than other DREAM Acts around the country. In addition to requiring students without legal immigration status to complete high school and register for the Selective Service (if male), the bill requires that undocumented students attend two years of community college before being eligible for in-state rates at four-year institutions. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has promised to sign the bill and is expected to do so soon.
Meanwhile, on the schedule for today in the Connecticut House of Representatives is the state’s own version of the DREAM Act. The less pithily titled “Act Concerning Access to Postsecondary Education” not only codifies the notion that anyone living in the state should be considered an in-state student for higher education purposes, it also specifically addresses applying for legal status. From the bill:
A person, other than a nonimmigrant alien as described in 8 USC 1101(a)(15), shall be entitled to classification as an in-state student for tuition purposes, (A) if such person (i) resides in this state, (ii) attended any educational institution in this state and completed at least four years of high school level education in this state, (iii) graduated from a high school in this state, or the equivalent thereof, and (iv) is registered as an entering student, or is enrolled at a public institution of higher education in this state, and (B) if such person is without legal immigration status, such person files an affidavit with such institution of higher education stating that he or she has filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status, or will file such an application as soon as he or she is eligible to do so.
So under the bill, undocumented students in Connecticut would qualify for in-state tuition as long as they’ve finished high school and plan one day to obtain legal immigration status. While the bill has received some opposition from Republican legislators in public hearings, it is expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, who passed a similar bill in 2007, only to see it vetoed by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican. The current governor, Democrat Dan Malloy, has pledged to sign any DREAM Act-like legislation that crosses his desk.
2011 was to be the year state legislatures around the U.S. took Arizona’s lead and cracked down on illegal immigration. It didn’t happen.
Colorado backed off early in the session, with legislators saying they didn’t want to suck the cash-strapped state into a legal quagmire. Other states with tough-talking Republican majorities backed off under pressure from business groups.
In the end, Utah came the closest to passing an Arizona-style law, but in the same breath passed a bill to create a guest worker program that would require federal approval to implement.
From today’s New York Times:
Under newly fortified Republican control, many state governments started the year pledging forceful action to crack down on illegal immigration, saying they would fill a void left by the stalemate in Washington over the issue.
Now, with some legislatures winding down their sessions, the lack of consensus that has immobilized Congress has shown up in the legislatures as well, and has slowed — but not stopped — the advance of bills to penalize illegal immigrants.
No state has passed a law that replicates the one adopted last April in Arizona, which greatly expanded the powers of police officers to question the immigration status of people they stop.
Still, immigrant advocates in many states say the debate has clearly shifted in favor of tougher enforcement. They say they have had to fight just to hold the line on immigration issues that they thought were long settled.
Colorado supporters of an Arizona-style immigration bill say they will pull the bill this morning before it comes to a vote.
As reported by The Durango Herald, even Republicans feared the bill was unconstitutional, and Democrats said it wasn’t needed in Colorado anyway.
From the Herald:
Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said his Colorado House Bill 1107 had too many problems to continue.
“After many drafts and hours of deliberation and meetings with entities, we had come to some agreement with agencies out there,” Baumgardner said. “(But) we couldn’t seem to get away from some parts of it that could be possibly unconstitutional.”
Baumgardner’s bill was patterned closely on a controversial Arizona law. Some parts of the Colorado bill were taken word for word from Arizona’s, while other parts were unique.
Both bills told police to contact anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant, and they required lawful immigrants to carry their papers on them at all times.
A federal judge blocked major parts of the Arizona law last year after the U.S. Department of Justice and several advocacy groups sued the state. The ongoing lawsuit also played into Baumgardner’s decision to pull his bill, he said.
The bill had been scheduled for its first hearing in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee next Monday. But Tuesday morning, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, announced that the hearing would be today and legislators would quickly dispose of HB 1107.