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Immigration Reform
February 14, 2018

President Trump on Wednesday encouraged senators to rally behind comprehensive immigration reform and not support narrow "Band-Aid" bills. In a statement, the president indicated he is partial to a bill proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that reduces legal immigration, ends the visa lottery, funds border security, and creates a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, also known as DREAMers.

One of the "Band-Aid" bills Trump was referring to is a bipartisan proposal to exchange amplified funding for border security for protections for the DREAMers. The president believes such compromises are, at best, temporary solutions. His preferred bill, however, is unpopular with the Democratic minority and thus unlikely to pass the Senate with 60 votes, CNN says.

A White House official told The Washington Post that the president feels that he has already compromised enough with Democrats on immigration by supporting a path to citizenship for DREAMers. "We went as far as we could in that direction," the unnamed aide said, "but any more and the House would never take up the bill and the president would not be able to sign it."

But even some of the president's allies in the Senate think he's making a mistake by drawing such a hard line. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The New York Times that vetoing a bipartisan immigration bill would amount to failure. "Then you'll have three presidents who failed [to pass immigration reform]," Graham said." You'll have Obama, Bush, and Trump." Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 4, 2018

On Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) plan on introducing bipartisan immigration legislation that gives Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients a pathway to citizenship and calls for a study to determine what border security measures are needed, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It does not contain immediate funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a priority for President Trump. "It's time we end the gridlock so we can quickly move on to completing a long-term budget agreement that provides our men and women in uniform the support they deserve," McCain said in a statement to the Journal on Sunday. "While reaching a deal cannot come soon enough for America's service members, the current political reality demands bipartisan cooperation to address the impending expiration of the DACA program and secure the southern border."

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) have introduced similar legislation in the House. Last month, the government partially shut down for three days after lawmakers were unable to reach a deal on a spending bill, with Democrats saying they couldn't agree to a budget unless DACA was addressed. Funding is once again set to run out on Friday. Catherine Garcia

September 4, 2017

President Trump has decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but will delay its dismantling for six months, Politico reported, citing two people familiar with Trump's thinking. DACA is an Obama-era program that grants work permits to young immigrants brought into America illegally as children, and currently benefits roughly 800,000 "DREAMers."

The president has faced criticism from some in his own party for mulling ending the program. On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urged Trump not to end the program outright, saying, "I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix." But the program has also been seen by many Republicans as an overreach of executive authority. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to end DACA immediately, but has since expressed a sympathetic tone towards DREAMers. On Friday, Trump told reporters, "We love the DREAMers. We think the DREAMers are terrific."

Politico reported it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who finally helped persuade Trump to "kick the issue to Congress." But as The Washington Post reported, "tackling immigration is not easy for Congress."

Trump is expected to officially announce his decision on Tuesday. Jessica Hullinger

August 4, 2017

When pressed for statistics to back up his rigid claims on immigration earlier this week, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller pointed to a study by Harvard economist George Borjas. Borjas had "opened up the old data and talked about how [low-skilled immigration] actually did reduce wages for workers," Miller told The New York Times' Glenn Thrush, who was pressing him over a new immigration proposal from Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) that is backed by President Trump.

The proposal, dubbed the RAISE Act, would severely curb legal immigration by prioritizing applicants based on skills, including whether they can speak English. Some critics posited that Trump merely wants to have fewer immigrants, not more highly skilled ones, while others noted that the idea of a merit-based immigration system is antithetical to what the U.S. has historically stood for. But writing in Politico on Friday, Borjas himself defended the plan as "a clear and transparent framework" for immigration that is just "common sense":

The Cotton-Perdue bill would divvy up the 140,000 visas now assigned to the employment preferences by using a point system similar to those adopted and used for several decades in other countries, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In rough terms, those point systems essentially grade visa applicants on the basis of personal characteristics, such as education, occupation, and age; add up the points; and grant an entry visa to those who "pass the test."

[...] In short, the bill provides a clear and transparent framework for determining which types of workers we believe to be most beneficial. And I suspect that most Americans would view the Cotton-Perdue approach as common sense. Do many of us really believe that America would benefit more by letting in a sociology professor in her 50s than by letting in a young woman with an advanced degree in computer science? [George Borjas, via Politico]

Furthermore, by prioritizing high-skilled immigrants, the bill would bring a workforce that better complements America's existing economy, Borjas writes, and result in an immigration system that is "economically more profitable." Read his entire opinion at Politico. Kimberly Alters

August 4, 2017

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Arizona Republic in an interview Thursday that when he returns to Washington, D.C., after treatment for brain cancer, "immigration reform is one of the issues I'd like to see resolved." Reform has long been important to McCain, who joined forces in 2013 with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on an ultimately unsuccessful bipartisan collaboration on immigration, the Gang of Eight.

McCain said "we'll know in a few weeks [about the cancer]," but before he left D.C. for treatment, he floated the topic of a bipartisan immigration reform revival with Schumer. "I've got to talk to [Schumer] about when would be the best time. I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do," he said.

While President Trump would likely be reluctant to sign anything short of the uncompromising vision he has promised to his base, McCain claimed that "what I do know is that if we could pass it through the House and Senate the way we passed it through the Senate last time [with the Gang of Eight], it's like this Russia [sanctions] bill — it doesn't matter. Do you think [Trump] signed [the Russia sanctions bill] because he liked it?" Trump earlier this week signed a bill levying new sanctions on Russia that had passed both chambers of Congress with veto-proof majorities.

On the topic of Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall, McCain said he wasn't inherently against it, "but go to China and you'll see a border wall there."

"We need technology, we need drones, we need surveillance capabilities, and we need rapid-reaction capabilities," McCain said. "But to think that a wall is going to stop illegal immigration or drugs is crazy." Read his full interview with the Arizona Republic, or watch below. Jeva Lange

March 5, 2017

Mexico on Saturday opened legal defense centers at its consulates in all 50 U.S. states in response to President Trump's hardline immigration policy.

"We are not promoting illegality," said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. "Today we are facing a situation that can paradoxically represent an opportunity, when suddenly a government wants to apply the law more severely," he added. "It is becoming more than evident that to apply the law, which is the obligation of any state, would also imply a real economic damage to this country which highlights the need for immigration reform." Videgaray urged the United States to devise a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

At the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, nearly 500 people — 10 times the expected attendance — came to a seminar with immigration lawyers explaining their legal rights. In 20 years of practice, "we have never seen this type of force, so excessive that it seeks to find a way to deport immigrants in the U.S., and even legal immigrants, people with residency," said immigration attorney Barbara Melendez, who spoke at the event. The lawyers advised immigrants to know their rights, be honest with authorities, and never resist arrest. Bonnie Kristian

November 10, 2015

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana ruled, 2-1, against President Obama's executive initiative to shield up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. In a 135-page ruling, Judge Jerry E. Smith, writing for the majority, agreed with U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas, who'd backed the 26 states suing the Obama administration, concurring that the effort to defer immigration action against certain immigrant parents of U.S. citizens would harm states by making them pay for extra driver's license services and that Obama had failed to follow correct procedures for implementing his executive action.

The White House had been expecting the decision to go against Obama, in part because the same judges had rejected their request for an emergency stay in May and partly, The New York Times explains, "because of the high number of judges in that circuit who were appointed by Republican presidents." True to form, the two judges in the majority were appointed by Republicans, and the third judge, Jimmy Carter appointee Carolyn King, wrote a tough dissent accusing her fellow jurists — including Judge Hanen — of ignoring the evidence and ruling based on "conjecture, intuition, or preconception."

The Obama administration and immigrant advocates have high hopes that the Supreme Court will rule in their favor, and had mainly been worried that the Fifth Circuit would delay its ruling so long the high court wouldn't rule on the case until Obama was out of office. Now, if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case next year and decides in Obama's favor, the initiative will have a few months to take root before Obama's term ends. "Once the green light is given," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, "it will make it that much more difficult for any administration, Republican or Democrat, to undo the program." Peter Weber

June 29, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal didn't mince words in his first super PAC ad. In a 30-second ad from Believe Again, the Louisiana governor expresses concerns about our "broken" immigration system, as he works to position himself as one of the most ideologically conservative candidates in the GOP field.

"I think our immigration system is broken," Jindal says in the ad. "If folks want to immigrate to America, they should do so legally. They should adopt our values. They should learn English. And they should roll up their sleeves and get to work."

While Jindal's parents are immigrants from India, he expressed disdain for "hyphenated Americans," underlining the fact that when his parents came to America, "they were coming to be Americans," not "Indian-Americans." Becca Stanek

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