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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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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nevada GOP Immigration Principles Call For Pathway To Citizenship

Huffington Post

By Elise Foley

The Nevada GOP announced its support on Thursday of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, invoking the Civil War to say the Republican Party would be going against its values to oppose immigration reform. "We support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that would require registering with the government; and, include the ability to communicate in English, performing military or other community service, and proof of financial responsibility as required by the USCIS," the party's statement of principles strategy reads. "One hundred and fifty years ago, our country fought a bloody Civil War. That war affirmed we have only one class of citizens -- American." The Nevada GOP's executive board voted on the language on Wednesday evening, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Seven members of the board voted in favor of the principles, one voted against, and two abstained, the Review-Journal reported. Congress is embroiled in a debate over whether comprehensive immigration reform should include provisions that allow citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million people living in the United States without authorization. Many Republicans say it would amount to amnesty, some even arguing it would hurt the party by leading to additional Latino voters who would vote for Democrats. Others have voiced support for a pathway, albeit an arduous one, and admitted it could be beneficial politically as the GOP struggles to win over Latino voters who by and large support reform. Latinos make up 27 percent of the population in Nevada, a fact the state Republican party alluded to in its principles.
"The GOP has increasingly found itself in positions that do not meet the demographic realities of the State’s electorate," they wrote. "These positions also conflict with our party’s historic commitment to civil rights. To that end, Republicans must become more inclusive, reflecting our desire to secure a better life for all Americans, and equally important, for our children."
The full immigration statement:
3. Pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants The GOP has increasingly found itself in positions that do not meet the demographic realities of the State’s electorate. These positions also conflict with our party’s historic commitment to civil rights. To that end, Republicans must become more inclusive, reflecting our desire to secure a better life for all Americans, and equally important, for our children.
The United States should secure its borders, enforce the laws that exist, and recognize the many groups that have worked hard to support their families and build a community. These groups include Hispanics and other immigrant minorities, young and old, black and white. We support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that would require registering with the government; and, include the ability to communicate in English, performing military or other community service, and proof of financial responsibility as required by the USCIS. One hundred and fifty years ago, our country fought a bloody Civil War. That war affirmed we have only one class of citizens -- American.
In sum, we should ask ourselves, "What makes Republicans different from Democrats?" As Nevadans, our answer must be a belief in private enterprise and individual initiative, not government subsidies and intrusive regulations; the knowledge that smaller government and local control not constant interference from Washington is the foundation of our republic; and a responsible budget that leaves future generations to create the society they desire.
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http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html

Will Rubio Pull Out of the Gang of Eight Now?

The Corner

By Mark Krikorian
 
Senator Rubio has been making a big deal of the border enforcement “trigger” that would have to be met before the amnestied illegals would be able to move from their immediately-issued green-card-lite status to a full green card. I thinks that’s a mistake for a whole variety of reasons, but at least he seems to genuinely believe in the trigger idea. Well, Senator Schumer dumped a bucket of cold water on that at a press conference today, when he said, “We are not using border security as a block to a path to citizenship. This [the trigger] will not be a barrier to giving citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in our country.” Schumer having acknowledged the fraudulent nature of the trigger idea, will Rubio now do the honorable thing and withdraw his backing for the Gang of Eight’s framework? Senator Vitter the other day on Laura Ingraham criticized Rubio’s stance on immigration as “naïve” and “nuts.” The “nuts” part was probably going too far, but “naïve” is correct. I saw the same thing in the previous amnesty battle; I was on a panel with a top McCain immigration staffer and afterwards asked some very elementary question about immigration — and she had no idea what I was even talking about. Kennedy’s staff were professionals in the immigration business, knowledgeable about every nook and cranny of the immigration law, knowing just how to craft a provision so that it sounded plausible to the Republican immigration amateurs but was meaningless in reality. Schumer’s staff has picked up Kennedy’s mantle and is taking Rubio’s people for a ride. (The alternative is that Rubio knew the trigger was a fraud all along, but I choose not to believe that.) At least now Rubio knows he was tricked. The next step is up to him.
 
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Analysis: Obama's Immigration Legacy Will Be His Presidential Legacy

ABC/Univision (Opinion)
By Jose Antonio Vargas
January 30, 2013

What's at stake is President Barack Obama's legacy.

Will the country's first minority president be remembered for deporting 1.5 million people, a vast majority of them Latinos – the nation's fastest-growing group? Or will Obama, the son of a woman from Kansas and a foreign student from Kenya, whose improbable rise to the White House was ushered by an emerging, minority-majority electoral coalition – Latinos, Asians and blacks voting with whites – be remembered for granting citizenship to 11 million new Americans?

Judging by his forceful speech yesterday, the answer is definitely the latter.

"I'm here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said to cheers and standing ovations at a packed high school gymnasium. At least four times he said, "Now's the time."

It did not bear repeating.

Everything is moving in the right direction, and in record speed, giving a case of whiplash to even the most veteran and cynical of immigration advocates. It seems that congressional leaders are holding on to what was once a third rail in American politics. In an interview with ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, John McCain, a crucial and, at times, unreliable ally, said he now backs not only the DREAM Act, but also a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (As early as three years ago, the Arizona senator called such a pathway "amnesty.") The following day, a group of senators (the "Gang of Eight," as they have been coined) offered an imperfect and enforcement-heavy but (here's the key word) bipartisan blueprint, laying out its principles for a workable immigration bill. Not to be left out, a group of House Republicans said on the same day that they too have a bill in the works.

If there were any doubts that the president viewed immigration as the top legislative priority of his second term, those were laid to rest when he said yesterday: "And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

Obama, as only a lame-duck president can, is staking his claim and going for the history books. And just as important as putting pressure on a bitterly polarized and often paralyzed Congress, Obama is framing the issue economically and culturally. He reminded us that, in recent years, one in four technology startups in America were created by immigrants, as were one in four new small businesses. He implored Americans to honor our country's rich history of immigration and to remember that our country is in constant evolution, from the Pilgrims, the Irish, and Eastern Europeans, to the Asians and Latinos.

In the speech's single most memorable line, this president who is still considered by some as "the other," viewed as a foreigner in a country that twice elected him to the White House, eloquently said: "Before they were 'us,' they were 'them.'"

Last week, the president gave the most inclusive inaugural address in the history of the American presidency, connecting the dots between Seneca, Selma, and Stonewall.

This week, Obama made it clear that, instead of being remembered as the Deporter-in-Chief within the immigrant rights community, signing a broad, fair, humane immigration bill into law--making "others" into "Americans"--will be a part of his inclusive legacy.

As one of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, I am hopeful.

Arizona Latinos Say Obama's Immigration Push Overdue


REUTERS
By Tim Gaynor
January 30, 2013

Student Maxima Guerrero welcomed Democratic President Barack Obama's drive to give millions of illegal immigrants like her a pathway to U.S. citizenship on Tuesday, saying it cannot come soon enough for many in the tough-on-immigration state of Arizona.

"It was a good step forward," said Guerrero, 22, a student in Phoenix. But one speech will not stop deportations, which are separating some local children from their parents, who entered the country illegally, she said.

Brought to the United States from Mexico by her parents at age 5, Guerrero watched Obama's push for a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents with caution.

Speaking to a cheering crowd in neighboring Nevada, Obama said he would let the undocumented get on a path to citizenship if they undergo national security and criminal background checks, pay penalties, learn English and get behind those foreigners seeking to immigrate legally.

Arizona, a border state, has been embroiled in a fight over immigration since 2010, when Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a law cracking down on illegal immigrants that set her on a collision course with the White House. To illegal immigrants in the state, Obama's promise is no longer enough.

"It brings hope. I am happy to see action," said Michael Nazario, 24, an undocumented Mexican immigrant living in Phoenix. "But until I see comprehensive immigration reform being signed by the president, I won't be (celebrating)," he added.

While pledging reform, Obama's administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants, focusing on lawbreakers.

PATIENCE WEARING THIN

Arizona state law requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop, if police suspect they are in the country illegally. Some immigrants in Phoenix say they can be detained for an offense as small as driving with a broken taillight. Their patience is wearing thin.

"We've heard it before," said graphic designer Carla Chavarria, 20, who watched Obama's televised address in the Phoenix's heavily Hispanic Grant Park neighborhood. "But it would give me a chance to live the dream I've hoped for after all this time, and continue with my education and help my parents out," added Chavarria, who said she would go to college in California if she was granted citizenship.

The president's speech came a day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators endorsed a plan offering a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, if the Mexico border is secured first.

Young immigrants in Phoenix remained skeptical about renewed interest from Republicans, who are still smarting from Obama's re-election with overwhelming support from Latino voters.

"Are Republicans really doing it for the benefit of society? Or are they just looking out for themselves for re-election?" said Lily Canedo, 26, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

"At this point, I wouldn't say 'yes' or 'no' to a Republican or Democrat. But I have seen more input and a little more on the positive side toward the undocumented from the Democrats," she added.

Mindful of the Republican-backed state crackdown on illegal immigrants, and drives by controversial Republican Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to target the undocumented, economics student Gustavo Lopez, 21, was clear he would not support them if he one day gained citizenship.

"I would vote Democrat," said Lopez, who was brought to Arizona as a child from Mexico. "Republicans have always been pushing for anti-immigrant reforms, and I remember that."

Arizonans Torn on Obama's Immigration Reform Proposal


LOS ANGELES TIMES
By Cindy Carcamo
January 30, 2013

In Arizona, a state long at the forefront of immigration enforcement, President Obama’s immigration reform plan is welcome news to some, and old rhetoric to others.

Community leaders on both sides of the immigration debate, however, agreed that the president’s plan didn’t stray much from a proposal outlined Monday by a bipartisan group in the Senate.

The fate of any sort of immigration reform will rely on the fine print, which is yet to be sorted out. Obama said he wants a program that would create a path to citizenship.

One key difference between both plans is that the Senate proposal says the federal government must first certify that the U.S.-Mexico border is secure before there is a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the estimated 11 million who are in the country illegally.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer welcomed the border enforcement portion of the Senate plan, spokesman Matthew Benson said.

“The governor is very encouraged that for the first time in a long time there is bipartisan agreement that border security must be the linchpin in immigration reform, specifically before… a pathway to citizenship,” Benson said.

Pat Sexton, president of the Tucson chapter of the Arizona Latino Republican Assn., said she agrees that securing the border must come first but doesn’t believe citizenship should be given to the millions here illegally.

The 60-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, who is originally from Guatemala, said there is already a clear path to residency and eventual citizenship.

“The pathway is for them to go back to their country and do it the way it’s supposed to be done,” Sexton said.

Arizona immigrant rights leaders and community organizers  said they were generally  encouraged by Obama’s proposal, stating that the announcement is a testament to the growth and influence of Latinos in the country.

Latino voter turnout in November’s election likely played a key role in the renewed interest in addressing immigration reform, said Petra Falcón, executive director of Promise Arizona.

“That’s why we are at this moment right now,” she said.

Some called the proposals set forth by Obama and the group of senators a recycled endeavor.

“This is nothing new or novel,” John Hill, executive director of Stand With Arizona, said.

“It’s the same empty promises of 1986,” he added, referring the immigration bill signed by President Ronald Reagan. That legislation led to the legalization of about 2.7 million people.

Hill, who heads the Phoenix-based anti-illegal immigration group, said that law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, also pledged to secure the border and to compel employers to verify that job applicants were in the country legally. Neither effort, however, was enforced vigorously. Meanwhile, millions received legal status and millions more followed and remained in the country illegally, Hill said.

Since large Latino voter turnout in the November election, lawmakers have faced mounting pressure to confront immigration reform.

Promise Arizona, and other immigrant rights group in Arizona were part of a contingent of Latino advocacy groups in the state that made a huge push to register Latinos in Maricopa County, enrolling 34,000 who had never voted before.

These groups also signed up thousands of eligible Latinos to become permanent early voters, meaning they would be sent a mail-in ballot automatically in each election. In 2008, 90,000 Latinos were on the early voting list. In 2012, it increased to a record 225,000, according to Francisco Heredia, state director for Mi Familia Vota in Arizona.

Falcón said the plan is to mobilize the thousands they enrolled to vote and have them call and email their congressional representatives in Arizona to push for immigration reform.

“We are going to go back and knock on those doors…" she said. "We need to make sure that every day our members of Congress hear from us .. .to make sure we get our message out there.”

Hill said his group -- an estimated 240,000 members strong -- plans to do the same.

[For the Record, 8:51 a.m. Jan. 30: A previous version of this post stated that the anti-illegal-immigration group Stand With Arizona has an estimated 20,000 members. It has an estimated 240,000 members.]

Why Labor Has Learned to Love Immigration Reform


NATIONAL JOURNAL
By Beth Reinhard
January 31, 2013

When President Obama delivered a major speech trumpeting immigration reform from Las Vegas earlier this week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sat in the front row, right in front of the podium.

Such a show of support from Big Labor would have been unthinkable just a few years ago when President George W. Bush unsuccessfully pushed legislation to offer illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. In fact, the AFL-CIO turned against the 2007 deal in part because leaders thought the temporary worker program pandered to corporate interests.

So what’s changed?  For one, unions have a much stronger relationship with the current Democratic administration, which bailed out the auto industry and adopted other pro-labor policies. And as the fast-growing Hispanic community demonstrated its political power in the 2008 and 2012 elections, immigration reform rose to the top of the labor movement’s agenda.

A survey of AFL-CIO members in December found 62 percent favor comprehensive immigration reform that includes a route to citizenship.

“Opinion throughout the country has changed a lot, and labor has been at the forefront,” said Michael Podhorzer, political director of the umbrella organization over 57 unions and 12 million workers.  “There’s a greater awareness that when immigrants have the same rights of other workers, that helps all workers.”

But the political gamesmanship is already beginning. While immigrant advocates and Democrats largely blame the conservative wing of the GOP for sinking the 2007 legislation -- and fear it will again -- Republicans point to labor’s ongoing concerns about a new guest worker program. That’s a priority for the business community, particularly the agricultural industry, which relies on low-wage, seasonal labor. Unions worry about an easily exploited underclass.

"The labor unions don't like that, and that's going to be a big fight the president is going to have to have if he's really interested in moving this forward," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a major player in the debate on Capitol Hill, said last week on the Mark Levin talk radio show.

Another sticking point for unions will be making sure the requirements for undocumented workers are not so arduous as to put citizenship out of reach. AFL-CIO leaders say the framework for laid out Monday by a bi-partisan group of senators, including Rubio, is better than the 2007 plan.  Another sign of progress is that the Chamber of Commerce and labor leaders have been talking in recent weeks in an effort to reach common ground.

The turning point, union leaders say, came in 2009 when the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union – divided over the 2007 legislation -- drew up a shared set of guidelines for sweeping immigration reform.

“Immigration reform was not party of labor’s agenda years ago because illegal immigrants were seen as competition and cracking down on undocumented workers was what people thought needed to get done,” said Eliseo Medina, the SEIU’s point person on immigration. “After 2009, labor was on record as being for immigration reform and fighting for the rights of immigrants.”

The heavily Hispanic SEIU represents 2.1 million janitors, maintenance workers, nursing home employees, bus drivers and other service workers. “The undocumented are our current members and our future members, so if we are going to reorganize our movement, we need to be on their side,” Medina said.

One high hurdle to reaching an agreement in Congress will be persuading skeptical Republicans that legalizing the 11 million undocumented workers living in this country is not a ploy to boost dwindling union membership and the voting rolls of a friendly Democratic Party. “Republican immigration reformers with an eye to political reality should begin by appreciating that Latinos are a Democratic constituency,” wrote the editors of the National Review Online.

The number of American workers in labor unions dropped by 400,000 in 2012 to 11.3 percent. Union workers made up 20 percent of the workforce in 1983. The ranks have been thinning as manufacturing jobs moved overseas, and more recently, as Republican-controlled state governments enacted right-to-work legislation and limited collective bargaining rights.

After losing the battle during President Obama’s first term over legislation that would have made it easier for workers to join unions, immigration reform looks like labor’s best opportunity in his second term. The political winds are at the movement’s back, with Republicans growing increasingly concerned about the party’s future if it doesn’t attract more Hispanic voters.

“If Republicans are afraid that fixing the immigration system will make more Democrats, standing in the way will be a self-fulfilling prophesy,” Medina said. “If they take it off the table, at least they will have a chance to have a conversation with the Hispanic community.”

Business, Labor Tackle Worker Visas


WALL STREET JOURNAL
By Laura Meckler
January 30, 2013

Senators writing an immigration bill are hoping that two longtime adversaries—big business and labor unions—will make the task easier.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have been meeting for weeks to try to fashion rules for how low-skilled workers would be admitted into the U.S. in the future under the still-unwritten legislation. The goal is to devise a visa program, separate from one aimed at farm workers, to fill jobs at hotel, janitorial, meat-packing and other companies that use low-skilled employees.

By all accounts, the Chamber and labor groups are working intensively toward a solution, but a host of tricky questions will make reaching an agreement tough.

Among them: How many workers would be let in each year, and who would set the number? How could employers prove they tried to recruit Americans before hiring from abroad? Also unclear is whether the workers would stay temporarily or become eligible, eventually, to become American citizens.

The Chamber and the unions are trying to work through those questions, with labor favoring more rights and flexibility for workers, and the Chamber wanting the same for businesses.

In general, labor unions have long resisted the creation of such programs, fearing that an influx of low-skilled workers would depress wages and create unfair competition for Americans. In 2007, the AFL-CIO opposed a Senate immigration bill similar to that being discussed now, partly because it did not like a temporary-worker program it included.

"The biggest concern has always been that when workers are brought in, it lowers wages for everybody," said Eliseo Medina, the SEIU secretary-treasurer.

Employers say the existing visa system gives businesses that face a genuine shortage of workers few opportunities to hire needed employees. "If an employer goes through a tight process and can't find an American worker, they ought to have access to a temporary-worker program that works," said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of the Chamber.

In 2010, when Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) were negotiating over an immigration bill, they asked the Chamber and the AFL-CIO to work out an agreement on a temporary-worker program. Officials met but never came to agreement, a failure most attribute to an understanding on both sides that the legislation was not likely to advance.

In the aftermath of the 2012 election, the push to overhaul immigration laws gained new life. Sens. Schumer and Graham met again with Chamber President Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in December, and asked them to renew their effort to come to a common position. Their staffs have been meeting regularly since then, along with representatives from the SEIU.

"We want to have as broad a coalition as possible, because this is hard to pass," Mr. Schumer said in an interview.

One of the biggest unsettled questions is how many new workers should be admitted each year. The unions want an independent commission to make a recommendation based on local labor-market conditions, with limits set for, say, the number of hotel workers in Chicago.

The Chamber's Mr. Johnson responded that timely data were not available to make that sort of detailed assessment. He said that because lawmakers will require employers to try recruiting Americans before looking to foreigners, they should place no limit on the number of workers allowed from abroad.

It is likely, however, that lawmakers will set an overall limit in order to retain support from unions, said a business official familiar with the talks. He suggested the limit be set at about 500,000 workers a year.

A bipartisan framework for legislation endorsed by eight senators touches on many of the questions. It says employers should be allowed to bring in foreign workers if they cannot recruit Americans for open jobs, but it does not say how employers must prove that they made the effort. The framework says more workers should be let into the U.S. when the economy is strong and fewer when it is weak, but doesn't specify what the numbers should be or who should set them.

Both labor and business say their talks are going well, and that both sides are invested in finding a common position. Ana Avendano, director of immigration and community action at the AFL-CIO, said that in the past, their negotiations were heavily laced with politics. Now, she said, "we're really working together. I can't say we're there yet, but our conversations are well intentioned."

Rubio Walks Fine Line in Immigration Revamp


WALL STREET JOURNAL
By Neil King Jr.
January 30, 2013

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio knew from the outset that championing a major immigration overhaul would expose him and the Republican Party to multiple perils, so he started doing the spadework early.

Working off a tight script, the freshman lawmaker began airing his own ideas weeks before he and a bipartisan group of seven other senators unveiled their package of proposals on Monday.

In the days since, Mr. Rubio has shouldered the main burden in selling the plan to skittish conservatives, including talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, whose opposition could prove lethal.

Last year's presidential defeat of Mitt Romney crystallized for the GOP how much its future rests on winning over more Hispanic voters. Negotiating a deal to help solve the country's nagging immigration problems would build Mr. Rubio a reputation as an effective lawmaker and give him an accomplishment that has eluded many of his Senate predecessors, Republicans say.

Mr. Rubio, 41 years old, won his Senate seat in 2010 after a surprise surge in which he forced aside Florida's sitting Republican governor, Charlie Crist, who opted to run as an independent for Senate instead of facing Mr. Rubio in the primary.

Mr. Rubio, the son of working-class Cuban immigrants, had served nine years in the Florida House, rising to become House speaker in 2003.

While far from a political newcomer, Mr. Rubio enjoyed a wave of support from tea-party groups both in Florida and nationally, giving him a prominence that fueled speculation soon after he arrived in the Senate that he might be part of the GOP presidential ticket in 2012.

But as he eyes a potential 2016 presidential bid, Mr. Rubio faces manifold risks. The immigration overhaul marks by far his most ambitious legislative effort, opening the possibility that his first major test could also strain ties with some of the conservative groups who championed his rise to the Senate.

That is why he has been so assiduous in reaching out to influential conservatives and in drawing his own red lines for what he will and won't accept as new immigration policy is written.

Polls show conservatives remain highly wary of any law that would pave the way to citizenship for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants now in the U.S., as the bipartisan framework does. Many consider it a form of amnesty for lawbreakers.

In agreeing to join the Senate group, which includes Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Mr. Rubio demanded that their joint framework say no one now in the country illegally could qualify for citizenship until a series of benchmarks on border security and law enforcement were first met, Rubio aides said.

At the same time, Mr. Rubio has made a point of sharing his own unease over the contours of the overhaul he envisions.

"I know why people are uncomfortable about it," he told Mr. Limbaugh in an interview Tuesday. "It doesn't feel right, in some instances, to allow people who have come here undocumented to be able to stay."

A talk-radio backlash helped scupper the last big push for an immigration deal, in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Early signs are that the rollout this time may be going more smoothly for those backing an overhaul.

After their 10-minute talk on his show, Mr. Limbaugh gushed to his listeners that he had gone from "adamantly against" the Senate proposal to thinking, "maybe we should do this."

In all, Mr. Rubio has granted interviews to more than a dozen conservative outlets this month, going back to several of them repeatedly, his aides said.

His aim is twofold: to sell the overall package, but also to make it clear where he, himself, stands. "The senator very much wants people to know what he is for and what he is against," said his spokesman, Alex Conant.

"We need border security. We need workplace enforcement. We need a visa-tracking system,'' Mr. Rubio told Mr. Limbaugh, adding that if the bill didn't require those steps before other actions are taken, "I won't support it.''

Mr. Rubio brings unusual attributes to the fight. He was a standout in the 2010 tea-party insurgency, and can sell his ideas in Spanish.

"No one has the political maneuverability on this issue that Marco does," said Ana Navarro, a GOP political consultant in Miami who has known Mr. Rubio for years.

In promoting his ideas, the senator has turned to a theme that Mr. Obama also adopted in his own immigration speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday: that the U.S. must maintain its exceptional status as a beacon for immigrants, and that doing so requires both sides to work to resolve the country's immigration problems.

The Senate framework has drawn some sharp criticism from Republican lawmakers, though the depth of opposition within the party remains unclear. Conservatives in Iowa already are warning that Mr. Rubio's work could haunt him in the state that kicks off the presidential nomination race.

"He could be in big trouble here among Republicans," said Ryan Rhodes, head of the Iowa Tea Party.

Rich Stolz, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica, said liberals are pleased by Mr. Rubio's involvement.

"People on the left are glad, if wary," Mr. Stolz said. "He could make the overall package more conservative, but he will also make it easier to get through Congress."

Immigration Shifts Could Provide Opening for Compromise


NEW YORK TIMES
By Richard Stevenson
January 30, 2013

In many ways it seems like 2007 all over again when it comes to addressing illegal immigration. Senator John McCain of Arizona is trying to build a bipartisan compromise. Rush Limbaugh is inveighing against amnesty. The White House – in this case President Obama rather than President George W. Bush – has staked considerable capital on reaching an agreement.

But much is different this time around, and not just in the Republicans’ newfound urgency to get a deal or risk watching Democrats cement the allegiance of Hispanic voters for a generation or more. By some key measures, the underlying problems – the pressures that have sent Mexicans northward for decades in search of jobs and a better life and the challenges for the United States of securing its borders  – have diminished relative to where they were even six years ago when Congress last tried to confront the issue and failed.

There is some debate about whether the changes are permanent or would be reversed again in the event of another sharp economic downturn in Mexico or across Latin American – or a strong rebound in economic growth and demand for labor in the United States.

Several underlying factors contributing to illegal immigration have changed since Congress last considered a bill on the issue in 2007.

But for now the bottom line is that the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States fell to 11.1 million in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, from a peak of 12 million in 2007, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a report on Tuesday.  By one new estimate, the number of people who managed to come over the Mexican border and make it illegally into the United States fell to 85,000 in 2011, down from 600,000 five years earlier.

With the scale of the problem stabilizing for the moment, or even shrinking, some experts say, there is more room for political compromise than the last time around.

“We are at a moment when the underlying drivers of what has been persistent, growing illegal immigration for 40 years have shifted,” said Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service who is now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research group.  “There are some fundamental new realities.”

One of them is economic. Mexico’s economy, while still riddled with inefficiency and inequality, is nonetheless humming along at a healthy rate, outpacing the United States by some standards and driving Mexico’s unemployment rate down even as post-recession job creation north of the border remains modest. The result has been to diminish both the push and the pull of illegal immigration.

Another is demographic. In Mexico, the source of about 6 in 10 undocumented immigrants in the United States, fertility rates having plummeted over the last few decades, and the pool of young workers – those most likely to seek a better life by emigrating – is dwindling quickly.  More Mexican children are remaining in school and getting high school degrees, an indication that they see their future at home as a middle class takes root.

Mexico’s population growth has fallen from a 3.2 percent annual rate to 1.1 percent in the first decade of this century, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The population of people under 15 years old is already declining in Mexico, and the population of people aged 15 to 29 will start doing so in coming years, an important shift given that most illegal immigrants arrive in the United States before age 30.

At the same time, one of the most contentious elements in previous battles over the issue – border security – has also become less of a partisan flash point.

Reflecting in part the deterrent effect of tighter border patrols as well as the economic and demographic shifts, the number of apprehensions along the border has fallen sharply. Those people who have gotten through are being caught and deported in record numbers.

Some analysts say the drop in apprehensions reflects not so much greater control of the border as a recognition on the part of potential immigrants that the chances of finding a job in the United States have fallen over the last few years. But even among border-state Republicans there is optimism that the billions of dollars spent in recent years on fences, additional agents, surveillance drones and other measures are having a real effect.

“Yes, there’s been improvement in border security and yes, it helps a lot,” Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican, said when asked whether the politics of getting a deal this time around are easier because of stepped-up enforcement.

The changes have all developed gradually. They do no alter the most compelling fact of the debate to both sides, which is that there are 11 million undocumented people already living in the United States whose status must be addressed in any comprehensive legislation.

But even though the economic and demographic changes have remained largely in the background of the debate so far, analysts say they could give more reassurance to conservatives in particular that legalizing those undocumented immigrants already in the United States would not simply produce another wave of them.

“The immigration debate in recent years, as it has played out in the last two presidential campaigns, has not kept pace with the facts on the ground,” said Paul Taylor, the director of the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Center. “I do sense that the nature of the debate is changing and catching up with the reality.”

There is no assurance of course that another sharp economic downturn in Mexico or across Latin American would not spur more illegal migration to the north.  The prolonged weakness in the American labor market also makes it harder to draw long-term conclusions about the relative attraction of coming to the United States. And many Republicans continue to view Mexico warily, seeing in the government’s difficulties controlling the violence and general lawlessness created by drug cartels a dangerous instability that could create deeper cross-border troubles.

“Mexico is on fire and about to blow up,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a supporter of the bipartisan package, expressing concern about whether the positive trends in illegal immigration from across the border are permanent.

On Immigration, Obama Assumes Upper Hand

New York Times
By Michael Shear and Mark Landler
January 30, 2013

As the specifics of immigration legislation take shape on Capitol Hill, President Obama is making it clear that he wants the overhaul on his terms.

Officials in the West Wing are convinced that the politics of the immigration issue have firmly shifted in their direction. That belief is fueling the president’s push for quick action and broad changes that go beyond what Republicans are signaling would be acceptable if they are to back legislation that allows a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The administration’s confidence — which was communicated to immigration advocates in a series of conference calls and meetings last week — is rooted in the sense among the president’s political advisers that Republicans are eager to embrace broad immigration changes as a way of improving their electoral appeal among Hispanic voters.

“We’re giving them some space,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president. But in the meantime, he said, “we’re going to continue to make the case to the country about why immigration reform should be done and to put pressure on Republicans that they need to do it.”

While aides say Mr. Obama is open to some negotiation over the contours of the immigration changes he laid out Tuesday in Las Vegas, senior administration officials are convinced that there is little risk in pushing hard for Mr. Obama’s immigration priorities, betting that Republicans will think twice about voting down a bill championed by a president who is highly popular among the very voters they covet.

The principles Mr. Obama embraced this week differ in some central ways from the effort under way in the Senate, where Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and six other senators are working toward a bill that could be debated and voted on as early as this summer.

Mr. Rubio and the other senators have said illegal immigrants would not be given a pathway to citizenship until the government had taken certain measures — so far unspecified — to secure the border. The White House fears that could become a source of endless delays for immigrants eager to become citizens. The Senate outline also includes a guest worker program for low-income workers, something Mr. Obama and his allies have been concerned about in the past.

In legislative fights over health care and stimulus spending in his first term, the president and his team earned scorn from their own supporters for being too willing to compromise. Liberal activists who helped Mr. Obama get elected in 2008 criticized him for trading away a public insurance option to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act.

But immigration advocates and White House officials say the dynamic is different now. With his re-election secured and the Republican electoral problems obvious, the president is more likely to stand his ground, they say.

“They know that the political momentum is on their side,” said an immigrant advocate whose group participated in conference calls with White House officials last week. “They are pretty confident that they have a broad cross section of civil society behind him on this.”

Asked whether White House officials seemed willing to compromise with Republicans to ensure passage, the advocate said, “That is not the message we heard at all.”

Mr. Obama, in an interview Wednesday with the Spanish-language network Univision, rejected Mr. Rubio’s criticism that he was not paying enough attention to border security.

“We have done more on border security in the last four years than we have done in the previous 20,” the president said. “We’ve actually done almost everything that Republicans asked to be done several years ago as a precondition to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.”

The president’s aides said he would welcome legislation that met his principles but that could also earn broad, bipartisan support in the Senate. They believe that a vote of 80 or more senators from both parties would put more pressure on Republican lawmakers who control the House. But the White House is also willing to fight for a more partisan immigration measure if need be, advisers said. Already there is evidence that Mr. Obama may end up with a messy political fight in spite of the show of bipartisan spirit on display in the Senate this week.

In a statement, Mr. Rubio said he was “concerned” by Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to require border security enhancement before illegal immigrants are eligible for citizenship. Mr. Rubio told Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, that the president could “either decide he wants to be part of a solution, or he can decide that he wants to be part of a political issue.”

Other Republicans were more scathing about any effort to provide citizenship to illegal immigrants. Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, on Wednesday called Mr. Rubio “amazingly naïve” and “nuts” for believing that Mr. Obama would ever enforce the border.

“It didn’t happen under Reagan, but it’s going to happen under President Obama?” Mr. Vitter said in an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio program.

In his speech in Las Vegas, Mr. Obama made it clear what he would do if the senators failed to produce legislation that could pass the Senate and the House. If that happens, he promised to “send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”

But in the meantime, aides said Mr. Obama would insist that any final legislation met his goals. White House officials describe Tuesday’s speech in Las Vegas as the opening act in a sustained campaign.

Speaking to another Spanish-language network, Telemundo, Mr. Obama said Wednesday that he hoped to see legislation pass by the end of the year, if not in the first six months.

One area of potential disagreement is likely to be the speed and certainty with which illegal immigrants can apply for and earn citizenship. Mr. Rubio is pushing for legislation that would deny green cards or citizenship applications until an independent board certifies that the government has secured the border.

One senior administration official played down the differences between Mr. Obama’s proposals and those of the bipartisan group.

“At the end of the day,” the official said, “we think we know how to get this done in a way that’s fair.”