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Immigration Policy Update: Immigration Policy Conversation Picks Up

Romney Addresses Immigration at NALEO Conference

On June 21, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a speech at the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Mr. Romney started off by attacking the President’s record on the economy. On the issue of immigration, Mr. Romney again began by attacking the President’s record. He addressed the question of whether he would let stand “the President’s executive action” [deferring the deportation of certain young undocumented immigrants]. He said that he would put in place his own “long-term solution that will replace and supersede President Obama’s temporary measure,” that would “prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration.” However, the President’s action dealt with a certain population of undocumented immigrants. For undocumented immigrants, Mr. Romney offered only “a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service.” That would apparently not include the majority of persons covered by the President’s “executive action.”

Perhaps the most concrete change offered by Mr. Romney is to propose to “exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents,” so that spouses and minor children of LPRs would be treated the same as spouses and children of U.S. citizens. He also proposed to offer green cards to anyone who graduates from a U.S. school with an advanced degree and to expand temporary worker programs.

With the exception of those who serve in the military, Mr. Romney was largely silent on undocumented immigrants. Without addressing the undocumented, it will be difficult for him to live up to his promise to “find a long-term solution.”

You can read Mr. Romney’s remarks at the NALEO Conference here, and you can read his “Strategy For Bipartisan & Long-Term Immigration Reform” here.

Reaction to Administration’s Announcement on Deferred Action

After the Administration’s announcement on June 15 that it would defer enforcement action for certain young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as young children, reaction in Congress has been predictably partisan. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a persistent critic of an Administration enforcement strategy that focuses on national security and public safety threats, issued a statement saying that the Administration “put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people.” In a survey of House and Senate Republican offices by Think Progress, only one (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida) supported the policy, while 147 opposed. Two members of the House have introduced legislation that would prevent the Administration from offering deferred action. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), has introduced H.R. 5957, prohibiting the Secretary of Homeland Security from granting deferred action or otherwise suspending “the effectiveness or enforcement of the immigration laws. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), has introduced H.R. 5953, which would roll back not only the June 15 announcement, but the Administration’s earlier prosecutorial discretion initiative. Neither of these bills stand a chance of becoming law. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is reported to be considering suing the President over the deferred action policy. On the other side of the aisle, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) praised the President’s announcement and compared the current immigration challenges facing the nation to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

The public, meanwhile, favors the policy by a 2 to 1 margin, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Among independents, the policy is favored by more than a 2 to 1 margin. For Republicans, this support in the general electorate compounds a problem they’ve had with the Latino electorate, which has heard plenty of harsh rhetoric coming from Republican politicians. The move by the Administration left Republicans struggling to find a message, and this fact is reflected in some of the post-announcement newspaper headlines: “Sen. McConnell: Waiting for Romney on Immigration” (Wall Street Journal); “Republicans wait for Romney to tell them his position on immigration” (Washington Post); “Republicans refine immigration message after Obama’s scoop” (CNN); “GOP caught flat-footed on immigration” (Politico); “GOP stuck on immigration” (The Hill).

We will see in the coming days how Mr. Romney’s remarks at NALEO’s convention play out among his Republican colleagues.

Resources on Deferred Action

The Forum has compiled a list of resources having to do with the Administration’s June 15 deferred action announcement, and we will continue to add the list, which can be found on our DREAM Act page. CLICK HERE. You can also reach the page by clicking on the graphic on our home page.

The main point to stress right now is that there is no process in place yet for applying for deferred action. USCIS was given 60 days from June 15 to devise a process for people who want to apply. There are reports already of “notarios” reaching out to people to try to get their money to “help” them apply. There is nothing to apply for at this time. USCIS will post information on their Web site when they have it.

The Government has set up two telephone hotlines. Individuals can call the USCIS hotline at 1-800-375-5283 for more information; for people in deportation proceedings an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hotline is at 1-888-351-4024USCIS also has a page of resources on its Web site with information on avoiding immigration scams. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has a Web site dedicated to educating the public on notario fraud. Go to http://www.stopnotariofraud.org/.

House Passes DHS Appropriations Bill

On June 7, the House passed its version of the appropriations bill that will fund the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year 2013. During the floor debate, there were several immigration-related amendments that passed. A few highlights (lowlights):

The Senate passed its version of the DHS spending bill out of the Appropriations Committee, but debate for the whole Senate has not yet been scheduled. The Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating the President would be advised to veto the House bill in its current form.

Bill Would Exempt DHS from Environmental Laws on Federal Lands

On June 19, the House passed H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act. Included in this bill is a measure originally introduced as H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). This bill would exempt the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from complying with dozens of environmental laws on lands within 100 miles of the northern and southern land borders. The Bishop bill is included in H.R. 2578 as Title XIV. This bill will likely not be taken up in the Senate.

Senate Would Roll Back Labor Regulation

On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill (S. 3295) to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for the 2013 fiscal year. Included in this bill was an amendment sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) that would prohibit the use of funds to carry out a Labor Department rule governing the H-2b temporary visa program for non-agricultural seasonal workers. The rule, which has yet to be implemented, would provide strengthened protections for workers against employer abuse of the program. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 19-11 with five Democrats joining Committee Republicans. Here

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