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So What Could be Next? Immigration Reform

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

All quiet on the immigration front but that may soon end with 2010 looming around the corner.  The White House is telling immigration activists that they plan to tackle the issue in 2010:

Senior White House aides privately have assured Latino activists that the president will back legislation next year to provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The person in charge of immigration reform in the Senate is Sen. Schumer (D-NY) who is working with Sen. Graham (R-SC) to hammer out a bipartisan compromise.  According to El Diario translated by Irish Central, the outlines of this compromise looks to be stepped up interior enforcement mandating employers hire only authorized workers through the use of employee biometric cards, a fine for undocumented workers to register and get right with the law, a streamlined immigration system, and increased border enforcement.

Still, the issue of a guest worker program might be a sticking point in these negotiations.  Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is insisting on a guest worker program for his vote for the bill, but it doesn’t look to be part of an upcoming immigration bill according to a McCain spokesperson

“From everything that we hear right now, the temporary guest-worker program won’t be addressed in immigration reform. And unless that is an essential part of the reform program, it’s something that Sen. McCain can’t work on,” said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Arizona lawmaker.

After a year long focus on enforcement, immigration reform just might get its moment in the sun with the Senate immigration bill expected to be unveiled in February.  We’re still awaiting word on the time line for the Judiciary Committee mark up of the bill but we’ll probably get hints once the bill is unveiled.

One suggestion I would like to make for the immigration bill is to add a provision where the government would appropriate whatever portion of the Earning Suspense File (ESF) that undocumented immigrants paid into the Social Security Administration and reroute it to the Social Security trust fund or to pay down the deficit.  The ESF is Social Security money that is not tied to any one person due to an error or the taxes came from an unauthorized Social Security number.

As of 2005, the ESF contained $516 billion dollars and undoubtedly many of those billions come from the work of undocumented immigrants.  More than $6 billion dollars in Social Security taxes are added every year into the ESF by undocumented workers.

Lou Dobbs Supports Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants (Really?!)

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

So says the Huffington Post:

Mr. Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, a stance he long lambasted as an unfair “amnesty.”

What he actually said on Telemundo leaves a lot of wiggle room:

“I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest.”

And what are these proposed solutions, Mr. Dobbs? There’s already one on the table called Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a tough but fair bipartisan compromise in the works that will increase interior enforcement, streamline the immigration system, require otherwise law abiding undocumented immigrants to register and become legalized, and protect the border.

Lou Dobbs should know that he is viewed by the Latino and immigrant community much like Bull Connor and  Joe McCarthy — men who have led witch hunts whipping up frenzy and hate in the process.  These men are also now considered pariahs of history.  If Lou Dobbs has had a genuine change of heart, the Latino and immigrant communities will welcome it.

But remember this Mr. Dobbs: We can forgive, but we will never forget.

Democrats Eliminate Hard-line Immigration Measures from Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Bill

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Democratic conference negotiators eliminated two hard-line immigration measures from the Homeland Security Appropriations conference bill.  The two measures, funding to finish 300 miles of the border wall and a permanent E-Verify requirement for federal contractors, were eliminated when House and Senate negotiators met to create a unified Congressional Homeland Security Appropriations bill.  Senators added these provisions back in the summer, but they did not make it to the final bill.  Negotiators did keep a temporary E-Verify extension as well as pro-immigration measures such as extending a visa program for immigrant medical graduates serving rural areas.

House and Senate negotiators said the debate for these measures should best be handled in an immigration reform bill, no doubt to keep these measures on the table as a carrot for Republicans in comprehensive immigration reform bill talks.  The immigration debate is expected to take place early in 2010 and before the summer.

SNL Hits Obama for Unfinished Agenda Almost a Year Into Presidency

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

SNL lampooned President Obama last Saturday for failing to produce results for any of his campaign promises.  Fred Armisen, who plays Pres. Obama, even had a checklist of all the agenda items that the President hasn’t done.  The list included:

  • Closing Guantanamo Bay
  • Out of Iraq
  • Improve Aghanistan
  • Health Care Reform
  • Global Warming
  • Immigration Reform
  • Gays in the Military
  • Limits on Executive Powers
  • Torture Prosecutions

While I do think the criticism is valid because major campaign promises have not been met as of now, Obama has passed the economic stimulus bill as well as the “low hanging fruit”, so to speak, of legislation like the SCHIP expansion and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act while doing his Commander in Chief duties.  Still, Obama hasn’t forgotten his promises, and here’s an update on all the agenda items listed on SNL

  • Closing Guantanamo Bay – Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay once he became President, and he did announce the closing on the first days of his Presidency.  The deadline to close the base is January of next year although Secretary of Defense Gates says they may not make the January deadline.   They’re going to try though.
  • Out of Iraq – To be fair, Obama never promised we’d be out of Iraq in the first months of his Presidency.  President Obama promised we’ll begin withdrawal from Iraq and the withdrawal has indeed begun.  Full withdrawal from Iraq won’t come until the end of 2011.
  • Improve Afghanistan – President Obama ordered more troops into Afghanistan last winter, but now Obama has to decide whether to add 40,000 more troops as General McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, tried to push last week, which brought criticism from Natl. Security Advisor and retired Gen. Jim Jones for McChrystal’s politicking, or to draw down the conflict as some Democrats are wanting him to do.  Withdrawal is not an option yet, but Obama is wrestling with the idea of escalating the conflict even further.
  • Health Care Reform – Awaiting a vote from the Senate Finance Committee and then there’s going to be  a merger towards a unified Senate bill to prepare for a floor debate.  Over at the House, all the relevant committees have passed, but they have not set a date for floor debate yet.  Congress plans to pass health care reform before Thanksgiving break if all goes as planned.
  • Global Warming – The climate bill is expected to be marked up in the EPW committee sometime this month, but there’s no timeline yet for when we’ll see a floor debate although it is expected to be the next major debate after health care reform if financial regulatory reform doesn’t get there first.  Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed regulations over greenhouse gases in power plants, factories, and refineries.  A 2007 Supreme Court ruling said the EPA could regulate greenhouse gases, but the power hasn’t been tested until now.
  • Immigration Reform – A bill is expected to be introduced this year, and action on this issue is expected early in 2010.
  • Gays in the Military – A repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was promised but Obama seems to want to avoid this issue for the time being.
  • Limits on Executive Powers – Kind of vague here.  Does that mean greater transparency?  What does that mean exactly?
  • Torture Prosecutions – Obama never promised to prosecute torture officials.  Obama already signed an executive order banning the use of torture on Day 2 of his Presidency.

Sen. Kennedy Passes the Torch

September 6, 2009 Leave a comment

kennedy

Even during the twilight of Kennedy’s life these past few months, Sen. Kennedy never stopped working for the American people.  The following are three major pieces of legislation that Sen. Kennedy earnestly worked hard to pass in order to improve the lives of the American people and working families:

  • Health Care Reform – Sen. Kennedy called health care reform “the cause of his life” and believed that every American should have quality health care as a right and not a privilege.  The current health care reform bill being debated should focus on that goal.
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform – Sen. Kennedy worked with the Bush Administration to fix the broken immigration system, but Bush was unable to pass immigration reform during the latter part of his Presidency.  Immigration reform is needed now more than ever so that undocumented immigrants are registered to become legal, tax paying workers, the immigration system is streamlined, and the border is secured.  The Washington Post reports that immigration reform will most likely be tackled before Easter 2010.
  • Healthy Families Act/Guaranteed Paid Sick Leave Legislation – This bill guarantees every American worker 7 days of paid sick leave for people working over 30 hours a week.  No longer should Americans have to worry about working even though they’re sick.

Thank you Sen. Kennedy for all your hard work.  The 111th Congress should honor Kennedy’s life and legacy by enacting the causes he believed in.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (1932-2009)

August 26, 2009 Leave a comment

The Work Goes On, The Cause Endures, The Hope Still Lives, and The Dream Shall Never Die

Rest in Peace to the Lion of the Senate, Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform for a More Secure America

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Right now, the broken immigration system entails an insecure border, unscrupulous employers exploiting undocumented people, and millions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, having to navigate through a byzantine set of regulations and potential trap doors.

Comprehensive immigration reform promises to fix this broken system  by increasing enforcement at the border, adding teeth to employer sanctions against hiring and exploiting undocumented workers, streamlining immigration flows, and requiring the millions of undocumented workers to register with the government to become legal, tax paying workers.

And reform is closer to reality than you may think.  According to internal projections here at Senate Agenda Blog, the Senate is tantalizingly close to achieving 60 votes with enough Senators amenable to persuasion.  Offering his own immigration outlook, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said he already has the votes to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate.

President Obama recently said he will tackle immigration reform in early 2010.  In the meantime, Sen. Schumer, the immigration point man in the Senate, will craft a final bill for debate by the end of the year.  Good because reform can’t come soon enough.