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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; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer picks another fight with President Obama

LOS ANGELES TIMES (Opinion)

By Sandra Hernandez
November 29, 2012

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's antipathy toward the Obama's administration is evident: We've seen her wag her finger at the president on the tarmac, and we've seen her state defiantly defend a noxious state law that intrudes on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration.

Now it seems Brewer is renewing her fight with the administration, this time over the president's decision to grant some young undocumented immigrants temporary protection from deportation. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, those young immigrants who qualify can also obtain work permits. In most states, such work permits can also be used to apply for a driver’s license.

In August, Brewer instructed Arizona's Department of Motor Vehicles to deny driver’s licenses to young immigrants who qualified for deferred action, arguing that state law bars illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits. The problem is that Brewer’s mean-spirited order may conflict with her state's policy. As it turns out, Arizona’s DMV has issued driver’s licenses in the past to other immigrants who were granted deferred action.

In fact, an investigation by the Arizona Republic found that “driver’s licenses, or in some cases state IDs, were issued more than 39,600 times since 2006 to non-citizens who presented federally issued employment authorization documents as primary ID to prove they are authorized to be in the U.S. under federal law.” Those are the same federally issued employment authorization documents now issued by the Obama administration as part of its deferred action program. 

Thankfully, a coalition of civil rights groups are challenging Brewer’s misguided attempt to punish these young immigrants. The groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday arguing that Arizona’s policy once again interferes with the federal government’s sole authority to set immigration policy. The lawsuit also alleges that Brewer’s policy violates the Constitution's equal protection clause by singling out these young immigrants over others with near identical temporary status.

In the end, it will be up to a federal judge to decide whether Brewer is overstepping her authority and misconstruing the law. But surely her policy doesn’t further any state interest. Denying these young immigrants, who were brought to this country illegally by their parents, isn’t going to deter illegal immigration. Nor will it further public safety.

The only thing Brewer’s policy achieves is to earn her points with nativists and demonstrate the urgent need for immigration reform, including congressional approval of the Dream Act, which  would provide these same young immigrants a permanent and legal right to live in the only country they have ever called home.

House to Vote on Bill to Give Residency to Advanced-Degree Foreign Graduates, End Visa Lottery


ASSOCIATED PRESS

November 30, 2012

A House vote to offer permanent residency to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in science and math from U.S. colleges and universities is setting the stage for a bigger battle next year on how to redesign the nation’s flawed immigration system.

House Republicans, with the help of a minority of Democrats, are expected to prevail Friday in passing the STEM Jobs Act, which would provide up to 55,000 green cards a year to those earning masters and doctoral degrees from U.S. schools in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

But the bill is unlikely to go anywhere this year in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Obama White House has come out against it, saying it “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”

A major point of contention is that the bill offsets the increase in visas for the highly educated by eliminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This year the program made 50,000 visas available to people from countries with traditionally low rates of immigration. About half of those visas go to African nations.

The House voted on a similar STEM Act in September, but it fell short under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority. It is being revived under rules needing only a simple majority. Republicans are scrambling to show the Hispanic community, which largely deserted them in the recent election, that the GOP is committed to fixing the immigration system.

Earlier this week, two Republican senators introduced their version of the DREAM Act. Their bill would allow young people brought into the country as children without authorization to stay without fear of being deported, an initiative previously opposed by most Republicans.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the STEM Act, a top priority of the high-tech industry seeking to stop the “reverse brain drain” of highly skilled foreign graduates of U.S. universities leaving for jobs overseas, “will help us create jobs, increase our competitiveness and spur our innovation.”

And in an attempt to pick up more votes, Smith added a provision that makes it easier for the spouses and children of residents to come to the United States while they wait for their own green card applications to be approved.

But while most Democrats support increasing STEM visas, there was sharp criticism of the Republican approach.

“This is a partisan bill that picks winners and losers in our immigration system,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leader on immigration issues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said of the elimination of the Diversity Visa Program.

“This bill is premised on the dangerous thought that immigration is a zero-sum game,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. The Democrat, who represents high-tech companies in her northern California district and has long pushed for more STEM visas, said the Smith bill would eventually result in fewer visas issued because far fewer than 50,000 degrees are given every year to foreigners in eligible STEM fields, and the bill does not allow unused visas to be transferred to other programs.

The STEM Act visas would be in addition to about 140,000 employment-based visas for those ranging from lower-skilled workers to college graduates and people in the arts, education and athletics.

The Diversity Visa Lottery Program, created in 1990 partly to increase visas for Ireland, has shifted over the years to focus on former Soviet states and now Africa. In 2010, almost 25,000 visas went to Africa; 9,000 to Asia and 16,000 to Europe. Applicants must have at least a high school education.

Critics say the visa lottery program has outlived its purpose because Africans and East Europeans are already benefiting from family unification and skilled employment visas, and the lottery program is subject to fraud and infiltration by terrorists. Lofgren said it was “preposterous” that terrorists would try to get into a country under a program that picks 55,000 people at random out of more than 14 million applicants.

The provision on reuniting families allows the spouses and children of permanent residents to come to the United States to wait for their own green card applications to be processed one year after applying. The current wait for family members to receive residency is more than two years. The measure says those in the country illegally are not eligible, and family members may not work while waiting for their green cards.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lawsuit Expected on Immigrant Driver's Licenses


ARIZONA REPUBLIC

By Daniel Gonzalez
November 28, 2012

A group of civil-liberties and immigrant-rights organizations is expected to file a lawsuit today challenging Gov. Jan Brewer’s executive order denying driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants approved for federal work permits under President Barack Obama’s deferred-action program.

The lawsuit would mark the first legal challenge against a state for denying driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants authorized to live and work temporarily in the U.S. under the program.

The lawsuit could affect other states that have also denied driver’s licenses to non-citizens protected from deportation under the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed by the Arizona and national chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Immigration Law Center.

The same groups are involved in an ongoing civil-rights lawsuit challenging Arizona’s immigration-enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070.

The organizations have scheduled a news conference for this morning on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University to announce a “major lawsuit against the state of Arizona.” The groups have declined to discuss the lawsuit.

But several immigration lawyers said the ACLU and other groups have been working on a legal challenge since Brewer issued her executive order on Aug. 15, the day the federal government began accepting applications for the deferred-action-from-deportation program.

“This lawsuit and the state having to defend that lawsuit has been long expected,” said Gerald Burns, a Chandler immigration lawyer who represents several young undocumented immigrants who have applied for deferred-action under the program.


Immigrant advocates say deferred-action recipients need driver’s licenses to travel to school and jobs.

As many as 1.7 million undocumented immigrants under 31 brought to the U.S. before they were 16 could be eligible for the program, including 80,000 in Arizona.

A total of 308,935 undocumented immigrants had applied for deferred-action nationally, including 11,074 in Arizona, as of Nov. 15, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

A total of 53,273 nationally have been approved, according to the DHS.

Obama’s program was seen as an election-year move aimed at winning back the support of Latino voters disappointed with his failure to get immigration reforms, including a legalization program for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, passed during his first term in office as promised. The program is credited with helping Obama win re-election with more than 70 percent of the Latino vote.

Brewer, meanwhile, has taken a hard line on immigration. Her order was seen as a way of rebuffing Obama’s deferred-action program as political payback after he asked the Justice Department to file a lawsuit challenging SB 1070, which Brewer said was needed because the federal government had failed to stop illegal immigration.

“They changed the rules in the middle of the game when it came to driver’s licenses and they did it as a political reaction to DACA,” Burns said.

In her executive order, Brewer directed all state agencies to take steps to ensure that any undocumented immigrants granted deferred-action would not receive any public benefits from the state, including driver’s licenses. As a result, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division determined that the agency would not give driver’s licenses to anyone with a federal employment-authorization document obtained through Obama’s deferred-action program.

State law requires anyone applying for a driver’s license to prove their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. Brewer has argued that the employment-authorization documents issued to deferred-action recipients don’t meet state law because DHS officials have said the documents don’t give undocumented immigrants any sort of legal status, just the ability to live and work in the U.S. temporarily without the threat of being deported.

But Brewer’s order contradicts the state’s long-standing policy of granting driver’s licenses to non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, with the same employment-authorization documents granted to deferred-action recipients, said Regina Jefferies, a Phoenix immigration lawyer and chair of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

For years, the federal government has granted work permits to non-citizens for a variety of reasons, including to illegal immigrants with deportation-cancellation cases pending in Immigration Court.

Last week, The Arizona Republic and its broadcast partner 12 News reported that over the past eight years, Arizona has issued licenses and state ID cards nearly 40,000 times to non-citizens who had federal employment-authorization documents, according to data obtained through a public-records request from the MVD. The data also showed that since Brewer’s order, the state has issued more than 1,000 driver’s licenses or ID cards to non-citizens with work permits while denying licenses to those with work permits issued through Obama’s program.

Burns, the Chandler lawyer, said it does not make sense politically to continue to deny driver’s licenses to deferred-action recipients in light of a growing push by Republicans in Congress to legalize undocumented immigrants to attract Latino voters after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s defeat in November.

On Tuesday, retiring Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, introduced legislation that would let young undocumented immigrants earn permanent legal status, but not citizenship, if they graduate from college or serve four years in the military.

“Does it really make sense for the state of Arizona to fight and expend resources on this?” Burns said. “The rest of the U.S. is moving towards doing something about comprehensive immigration reform.”

Muzaffar Chishti, of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University School of Law, said four states in addition to Arizona have taken action to deny driver’s licenses to deferred-action recipients: Nebraska, Texas, Michigan and Mississippi.

None has faced a legal challenge.

Four other states, California, Massachusetts, Georgia and Wisconsin, specifically allow deferred-action recipients to get driver’s licenses.

U.S. Pushes to Keep Entrepreneur Jobs in the Country

ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Rodrique Ngowi
November 28, 2012

The Obama administration’s top immigration official says his agency is working to attract and keep more foreign-born high-tech entrepreneurs who are seeking to start companies in the U.S., a move he hopes will help the nation retain its edge in an increasingly competitive global economy.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged on Wednesday that his agency ‘‘has not been especially nimble’’ to adapt to fast-paced changes in the business landscape, even though it has been quick to respond to the humanitarian landscape.

That is changing, Mayorka said, since the agency added new training for adjudicators who evaluate business visa applications, including those for H-1B visas — temporary employment visas for specialty occupations — sponsored by startups companies whose profile do not fit that of traditional businesses.

‘‘Three years ago if we'd received a petition for a H-1B visa from an individual working in a cubicle who might have received funding from a respectable venture capital firm, adjudicators might have rejected that application,’’ Mayorkas told students and investors at the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

‘‘One of the goals of the immigration system: family unity, humanitarian relief and economic prosperity,’’ he said. ‘‘And it is in the context of economic prosperity that we really are speaking today,’’ Mayorkas said.

He unveiled a new website that provides entrepreneurs an easier way to navigate their immigration options under the so-called ‘‘Entrepreneur Pathways’’ initiative.

The measure is the first product of the unusual ‘‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’’ program under which the immigration agency recruited five entrepreneurs who reviewed the system and proposed changes to make it easier for investors to figure out their immigration options and communicate with the agency.

Next step? A review of existing laws and practices to ensure that they achieve their full potential.

‘‘We've done a remarkable job, I think, in training our adjudication corps in terms of unique profiles of startup companies and our entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneurs Pathways has followed. We are going to be looking at our policies and practices ... to ensure that we are maximizing existing laws’ full potential,’’ Mayorkas said. ‘‘But it is no substitute for the need for legislative reforms.’’

The initiatives drew rare praise from entrepreneur and Duke University researcher Vivek Wadhwa.

‘‘It’s the type of creative thinking that’s needed to fix it because if you speak to immigration lawyers, they tell you that the big problem that they have is inconsistency, the same problem entrepreneurs have — that to get one adjudicator they are able to get a visa, another one declines it and they never get a straight answer,’’ Wadhwa said.

‘‘So what they did here is they had a bunch of entrepreneurs work with the USCIS to go through the entire process, go through the books and see what was wrong with the system and they are systematically fixing the system,’’ Wadhwa said. ‘‘I've got to give them credit for being innovative over here. I rarely say good things about governments. This is one of those rare occasions when they do something right.’’

Wadhwa said immigrants are major contributors to the U.S. innovation and competitiveness.

Foreign-born entrepreneurs founded engineering and technology companies that employed about 560,000 people and generated an estimated $63 billion in sales from 2006 to this year, he said, citing his research released last month.

That contribution, however, is in jeopardy as the growth rate of immigrant-founded companies has stagnated because of visa policies, bureaucracy and immigration laws, Wadhwa said.

‘‘We’re choking off the pipeline here,’’ Wadhwa said ‘‘We are boosting the economies of our competitors, in other words, the people that we'd want here starting companies and building innovation here are doing it in ... India, China, Brazil and Mexico’’ where researchers are seeing the most innovation because of U.S.-educated returnees.

Mayorkas said his agency is pushing to ensure that existing immigration laws realize their potential to attract job-creating entrepreneurs and enable them to bring and retain people with the expertise and special skills that they need to grow and flourish.

‘‘We know that there is a tremendous need for more accessible pathways for entrepreneurial talent to come and remain here in the United States,’’ Mayorkas said.

DREAM Act Stalemate Top First Term 'Disappointment," Duncan Says


CNN

By Gregory Wallace
November 28, 2012

Heading into a second term at the helm of the education department, Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that the largest missed opportunity of President Barack Obama's first term was the lack of movement on an immigration reform measure.

"I think there's a moment of opportunity on both sides to get some soul searching maybe a little more on the Republican side," Duncan said. "We have to do something about immigration reform and one of my ... biggest disappointments of the first four years is that we didn't get the DREAM Act passed."

The measure passed a procedural vote in the then-Democratic-led House when advanced in 2010 but was blocked in the Senate.

The act would grant legal status to some young illegal immigrants who choose to continue their education or enter the military.

Some Republicans have characterized it as amnesty, though others, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have said the GOP should advance their own version of the program. Rubio said he was putting on hold plans to propose such a measure when Obama issued an executive order this year which paused deportation for some who would be covered by the DREAM Act.

Duncan suggested Wednesday at an education summit in Washington organized by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's foundation that the results of this year's election, where exit polls showed Obama winning overwhelmingly among voters who were Latino, opened a window for renewed progress on a measure such as the DREAM Act.

"The fact that we allow so many children who have worked so hard and played by the rules and gotten great grades and become community leaders, that we slam shut the door of opportunity is absolutely insane," Duncan said at the Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform.

"These are the future leaders, job creators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and so I think there's a moment of opportunity literally now, in the next couple of months for Congress to do the right thing and pass it."

Duncan was previously put forward by the Obama administration as a leading proponent of the measure.

But there are other issues on Congress' plate today, such as the fiscal cliff.

In his remarks and answers to questions from education policy makers from around the country, he also spoke about the importance for early childhood education, implementation of higher standards in K-12 education, and "affordable and accessible college."

And should there be movement on the DREAM Act or an alternative, it would come as Latinos are accessing higher education in greater numbers.

"In the past two years we've seen a 25 percent increase in Hispanic enrollment in college. That is a huge jump. We've got to make sure that its not just enrollments, that its graduation rates," Duncan said.

"There's a lot to be hopeful about, a lot to be optimistic about and I think we have an opportunity together with something like the dream act passing to transform educational opportunity for Latino communities," he added.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ruiz-Diaz v. United States

LACBA Daily E-Briefs

Filed November 26, 2012

The rights of immigrant religious workers under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are not violated by 8 C.F.R. Sec. 245.2(a)(2)(i)(B), under which certain classes of visa seekers cannot file applications concurrently with their sponsors’ petitions, as it does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of their religion, nor does the regulation violate their constitutional rights to equal protection or due process.
    
For More Information Contact us at

http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html


Introducing An Online Resource for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

November 28, 2012

Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Today, at an event focused on the nexus between immigration and entrepreneurship hosted by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship in Cambridge, Mass., I was pleased to unveil Entrepreneur Pathways - an online resource center that provides entrepreneurs who seek to start a business in the United States an intuitive way to navigate the immigration process. 

Entrepreneur Pathways is a signature accomplishment of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS's) Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative, which has focused on realizing our current immigration system’s full potential to attract and retain startup enterprises that promote innovation and spur job creation in America.

The EIR initiative began earlier this year focused on assessing current polices, practices and training across a range of existing nonimmigrant visa categories used by entrepreneurs. It has already made a lasting impact across USCIS.  Through a comprehensive training course on startup enterprises and the landscape for early-stage innovations developed and delivered by the EIR team, our agency is better equipped with the tools to adjudicate petitions presented by entrepreneurs.

Recently, the EIR team embarked on a new challenge, expanding its focus to existing immigrant visa pathways that may enable foreign entrepreneurs to start a business and pursue a path to permanent residency in the United States.  This new emphasis will bring training to an additional portion of USCIS’s workforce, and supplement the team’s continued work on the development of policies and practices relevant to the entrepreneurial community. 

Given the success of the first phase of the EIR effort, which has led to unique improvements in our programs and enabled us to better serve foreign entrepreneurs, I look forward to seeing what the EIR team can accomplish in the months ahead.

For More Information Contact us at
http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html

Immigration Chief to Unveil Online Resource to Help Keep High-Tech for Entrepreneurs in the U.S.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Rodrique Ngowi
November 28, 2012

The Obama administration's top immigration official is visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to unveil an online resource intended to help entrepreneurs navigate their immigration options.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Alejandro Mayorkas will unveil so-called "Entrepreneur Pathways" on Wednesday.

It is a key product of "Entrepreneurs in Residence" program that brings in business experts from outside government to look for better ways to apply existing immigration laws. The initiative, launched during a meeting with members of Silicon Valley's startup community in February, seeks to keep foreign-born, high-tech entrepreneurs in the U.S.

The tech industry typically complaint that non-citizens who come to the country often hit immigration obstacles when they try to start companies.

The immigration service says it wants to streamline the immigration process for entrepreneurs to help keep jobs on U.S. soil.

Mexico's Pena Nieto Backs Obama Immigration Reform Push


REUTERS

By Mark Felsenthal and Matt Spetalnick
November 27, 2012

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto on Tuesday backed President Barack Obama's planned push for U.S. immigration reform, pledged cooperation on border security and promised efforts to reduce violence in his own country.

Three weeks after winning re-election, Obama held White House talks with Pena Nieto, who is due to take office on Saturday, to begin forging a personal bond and discuss shared challenges that have sometimes created fraught relations between their countries.

Pena Nieto made clear that Mexicans were closely following Obama's plan to tackle a major U.S. domestic issue - fixing America's immigration system. The porous, nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexican border is the No. 1 crossing point for illegal immigrants entering the United States.

Emboldened by strong support from Hispanic voters in the November 6 U.S. election, Obama said just days later that he planned to move quickly in his second term to address an immigration overhaul, an achievement that eluded him in his first term.

"We fully support your proposals," Pena Nieto told reporters as he began an Oval Office meeting with Obama. "We want to contribute, we really want to participate .... in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country."

Obama spoke of what he called a "very ambitious reform agenda" put forth by Pena Nieto, who takes power at a time when Mexico is bucking an international economic downturn but is coping with widespread drug gang violence.

"In terms of security, that's another major challenge that we all face. My government is set out to reduce the violence situation in our country," Pena Nieto said through a translator. "I will do everything we can for this."

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon launched a six-year offensive against the drug cartels that led to a spike in violent crime. About 60,000 people have died in drug-related violence during his term.

Pena Nieto's July victory marked the return to power of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after a 12-year absence. He has said his priority will be to reduce violence and focus on tackling crimes like extortion and kidnapping.

Mindful of U.S. concerns about border security, Pena Nieto told reporters at the White House: "We want our border to be a safe, modern, connected border, a legal border. That's exactly what we've set out to accomplish."


U.S. DRUG POLICY FACES LATIN AMERICAN SKEPTICISM

Pena Nieto takes office at a time when many Latin American governments are openly questioning the four-decade-old policies under which Washington has encouraged, and often bankrolled, efforts to disrupt the cultivation and smuggling of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs in the region.

Mexican leaders have been among those who have said the United States has not done enough to reduce its own demand for narcotics, which they see as the driving force behind the hemisphere's drug problems.

Obama could ease tensions with neighbors to the south if he follows through on his promise for an early second-term push for comprehensive immigration reform.

He said on November 14 that he would get a bill introduced in Congress "very soon" after his inauguration in January.

Despite the popularity of such a move among increasingly influential Hispanic voters, Obama offered no specifics about how he would advance legislation that has failed to gain traction even among his fellow Democrats.

A legislative package would include strengthening border security, penalties for employers that hire undocumented workers, and an avenue for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States to gain citizenship, he said. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there were 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the country in 2010.

Obama: I'm Going for Immigration Bill


USA TODAY

By David Jackson
November 27, 2012

President Obama echoed his pledge Tuesday to pursue an immigration bill in the next Congress, and welcomed the support of the incoming president of Mexico.

Obama said he would be "sharing" his plans with President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, who will be sworn into office on Saturday.

Nieto said he and his team "fully support" Obama's proposal for an immigration that includes both tighter security at the border as well as a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the United States.

"We want to contribute," Nieto said. "We want to be part of this."

Speaking to reporters before a private meeting with Nieto, Obama said he looked forward to working with the new Mexican government on economic ties, "border issues," and "regional and global issues."

Obama and aides believe the recent U.S. election gives them a better chance for new immigration legislation, in part because Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did no so poorly with Hispanic voters.

Republicans have insisted on a security-only bill but may more amenable to a pathway to citizenship rules in an effort to build support with Hispanics.

Republican Senators Present Dream Act Alternative


LOS ANGELES TIMES

By Brian Bennett
November 27, 2012

Under political pressure to take action on immigration reform, three Republican senators introduced an alternative version of the Dream Act on Tuesday that would give legal status for young immigrants brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children.

The effort, called the Achieve Act and launched by retiring senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and supported by Arizona senator John McCain, appears to be a push to take some of the heat off of Republicans on immigration.

But Senate Democrats, in an effort to hold their feet to the fire, won’t let the bill come to a vote during the lame duck session.

Exit polls from the election showed widespread disenchantment with the GOP among Latino voters. Some Republicans, including McCain, have indicated in recent weeks that they would be willing to discuss a more “comprehensive” package of immigration bills.

But Hutchison said she felt it is better to tackle small pieces of immigration reform one at a time because getting all sides to agree on a large package has proved to be too difficult in the past.

Fewer young immigrants would qualify for the proposal than would have been eligible under earlier versions of the Dream Act. Unlike the Dream Act, the bill would not guarantee a pathway to citizenship.

Under the Republican proposal, applicants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 14 could apply for student visas if they are younger than 29 and currently enrolled in a college degree program in the U.S. Applicants younger than 32 would qualify if they already hold a degree from an American college.

After graduation, applicants could apply for work visas that would be renewable every four years for the rest of their lives and would not prevent them from getting in line for a green card and, eventually, applying for citizenship.

Hutchison said the bill is an attempt to “get the ball rolling” to create a permanent, legal solution for young immigrants brought here by their parents.

“We think the best thing that we can do to utilize their talents and the education they have received  is to give them a legal status,” said Hutchison during a news conference in the Capitol.

Both senators acknowledged that the bill would probably not pass before the end of the year.

Some of the young immigrants who currently qualify for the Obama administration’s deferred action program that began in August would not be eligible for the Republican proposal, including students enrolled in high school or with a high school diploma.

But Kyl said the bill would address what he sees as an abuse of executive authority by the White House. President Obama was “taking the law into his own hands” and “violating the oath of office” when he launched the deferred action  program, Kyl said.

“If you don’t like the law, change it. Don’t violate it,” he said.

The Achieve Act is similar to an idea for an alternative Dream Act floated by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this year. Rubio was involved in drafting the current bill, said Kyl, but decided not to sign on until he had consulted with a wider range of groups.

Rubio, who is widely seen as having presidential ambitions, could be an important player in negotiating a possible comprehensive immigration reform bill next year.

Walking back to his office in the halls of the Capitol, Kyl acknowledged that there is more enthusiasm for passing new immigration laws than there has been in the last two years.

“It is apparent that we need to get the issue dealt with,” Kyl said.