by Peter Marber, Quartz
December 27, 2012
Immigration, long the backbone of American innovation, entrepreneurism, and human talent, has become a dirty word in recent years. This is unfortunate, because strategically conceived and well-targeted immigration should be seen as a precision tool for America to insure the best, optimal human capital needed to compete in the 21st century.
- Eli Kantor
- Beverly Hills, California, United States
- Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com
Friday, December 28, 2012
THE BOSTON GLOBE (Editorial)
December 28, 2012
US News and World Report
By Kenneth T. Walsh
December 27, 2012
It's becoming increasingly clear that immigration will be a breakthrough issue next year.
President Obama has been in favor of what he calls comprehensive immigration reform for a long time, which would include creating a "path" to citizenship or legal residency for millions of illegal immigrants.
Republicans have resisted for years, arguing that what Obama wants would be a form of amnesty for unlawful entry into the United States. But the November election showed that this position has alienated many Hispanic voters, who believe the GOP is against them. One result was that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who called for "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants, lost the Latino vote to Obama by more than 40 percentage points, a major reason for Romney's defeat.
Now, Republicans are rethinking the whole issue. Among those expected to take the lead are Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star in the GOP, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republican vice-presidential nominee this year. It's interesting and significant that both Rubio and Ryan are considered possible presidential candidates in 2016. They seem to realize that the GOP needs to make inroads with Hispanic voters in order to recapture the White House in four years.
Former governor Jeb Bush of Florida, another possible presidential contender in 2016, also wants Republicans to move quickly on immigration reform by proposing their own overhaul of immigration laws that Hispanics might support. It was Bush's brother, President George W. Bush, who attempted to get such a bill through Congress several years ago, but he failed because of conservative objections.
There is still strong sentiment in the Republican Party to resist comprehensive reform that is seen to reward people who entered the country illegally by giving them a chance to gain citizenship before those who followed the rules. "The smart Republicans know they can't leave this hanging out there," says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. "But the Republicans are still very divided against themselves."
For their part, White House officials think there has been enough of a shift on the GOP side that, despite the polarization on other issues, prospects for passage of an immigration bill are brightening.
Adding to the pressure for reform, Latino activists promise to hold politicians in Washington strictly accountable over the immigration issue, and leaders of several Latino organizations and unions have served notice that they will push hard for "comprehensive reform" next year. The groups include the National Council of La Raza, the Service Employees International Union, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Voto Latino.
Members of Congress are very aware of the surge in the Latino population that makes alienating this segment of voters close to political suicide. The Hispanic population is projected to increase from 17 percent of the total in the United States today to 31 percent in 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
And a new study by the conservative Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network finds more bad news for the GOP. Majorities of Hispanic voters polled in the key states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico agreed with the statement that "the Republican Party does not represent the values and concerns of the Hispanic community." And majorities of Hispanics surveyed in each of those four states said the GOP is "anti-immigrant" while the Democrats are seen as the party that "understands the needs and concerns of Hispanics."
The study adds: "To be competitive nationally in the future, Republicans must do better among non-white Americans, especially Hispanics and Asians. If Republicans achieve [support from] 40 percent or more of Hispanics nationally, they can elect conservative Republicans to national office. Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects....Years of harsh rhetoric and punitive polices will not be undone overnight. Fixing a broken immigration system is necessary, but not sufficient to make Republicans competitive in the Hispanic community."
But working for immigration reform would be a crucial first step.
- GOP Rushing to Construct New Immigration Reforms
- Opinion: Reform Must Include STEM Visas
- Does the GOP Need to Change Its Immigration Stance?
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook or reach him at email@example.com.
THE NEW YORK TIMES (Editorial)
The Opinion Pages
Published December 25, 2012
The Obama administration on Friday announced a policy change that -- if it works -- should lead to smarter enforcement of the immigration laws, with greater effort spent on deporting dangerous felons and less on minor offenders who pose no threat.
The new policy places stricter conditions on when Immigration and Customs Enforcement sends requests, known as detainers, to local law-enforcement agencies asking them to hold suspected immigration violators in jail until the government can pick them up. Detainers will be issued for serious offenders — those who have been convicted or charged with a felony, who have three or more misdemeanor convictions, or have one conviction or charge for misdemeanor crimes like sexual abuse, drunken driving, weapons possession or drug trafficking. Those who illegally re-entered the country after having been deported or posing a national-security threat would also be detained. But there would be no detainers for those with no convictions or records of only petty offenses like traffic violations.
John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, said this was a case of “setting priorities” to “maximize public safety.”
But wait, you ask, shouldn’t ICE have been doing this all along? Didn’t Mr. Morton say in a memo two years ago that ICE would use its “prosecutorial discretion” to focus on the most dangerous illegal immigrants? He did. But for nearly as long as President Obama has been in office, ICE has been vastly expanding its deportation efforts, enlisting state and local agencies to expel people at a record pace of 400,000 a year — tens of thousands of them noncriminals or minor offenders. By outsourcing “discretion” to local cops through a fingerprinting program called Secure Communities, it has greatly increased the number of small fry caught in an ever-wider national dragnet.
Some cities and states have resisted cooperating with ICE detainers for the very reasons of proportionality and public safety that Mr. Morton cited on Friday. California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, told her state’s law enforcement agencies this month that ICE had no authority to force them to jail minor offenders who pose no threat.
Secure Communities and indiscriminate detainers have caused no end of frustration for many police officials, who rely on trust and cooperation in immigrant communities to do their jobs. They know that crime victims and witnesses will not cooperate if every encounter with the law carries the danger of deportation. They have shied away from a federal role that is not theirs to take.
ICE’s announcement seems to make those efforts unnecessary. It puts the Obama administration on the same page as states and cities that have tried to draw a brighter line between their jobs and the federal government’s. A stricter detainer policy is better for police and sheriffs, who can focus more on public safety. It makes people less vulnerable to pretextual arrests by cops who troll for immigrants with broken taillights. And it helps restore some sanity and proportion to an immigration system that has long been in danger of losing both.
Friday, December 21, 2012
By Ted Robbins
December 20, 2012
Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Border Patrol has quintupled in size — growing from about 4,000 to more than 20,000 agents.
The government has constructed some 700 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers. It has placed thousands of ground sensors, lights, radar towers and cameras along the border. And Customs and Border Protection is now flying drones and helicopters to locate smuggles and rescue stranded immigrants.
So here's the question: Is the Southwest border secure?
The statistics paint a picture that says "yes." The number of illegal crossers apprehended is at a 40-year-low, which can be partly attributed to a weak U.S. job market and improving economy in Mexico. Drug seizures continue near historic highs and violent crime in border cities on the U.S. side has gone down.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says all those facts are indicators of progress in the right direction.
"If I were a police chief of a major city and I came in and I said we had reduced crime in four years by 70 to 80 percent, people would say, 'That's a great job. You're a great police chief,' " she says. "If you took that and you applied it to what's been going on along the Southwest border, you'd have to say objectively the same thing."
A Byzantine Immigration System
But more and more people are realizing that illegal immigration is tied directly to the broken legal immigration system, not necessarily security.
People come for work without visas because they can't easily get visas. Employers who need guest workers say it's a long, frustrating, costly process to get the workers.
Here's an analogy: Imagine immigration, especially from Latin America, as a two-lane residential street with a 20-mile-an-hour speed limit. Over the decades, it's grown to an eight-lane superhighway. But the speed limit is still 20 mph. That is, visas for needed workers haven't risen along with the traffic.
"If you want to keep it at 20 miles an hour, you have to put a cop every 20 feet. And that's what the 'secure the border first' people are in effect trying to do," says Daniel Kowalski, a Texas-based immigration attorney and editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin. He says demanding border security first is backward.
"You need to line the border with border patrol, shoulder to shoulder, and that's just the wrong way to do it," he says. "It's too expensive. It's easier to fix the numbers, rather than militarizing the border."
Because the immigration system is so byzantine, up to half of the estimated 11 million people illegally in the U.S. came in legally, then overstayed their visas. No amount of border security would have stopped that.
How Can Security Be Measured?
Congress still wants to know whether all the resources along the border are working. There is no single objective measure of border security.
Until two years ago, the Department of Homeland Security used something called "operational control," which Arizona Republican Senator-elect Jeff Flake wants the department to keep using.
"In essence, it basically means if someone sneaks across, you have a reasonable expectation of catching them," Flake says. "We're talking about something that is achievable and measurable."
The House has passed a bill requiring DHS to use operational control, but the department says it's obsolete. The measure only counts territory where actual Border Patrol agents are located.
DHS says something it calls the Border Security Index will take into account other things as well: areas covered by technology, air power, the rate of violent crime.
It's been nearly three years since that new index was announced and it hasn't been implemented yet. Even the Government Accountability Office said last year that DHS needs to do a better job of reporting its effectiveness on the border. But, even taking that into account, almost everyone agrees the border is more secure than it was 20 or even 10 years ago.
Napolitano says people who demand complete border security before immigration reform are not being realistic.
"There's no border in the world that doesn't have some form of migration, legal and illegal," she says. "So saying it has to be zero is like saying we have to put the United States under some sort of Tupperware container and seal it off. That's not how our country operates."
Many lawmakers who've been blocking it now seem to realize that some sort of comprehensive immigration reform is necessary. The political reality is that more border security — or at least more accountability — is still likely to be part of any legislation.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
By Emily Deruy
December 19, 2012
South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy (R), a hawk on illegal immigration, has been chosen to serve as chairman of the House's immigration subcommittee.
Gowdy, who currently serves on the immigration subcommittee, has stressed the need for border security and called for the enforcement of current immigration laws. He has also been vocally critical of the Obama administration's handling of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gun-walking program. The selection of Gowdy comes as Congress is expected to take up sweeping immigration reforms next year that could provide relief to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) announced the Judiciary Subcommitee chairmen for the next Congress on Tuesday afternoon.
"As Chairman of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, Rep. Gowdy will play a leading role on immigration reform which is a top priority of the House Judiciary Committee in the new Congress," Chairman-elect Bob Goodlatte said in a statement to ABC/Univision News. "I think Rep. Gowdy will do an excellent job in this new leadership position and I look forward to working with him in the 113th Congress."
The committee considers a host of immigration issues, from border security and immigration policy to international agreements and treaties.
Executive Director of America's Voice Education Fund Frank Sharry, a pro-immigration reform group, called Gowdy's positions a potential impediment to passing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's undocumented immigrants.
"Trey Gowdy is unlikely to be the kind of loudmouth wing nut that Steve King would have been, but his policy positions are eerily similar," Sharry said in a statement. " He supports unconstitutional power grabs by states that pass Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws and opposes the President's policy to offer relief to young people who are American in all but paperwork. If the Republican Party wants to get right on immigration reform that puts 11 million immigrants on the road to citizenship I suspect they'll have to go around him or over him."
Gowdy has criticized the decision to allow some young people to apply for deportation relief through deferred action, and co-sponsored a bill that would have prevented the Department of Justice from suing states that pass tough immigration laws, such as Arizona.
Numbers USA, a group that wants to lower immigration levels, awarded Gowdy an A-grade, in part for working to reduce the diversity visa lottery and what they call "amnesty entitlements."
According to the group, "Amnesties go farther than most incentives for illegal immigration because they make it impossible for illegal aliens to be forced to go back home. Amnesties reward the illegal alien with the pathway to U.S. citizenship. Millions of illegal aliens have been made part of the permanent, legal population of America since 1986."
Gowdy previously served as a district attorney in South Carolina and he beat out Democrat Deb Morrow in the 2012 election. He was reportedly considered for retiring Senator Jim DeMint's seat, a spot that eventually went to Representative Tim Scott.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
By Stephen Dinan
December 18, 2012
The federal government’s system of tracking immigrants’ status is so broken that it gives a green light to one in eight aliens who have been ordered deported, according to an audit Tuesday that found the government has gone on to approve some of those who slip through for work in sensitive areas of airports and granted them benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps.
Some of those aliens who should have been kicked out had serious criminal records, including for assault and extortion, according to the audit by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general.
All told, some 800,000 immigrants are living in the U.S. who already have been ordered deported but have not yet left — or been removed by the government — from the country.
The Homeland Security Department is supposed to maintain an up-to-date list of those deportable aliens so that other government agencies are aware of their status and know they should be denied benefits. The system is known as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, or SAVE.
But a random sample of queries to the system found that 12 percent of the time, the system OKs an immigrant who should have been deported.
“The failures in our sample include individuals who applied for unemployment and disability insurance, food stamps, driver’s licenses and other benefits,” the auditors said. “Several individuals had criminal records, including assault with a deadly weapon, extortion, drug convictions and other convictions such as burglary, stalking and child abuse.”
The SAVE system, maintained by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is one key check other agencies use to weed out illegal immigrants who try to apply for benefits. It is supposed to be used by states when determining whether to issue driver’s licenses, and President Obama’s health care law requires it be checked to make sure ineligible immigrants aren’t getting new health benefits.
“The ultimate decision to provide or deny benefits rests with the federal, state, and local agencies that submitted the verification inquiry,” the auditors said. “However, by erroneously verifying that a deportable individual has status to receive benefits, SAVE may have enabled the inquiring agency to grant financial and other benefits (e.g., access to secure areas, education grants, and housing assistance) to people who are no longer eligible to receive those benefits.”
Immigrants can be ordered deported for many reasons. Some are illegal immigrants who were never granted admission in the first place, while others are legal immigrants or temporary visa holders who committed crimes that should get them deported.
The auditors found one case where someone earned a green card in 1983, was convicted of multiple felonies including extortion and abuse, and was ordered deported in 2003, but whom the SAVE system still green-lighted when the California Department of Health Services checked his status.
Another man was convicted of homicide and manslaughter, was ordered deported but was still green-lighted by SAVE when the District of Columbia checked to see if he was eligible for student aid. The auditors said that man has since been deported.
In his official response to the audit, USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas said Homeland Security officials recognize they need to do a better job of updating the records.
He said part of the problem is that the records span multiple agencies, including USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“USClS will work with ICE to map a way forward to ensure that more timely information is shared,” he said.
By Emily Deruy
December 18, 2012
A conservative Texas congressman came out in favor of a guest-worker program this weekend, and now he's facing the wrath of anti-immigration groups who say he's promoting what amounts to amnesty.
Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas) said in an opinion piece for Politico that his party was "silent" on the immigration debate during election season and called for Republicans to support several specific immigration proposals.
"Tangled up in embarrassing statements about rape and abortion and notably silent on immigration," Poe wrote, "the electorate chose what they knew over what they perceived incorrectly as closed-minded and out of touch."
He noted that Democrats and Republicans can agree that undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes be returned to their home countries.
But he followed that statement with a policy stance that drew immediate fire from the self-proclaimed "immigration enforcement and border security advocacy" group, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC).
"A good starting point for a legislative package is the so-called Texas Solution," Poe wrote. "Although I don't agree with all points on the list, it's a start. And, importantly, it includes a verifiable, temporary guest worker program."
A guest-worker program would permit U.S. employers to sponsor non-U.S. citizens as workers. Proponents say it would help fill job openings that American workers simply will not consider, such as picking crops. But some say the idea promotes amnesty.
"This is the first time in our organization's 8 year history that any candidate endorsed by ALIPAC has defected to join the illegal alien invasion and Amnesty supporters," read a post on their website. "Let's work together to throw Ted Poe and others like him out of office and replace them with real Americans who will stand up for our citizens, the Rule of Law, and the US Constitution instead of caving in to the globalist controlled media."
The guest-worker program is not a new idea. It was part of both the Texas and national GOP platforms. Brad Bailey, one of the author's of the Texas platform's immigration language and a vocal supporter of including the idea in the national platform, told Univision News in June, "I call it the third rail of politics now, immigration. No one wants to touch it. I think we proved that in one of the most conservative places in the country, we can embrace a solution."
Yet ALIPAC opposes Poe's endorsement of a guest-worker program. The organization urged readers to call Poe's office and express their displeasure.
"We need a strong political backlash to Ted Poe's betrayal so that other GOP leaders will not follow his example," the organization wrote.
Poe also said in his piece that a documentation process should be implemented, but stressed that he didn't mean citizenship.
"Documentation does not mean citizenship and all of the rights that the term bestows. It means a type of legal status, either temporary or permanent, for some that are here, and it also means a pathway home for those who are here to commit crimes," he said.
"Those given legal status would contribute to the U.S., primarily by paying taxes, for the benefits that they enjoy by being in the U.S. Amnesty is not an option," Poe continued. "Those who receive documentation eventually may apply for citizenship and those who have served in our military should be placed ahead of the line."
Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for Poe, said that the congressman "remains opposed to amnesty."
"If a guest-worker program was implemented, he would not support a pathway that included citizenship," she said.
Hynes said her office had received only a handful of calls from opponents of the guest-worker program.
By Alan Gomez
December 18, 2012
House leaders chose a vocal opponent of illegal immigration to head up the chamber's immigration subcommittee, which will play an integral role in the upcoming debates on how to reform the nation's immigration laws.
Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced Tuesday that Rep. Trey Gowdy, a former South Carolina prosecutor who was part of the GOP freshman wave of 2010, will head the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
During the presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney took a hard stance against illegal immigration. President Obama went on to win the Hispanic vote 71%-27%, leading many to call on the GOP to moderate its stance on immigration.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes plans to legalize the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, said Gowdy's appointment means the GOP isn't about to cave in.
"What it suggests is that the House Republicans aren't going to allow themselves to be stampeded by this amnesty panic because Gowdy is pretty hawkish on immigration," Krikorian said.
Gowdy opposed the Obama administration's decision to grant deferred deportations to some young illegal immigrants. He co-sponsored a law titled the "Prohibiting Back-door Amnesty Act" aimed at reversing that decision. And he co-sponsored a bill that would have stopped the Department of Justice from suing states such as Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina that passed tough illegal immigration laws.
His brief record earned him a grade of "A-" from NumbersUSA, a group that wants to lower levels of legal and illegal immigration.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group that supports a plan giving the country's illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, said Gowdy's appointment will make it harder for Republicans who want to restore the party's standing with Hispanic voters.
"If the Republican Party wants to get right on immigration reform that puts 11 million immigrants on the road to citizenship I suspect they'll have to go around (Gowdy) or over him," Sharry said.
Galen Carey, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, isn't so sure. He recently met with dozens of GOP lawmakers to talk about the need to legalize the country's illegal population, and he said he felt a "sea change" from onetime hard-liners.
"Past performance is no guarantee of future results," Carey said. "We're getting a clear sign that people in both parties want to work on this. Maybe people who have taken strong positions against immigration reform, when they actually think about the issues in a human way, are going to be taking a new look."
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
LOS ANGELES TIMES (Opinion)
By Peter Skerry
December 16, 2012
The debate over U.S. immigration policy has been rebooted. There now appears to be bipartisan support for what's generally called comprehensive reform. But a stumbling block remains: What to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants among us. Deportation? Complete amnesty? A "path" to citizenship?
There is a way forward, and it can be best summarized by "none of the above." It lies, instead, between these choices. It's legalization without citizenship.
With as few conditions and as broadly as possible, we should offer undocumented immigrants status as "permanent noncitizen residents." Unlike current green card holders, these individuals would never have the option of naturalizing and becoming U.S. citizens. The only exception would be for minors who arrived here with their parents. Provided they have not committed any serious crimes, such individuals should be immediately eligible for citizenship.
Simplicity is one distinct virtue of this approach. The prospect of mass deportations (or the hope of mass self-deportations) is both unpalatable and impractical. And establishing and implementing a complicated pathway to citizenship — or even to a lesser legal status — requires more faith than most Americans have in our government's ability to administer programs effectively and fairly.
For example, one proposal has called for the undocumented to return to their native countries for some period of time and then apply for a visa and "get in line" to return to the U.S. legally. But how would the return trip be monitored? And after that, how effectively would the visa quotas and readmission processes be administered? What would happen when an aging grandmother is returned to a "home" she left 30 years ago, or when illegal parents and their U.S.-born teenagers find themselves on different sides of the divide?
Most Americans understand that undocumented immigrants came here primarily because there were jobs waiting for them, and that American employers and consumers have benefited from their labor. They find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that all Americans are complicit in this problem.
Yet in an era of increasing inequality, others insist they do not see themselves benefiting from the presence of illegals, or of unskilled immigrants generally. And while economic studies consistently demonstrate that there is substantially less competition with immigrants for jobs than many believe, opponents of immigration, especially of illegal immigration, are not wrong when they point to negative impacts on the quality of life in their neighborhoods and to the fiscal burdens on their schools, hospitals and other social service providers.
My proposal — let's call it "mere legalization" — speaks directly to these Americans. To be sure, it would not treat undocumented immigrants as criminals, as many insist. But neither would it treat them as mere victims. It would, as President Obama put it at American University in 2010, "demand responsibility from people living here illegally." Those who chose as adults to take enormous risks and break our laws would be held accountable as responsible agents who must now pay a clear and enduring penalty. Looking forward, any such initiative would have to be accompanied by rigorous and comprehensive enforcement efforts not only along our borders and ports of entry but at work sites throughout the land.
Immigrant advocates and their supporters may reject mere legalization as too punitive, as "second-class citizenship " Yet a quarter of a century after President Reagan's amnesty went into effect in 1987, only two-fifths of those who became legal permanent residents through that program have gone on to become citizens. In light of restrictions imposed in the 1990s on noncitizen eligibility for various federal social welfare benefits, and subsequent programs to increase naturalization rates, such low numbers are particularly striking. Traditionally low levels of naturalization among eligible Mexican-origin immigrants are one factor at work here. Yet the point remains: The overwhelming majority of those covered by Reagan's amnesty have settled for less than full citizenship So what exactly are we arguing about?
To those who think that permanent noncitizen status is too lenient, I would respond that much would depend on the specifics of any such program, about which Congress would have enormous latitude to do as it sees fit. Even so, under current law and policy, green card holders are treated differently from citizens. Besides not being eligible for certain government jobs and social programs, they are not permitted to serve on state or federal juries. And of course noncitizens do not vote in federal and state elections, though they may in a few local jurisdictions.
When green card holders travel outside the U.S., especially for extended periods, they currently risk being not allowed to reenter. As UCLA law professor Hiroshi Motomura concludes, under prevailing rulings "the Constitution protects a returning lawful immigrant no more than a first-time entrant."
More generally, noncitizen residents have no absolute assurance that they will be allowed to remain here. Failing to keep documents current or committing various crimes, including tax evasion and shoplifting, could result in their deportation. So the status of green card holders is highly contingent on their own behavior and on global politics. And unlike U.S. citizens, they cannot obtain visas for immediate family members outside the usual numerical quotas.
The underlying point is easily lost in the fog of rancorous debate over punishment or amnesty for the 11 million undocumented immigrants among us: The United States is a remarkably absorptive and open society, where newcomers and their children put down roots and develop ties very quickly. Indeed, our openness is so powerful that many among the undocumented have been noisily demanding relief. Why not allow ourselves to feel good about this and use it to propel us toward a middle path?
We don't have to choose between granting citizenship to lawbreakers or imposing onerous penalties that we lack the will and means to implement and enforce. We can choose instead a practical, achievable policy that acknowledges Americans' share of responsibility for this mess, but that also requires illegal immigrants to acknowledge theirs.
Peter Skerry is a political science professor at Boston College and a fellow of the Brookings Institution. A longer version of this piece appears in the Winter 2013 issue of National Affairs.
By Michelle Quinn
December 17, 2012
Immigration reform has a fierce new ally: the wealthiest woman in Silicon Valley.
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, has made helping undocumented children get on a path to citizenship her cause, swinging through Washington to meet with lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Dick Durbin, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, key players in a brewing battle over immigration reform.
The longtime supporter of liberal causes also has been raising her profile in Democratic circles. In September, she was spotted at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., sitting next to Chelsea Clinton during former President Bill Clinton’s speech. Last year, she sat next to Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address.
Powell Jobs plans to continue her pressure campaign in 2013, urging politicians and business leaders to help undocumented kids. That’s good news for supporters of immigration reform, including the White House, since immigration is expected to be the major policy fight next year.
“She is a great advocate for the DREAM Act,” said Durbin. The Illinois Democrat sponsored the failed bill to offer a path to citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. “She has not only brought friends and supporters to the cause, she has also done great research work on the issue.”
Friends say Powell Jobs became aware of the issues undocumented children face through her work with College Track, an after-school, college preparatory program she co-founded and for which she has tutored kids.
“She found the flaw in the system,” said Ron Conway, a friend and prominent Silicon Valley investor. “It’s the logical extension of the work she is doing. There needs to be a neutral third-party catalyst to say these kids have a right to success. And what better person than Laurene Powell Jobs.”
During a late November trip to the Hill, Powell Jobs met with Durbin and McCarthy, the House Republican whip. Her goal, they said, is to help create bipartisan support for the DREAM Act, which would give eligible young people a six-year path to citizenship.
Durbin has introduced the DREAM Act in every Congress since 2001 and plans to do so again next year.
McCarthy’s office confirmed the meeting and said it is part of Powell Jobs’s effort to create bipartisan support for the issue.
“She’s been an incredibly effective advocate and thoroughly savvy on politics and policy,” said Democratic lobbyist Joel Johnson of The Glover Park Group. The firm serves as an informal adviser to Powell Jobs. “I think it’s the beginning of the process. I know that she and [her nonprofit] are committed to being a part of that process and doing everything they can to advance the cause. She’s been engaged in this effort for many, many years, and we’re at about to enter a critical period in time.”
Powell Jobs declined to sit for an interview with POLITICO. A spokeswoman noted “how appreciative Laurene was for the time with those congressional Democrats and Republicans who recognize the important children’s issues represented by the DREAM Act.”
Powell Jobs is not widely recognizable, mostly shying away from the public glare.
She worked in investment banking and earned an MBA from Stanford University. And she started a natural foods firm, which she left in the late 1990s to focus on family, she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. She has sat on nonprofit boards and launched two nonprofits, but she hasn’t hit the speaking circuit.
In the past decade, she was often spotted at her husband’s side at local Apple stores on days new products went on sale or walking hand in hand with him in their neighborhood during the last months of Jobs’s life. Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary chief executive, died in October 2011.
She gave $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee last year. Her nonprofit contributed $150,000 to a recent failed ballot initiative in California to abolish the death penalty.
As the debate over immigration reform is expected to heat up next year, Powell Jobs is poised to play a bigger role in pushing Congress to enact legislative reforms.
In late November, she met with Durbin to discuss research she commissioned from Republican pollster Luntz Global about immigration.
Her memo on the issue, which has been circulating on the Hill, found that a majority of voters wanted a way to stop the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. and require those here to earn citizenship. Sixty-two percent of voters, including 57 percent of Republicans, support finding a path to citizenship for undocumented students. Twenty-four percent of voters believe illegal immigrants in the U.S. should be deported, the poll found.
In a POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll released this week, 62 percent support an immigration reform proposal with 35 percent opposing it. When it came to children of illegal or undocumented immigrants, the poll found 77 percent supported giving them a path to stay here permanently with 19 percent opposing.
Powell Jobs has suggested that the debate needs to be reframed to emphasize that the DREAM Act isn’t about giving handouts; it would require young people to earn citizenship through military service or getting a degree.
“She gave me a few tips from the research in how we describe the DREAM Act and its goals,” Durbin said. “I think that is very valuable to look at this concept through the eyes of who may be critical of it.”
In the new year, she is expected to be back in Washington, said those close to her, hoping to facilitate conversations between Democrats, Republicans and business leaders.