Obama backs plan to legalize illegals
By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times, March 18, 2010
President Obama gave a thumbs up Thursday to the outline of a plan to legalize illegal immigrants and create a flow of low-skilled foreign workers for the future, saying the immigration bill being worked on by a Republican and a Democrat is 'promising.'
In their broad blueprint, Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, call for illegal immigrants to be put on a path to citizenship, offer green cards to keep high-skilled foreign university graduates and would create a temporary program for low-skilled workers, with some also getting the chance to become citizens.
The senators also proposed to turn all Social Security cards into tamper-proof IDs to be checked by employers when they are about to hire a worker. The cards would include biometric information designed to prevent counterfeiting — but the senators said the information would not be stored in a government database.
'I congratulate Senators Schumer and Graham for their leadership, and pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform,' Mr. Obama said in a statement soon after the two senators published their blueprint in a column submitted to The Washington Post.
The carefully orchestrated rollout came just three days before immigrant-rights advocates expect at least 50,000 supporters to rally and march in Washington, D.C., calling for Congress to act. The organizers of the rally had met with Mr. Obama last week and told him he needed to embrace a bill or else the thousands of marchers would be told that he had failed to live up to his promises on this issue.
But the outline is just a first step in what's still a very rocky legislative path.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said flatly that it can't pass.
'The bill doesn't have a prayer, because the American people oppose rewarding lawbreakers, which then encourages illegal immigration,' he said. 'Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house. Illegal immigrants should return home and play by the rules like millions of legal immigrants.'
And adding to the bill's troubles, Mr. Graham has warned Democrats and Mr. Obama that if they use the budget process to push health care through Congress — known as reconciliation — that could poison any chance for bipartisan cooperation on immigration.
Also, the blueprint is broad, and doesn't delve into many key details that could still split the coalition of labor, business, religious and ethnic groups that have joined together to try to pass a bill.
Still, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said backers have now checked off the first several steps on their to-do list: The senators have published their outline, Mr. Obama endorsed it, and earlier this week Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said he was looking forward to moving a bill through his committee.
Mr. Noorani said the next challenges are to see if more Republicans will jump onboard the effort, and to get commitments from House Democrats to move legislation through their chamber.
'We have a bipartisan framework that is going to define a piece of legislation. From here onward, it's a political and legislative battle to get the 60 votes we need [to pass the Senate] and the 218 in the House,' Mr. Noorani said.
Congress last took up immigration in 2007, when President George W. Bush joined with Democratic leaders to write a bill. But a bipartisan majority of senators joined a filibuster to block the bill.
The supporters of the 2007 effort concluded that Americans didn't trust the government to secure the borders and enforce the laws, even as they were offering legalization, particularly since illegal immigration has only grown since a 1986 amnesty.
To combat that impression, Mr. Graham and Mr. Schumer said they'll include new enforcement at both the border and in the country's interior.
'Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies,' they wrote.
They have been working on the proposal for months, sorting out competing interests from business groups, labor unions and immigration advocates. They said their plan has four key components: a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a program to let in future workers, the improvements in enforcement and the biometric Social Security cards to help employers weed out illegal workers.
The senators said their legalization would be a 'tough but fair' program that would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law and make them perform community service and pay a fine.
Illegal immigrants would also have to demonstrate they are proficient at English and pass background checks to gain citizenship.
The plan would offer permanent legal status to foreign students who earn a post-graduate degree from an American university, and creates a future program for low-skilled workers. Businesses could only hire them if no American worker is available, and the number allowed would fluctuate depending on the U.S. economy's needs. Workers who have kept jobs for a long time and have proved valuable members of their community could earn permanent legal status.
Senators announce framework for bipartisan immigration bill
Charles Schumer, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican, propose increasing resources for border enforcement and legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. President Obama praises the proposal.
By Anna Gorman
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2010
Days before a planned march in Washington, D.C., two U.S. senators announced their framework Thursday for a bipartisan immigration bill that would increase resources for border enforcement, create a biometric Social Security card to prevent forgeries and legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) laid out their proposal in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, saying that 'the American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation.' The plan also calls for creation of a program to admit temporary workers.
The announcement was immediately praised by President Obama, who pledged Thursday to help translate the framework into a legislative proposal and to continue working 'to forge a bipartisan consensus this year.'
The senators' plan 'thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders,' Obama said in a statement, 'and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system.'
As many as 50,000 faith, labor and immigrant rights advocates are expected at a rally in the nation's capitol Sunday to pressure the White House and legislators to take action on immigration reform. In a conference call Thursday, they called upon the senators to introduce a bill in coming weeks and begin deliberations in April. They warned that politicians could see the consequences in the midterm elections if progress isn't made.
'Immigration reform cannot wait another year, another term,' said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. 'The time is now and they are marching in D.C. to make that clear.'
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Thursday that Schumer and Graham understand that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
'The framework is an important step forward,' Noorani said. 'The likelihood of immigration reform is very, very strong given this strong start.'
Previous efforts to pass immigration reform legislation failed in 2007. Now, with the economic downturn and millions of Americans out of work, opponents said it was even less likely that the public would support the legalization of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
'Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house,' Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement.
Mark Krikorian, from the Center for Immigration Studies, who favors stricter controls on immigration, said he believed that there was 'zero chance' of legislation being signed by the president. 'This is just a way of pretending to show there is progress when there is nothing whatsoever new in what they have written,' he said.
The framework covers familiar territory: border security, interior enforcement, temporary workers and legalization. The legalization plan would require undocumented immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English. According to the plan, a bill would also give green cards to immigrants who earn a master's or doctorate in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university.
The unveiling of the plan follows a gathering last week of the president, both senators and advocates of reform. Since taking office, Obama and the administration have been reaching out to legislators and advocates to garner support for reforming the immigration system. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has held dozens of meetings with Senate and House members and has held round table sessions with state and local politicians and labor, business and faith groups throughout the nation, including in Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Tamar Jacoby, who runs ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of employers pushing for reform, said she was encouraged by the framework and that it included a plan for more workers to come legally when they were needed. Jacoby said that publishing a framework now shows the public and stakeholders there's momentum for the process.
'Part of passing any bill is about garnering public support,' she said. 'Voters will be paying attention to the issue this weekend.'
Promises Promises: Obama in Immigration Dance
By Darlene Superville
The Associated Press, March 19, 2010
Obama backs amnesty plan; O.C. reps say no
By Dena Bunis
The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), March 18, 2010
Obama backs 'framework' to revamp U.S. immigration
By Thomas Ferraro
Reuters, March 19, 2010
Obama gives thumbs-up to immigration bill outline, says legislation is next step
By Suzanne Gamboa
The Associated Press, March 18, 2010
2 Senators Offer Immigration Overhaul
By Julia Preston
The New York Times, March 18, 2010