About Me

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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


Monday, October 31, 2011

Use of Busing System to Deter Returning Illegal Immigrants Increases

The Arizona Republic: In an effort to deter illegal immigrants from sneaking back across the border as soon as they are deported, the Border Patrol is increasingly taking those caught in southern Arizona and busing them to Texas and California, where they are then sent back to Mexico.

Busing illegal immigrants to other border states makes it harder for them to reconnect with the smuggling guides who help migrants illegally cross into the U.S., the Border Patrol says.

Napolitano at U.S.-Mexico border

"What that does is break up that smuggling cycle so that they are not going to keep coming through kind of a revolving door," said Colleen Agle, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, which covers most of Arizona's border with Mexico.

The Border Patrol has been shipping illegal immigrants caught in Arizona, the main entry point for illegal border crossers, to other border states for several years. But last year, the number of transfers, known as lateral repatriations, skyrocketed.

From Oct. 1, 2010, through July 30, the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector transferred 43,806 illegal immigrants arrested in Arizona to Texas or California. That is 128 percent more than the number transferred during all of 2010, according to Border Patrol statistics. Statistics for all 12 months of the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, are not yet available.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was in Nogales on Sunday to tour part of the border on horseback, praised the lateral transfers. They are part of stepped-up efforts to deter illegal immigration by imposing consequences on illegal border crossers instead of simply returning them to Mexico.

"There are a number of things that all together are acting as deterrents to recidivist crossers in particular," Napolitano said. "All those added together make it less and less appealing to try and cross this very forbidding terrain."

The transfers are effective in reducing the number of repeat crossers, Agle said.

Through July, 27 percent of the illegal immigrants bused from Arizona were caught trying to re-enter the U.S., she said. That is down from 33 percent in 2010 and 34 percent in 2009. The Tucson Sector's overall recidivism rate is much higher. Between 2000 and 2010, 41 percent of illegal immigrants arrested by the Border Patrol were caught trying to re-enter at least once, according to data released by Customs and Border Protection following a Freedom of Information Act request by The Arizona Republic. Borderwide, the recidivism rate is 38 percent.

The Border Patrol says the transfers are done almost exclusively out of Arizona. The only other state to transfer out illegal immigrants is California, which sends a small number to Arizona's San Luis port for deportation.

The transfers, however, are controversial.

Immigrant advocates say the practice puts illegal immigrants in danger.

"People are then sent to ports of entry or locations where they do not have any resources to try to get back home, or to dangerous ports of entry ... where there are high crimes rates or high drug-trafficking crimes rates," said Victoria Lopez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union office in Phoenix.

Some humanitarian groups have also raised concerns that the transfers separate families.

A September report by No More Deaths, a Tucson humanitarian group, based on interviews with more than 12,800 illegal immigrants deported by the Border Patrol, found 869 family members who had been removed separately, including 17 children and 41 teens. The separations often occurred after the Border Patrol transferred illegal immigrants to other states so they could be deported through ports far from where they were apprehended, the report said.

Agle, however, said the Border Patrol does not separate families. The Border Patrol selects only men between the ages of 20 and 60 traveling without family members for the transfer program, in part for safety reasons, she said.

Alan Bersin, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, toured the border on horseback with Napolitano. He said he has heard complaints that the transfers break up families, but he has not seen hard evidence of that happening.

He said both CBP and the Department of Homeland Security's civil-rights division are investigating the allegations.

Illegal immigrants arrested in southern Arizona are bused from Tucson to the Del Rio or Eagle Pass ports of entry in Texas or to the Calexico or San Ysidro ports of entry in California, Agle said.

The transfers are part of stepped-up efforts to deter illegal immigration by imposing consequences even to illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol for the first time. In the past, repeat illegal border crossers were often just sent back after being processed and fingerprinted. Many often reconnected with smugglers in Mexico and attempted to cross again.

During the deadly summer months, some illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol in southern Arizona are turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and flown to the interior of Mexico. And since January, the Border Patrol has been prosecuting illegal border crossers on federal criminal charges, rather than simply returning them to Mexico.

The increase in transfers from Arizona to other border states contributed to an overall drop in deportations last year in Arizona.

Federal immigration officials in Arizona deported 56,198 people last year, a nearly 40 percent drop from the previous year, and the first decrease since 2005. But while deportations in Arizona are down, they are up nationally. ICE deported a record number of illegal immigrants last year, 396,906 nationwide compared with 392,862, ICE officials said.

Without the transfers, the number of deportations in Arizona would not have been down dramatically.

What's more, deportations in California and Texas increased significantly last year because of the transfers, said Vincent Picard, a spokesman for ICE.

Last year, ICE deportations increased by 15,000 in the El Paso area and by 8,000 in the San Antonio area, Picard said.

ICE deportations in the San Diego area increased by 15,000 last year, he said.

Picard said several other factors contributed to last year's drop in deportations in Arizona.

The Arizona number includes illegal immigrants arrested in Arizona as well as those arrested in other Western states and transferred to detention centers in Arizona for removal.

- With illegal immigration down, the Border Patrol is arresting fewer illegal immigrants, which means fewer illegal immigrants are being turned over to ICE for removal, Picard said.

The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, the nation's busiest, arrested 116,463 illegal immigrants from Oct. 1, 2010, through Aug. 30, 2011, Agle said. That is down nearly 43 percent from the 203,563 arrested during the same period the previous year.

- Calls from local police encountering illegal immigrants inside either smuggling vehicles or drophouses are also down, Picard said. ICE identified 2,741 illegal immigrants through such calls last year, down nearly 33 percent from the 4,081 the year before.

- Removals through ICE's 287(g) program, which allows local police trained by ICE to enforce immigration laws, also dropped from 11,667 in fiscal year 2010 to 7,609 last year, Picard said. That was a nearly 35 percent decrease.

Luis Avila, president of Somos America, a coalition of immigrant-advocacy groups, said the decrease in deportations in Arizona does not mean fewer people are being deported. They are only being deported through other states, he said.

Napolitano and Bersin arrived in Nogales on Sunday from Washington, D.C., on a military jet. They met briefly with about 50 Border Patrol agents before touring the border on horseback for about an hour.

Napolitano and a dozen agents rode several miles along Potrero Canyon, with commanding views of the rugged terrain west of Nogales. The area is vast and desolate, and Napolitano, an experienced rider, weaved her chestnut-colored quarter horse Hunter, borrowed from the Border Patrol, through stands of thorny mesquite trees and ocotillo bushes.

"Nothing beats coming out and seeing for yourself and talking with the agents, and in this case getting on a horse and getting out and seeing some of the terrain," she said.

A decade ago the area was overrun by illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. But now, agents catch illegal immigrants in this area only occasionally.

"The difference between Nogales now versus Nogales in the nineties or even the early part of this century," she said, "it really is quite clear the amount of manpower the technology, the assets that are deployed down here - it's just a different world than it was."

California Employers Embrace E-Verify

Contra Costa Times: Illegal immigrants will have a harder time securing a job -- some jobs, at least -- as more Bay Area employers screen new hires through an immigration records check.

From corporate giants Apple (AAPL) and Chevron to the organic-friendly grocer Berkeley Bowl and the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente health care organization, more than 26,000 employers in the state have signed up for the federal E-Verify program that checks the immigration status of employees.

As a growing number of states require public and private employers to use E-Verify, California has gone out of its way to make it voluntary, passing a law this month that bans local governments from forcing firms to use electronic verification.

Still, the number of California job sites using E-Verify to scrutinize their workers -- usually on the first few days on the job -- increased by 37 percent to more than 90,000 from a year ago, according to government records. The state has more job sites using the electronic verification system than any other.

Some firms voluntarily run their employees through the E-Verify database in hopes of avoiding government audits or immigration raids that could lead to fines or damage their brands. Federal contractors participate because they must. When E-Verify flags work documents as suspicious, employees can challenge the Department of Homeland Security or quit. About 2.5 million workers in California had their paperwork audited through the system in the past year.

Retailers have been particularly eager to join in recent months, said attorney Ann Cun, of San Ramon-based workplace consultants INSZoom. That could affect who gets hired as stores and warehouses prepare for the annual surge of temporary work over the holidays.

A Target store in Walnut Creek made news just before Christmas 2009 when an internal audit forced out 40 immigrant workers on the overnight shift.

Immigration agents have conducted their own investigations of companies across the state -- usually in low-key visits to audit I-9 forms and occasionally in a splashy public raid. All these probes make businesses worried.

"Employers have been finding out about the E-Verify program mainly after reading about these raids," Cun said. "That's usually what triggers companies to evaluate whether they want to enroll."

Bad for agriculture?

For all the companies in the state joining E-Verify, however, hundreds of thousands have not, and agriculture is among the least represented industries, according to a list of E-Verify users obtained by this newspaper.

"There is one industry that I believe has historically shown it relies on foreign labor, and that's agriculture," said U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River.

The Central Valley lawmaker reflects the mixed feelings many Californians have about E-Verify. Eighteen other states have made E-Verify use a requirement for some or all employers. California did the opposite this month, banning itself and local jurisdictions from mandating the program. The bill by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, which takes effect Jan. 1, was backed by immigrant advocates but also the California Chamber of Commerce and agriculture groups.

"Overall, for the companies that have chosen to voluntarily participate, it's worked very, very well," Lungren said of E-Verify. "It's not a fail-safe system, but it's miles ahead of everything else."

However, forcing E-Verify on all employers would devastate California's agricultural economy if the mandate is not coupled with another source of farm labor, Lungren said.

"You're going to destroy agriculture in a very real sense," he said. "I don't think I'm being an alarmist about that."

E-Verify politics

E-Verify is emerging as a hot topic ahead of the 2012 presidential election, but perspectives do not always fall along simple party lines.

Proponents say enacting E-Verify everywhere could deter illegal immigration more effectively than any border wall by denying all jobs to illegal immigrants.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has made mandatory E-Verify a key talking point on the campaign trail, and the House Judiciary Committee has already approved a bill -- the Legal Workforce Act -- that would make the electronic system mandatory and replace I-9 forms. Most Democrats oppose the bill.

Among E-Verify's most vocal opponents are business interests, immigrant advocates and some tea party libertarians who believe the system is too intrusive.

"There's a lot of uncertainty," said Cun, expressing concerns she said businesses have raised. "All this data is collected as you're punching it in. What's going to happen to all that data in five years? We don't know."

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said errors persist in the way E-Verify works. The process misses some illegal immigrants and misidentifies some authorized workers. Because it has a hard time picking up identity fraud, it may miss about half of all undocumented workers, according to a report produced for the Department of Homeland Security.

Economic impact

Opponents also point to places such as Alabama, where farmers blame new immigration restrictions for scaring away workers they depend on. A study released this month compared sanctuary cities that left illegal immigrants alone with those, such as California's Lancaster, that mandated E-Verify use locally.

"Those who are proponents of restrictive ordinances would say, 'That's exactly what we're trying to do.' But we're not looking just at the effect on immigrants," said Jason Marczak, policy director for the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. "We're looking at the overall effect on the number of jobs, the number of employees and the city as a whole."

"Restrictive ordinances are bad for business, and nonrestrictive ordinances are comparatively better for the business environment," Marczak said.

Lungren said he would support E-Verify across the country if Congress also passed a better guest-worker program that would bring in seasonal farm labor. A guest-worker program already exists, but Lungren said it is ineffective for most farm employers and last month he introduced a bill for a new guest worker visa that would allow foreign workers to stay for up to 10 months and would not require employers to house them.

Early adopters

Not all food-related businesses have resisted E-Verify. Among the earliest adopters was the meatpacking and processing industry, which experimented with electronic verification in the late 1990s, before it was called E-Verify.

"When you're in that kind of industry, whether it's clothing-making or animal-processing, you get a lot of illegal immigrants trying to get those jobs," said Jeremy Russell, spokesman for the Oakland-based National Meat Association. "It's easier for ICE to target us for raids. You have a big factory."

Fear of raids put meatpacking plants at the forefront of electronic verification. "It's easier for ICE to target us for raids. You have a big factory," Russell said.

But it also created a false sense of security, Russell said. One early adopter, Swift & Co., was raided in six states in 2006, in part because E-Verify was not flagging the workers who used stolen Social Security numbers.

"That raid really put it on the map for everybody. You can't just turn on E-Verify and say everything's fine," Russell said.

Obama’s Policy on Venezuela Leaves Chavez’s Victims Paying Price

Washington Post (Opinion): In May 2010, Nelson Mezerhane got the phone call that made him realize he could never return to Venezuela. The then-67-year-old businessman, a co-owner of Globovision, the country’s only independent television network, was in Boca Raton, Fla., where he had taken his family out of concern for their security.

The call was from Hugo Chavez. “Where are you? When are you coming back?” the cau­dillo began, according to an account Mezerhane gave me. Then Chavez got down to business: “I need for you to fix this Globovision. This cannot go on like this. Fix it or take the consequences.”

For nearly six years Mezerhane and his business partner had been under intense pressure to stifle Globovision’s critical coverage of Chavez, or else sell the network. Mezerhane had been imprisoned on bogus charges — the prosecutor who brought them said so before fleeing Venezuela — and he had been publicly accused of everything from plotting to assassinate the president with an F-16 warplane to working for the CIA. But Mezerhane refused to buckle. “Shut it down,” he challenged Chavez over the phone.

Chavez did not do that: His closure of another independent TV station had triggered a huge domestic and international backlash. But a couple of weeks later, his security forces raided and seized Mezerhane’s bank; in August 2010, they invaded his home. That same month, Mezerhane, like thousands of other Venezuelans fleeing the Chavez regime, filed an asylum request in Miami with the Citizenship and Immigration Services office of the Department of Homeland Security. And there our story begins.

Fourteen months later, a man Chavez once described as his No. 1 political enemy has not had a response, nor even an interview, though DHS guidelines provide for a final decision within 180 days. Mezerhane’s attorney, Sandra Grossman, believes his case has been transferred to Citizenship and Immigration headquarters in Washington, where it has disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole along with dozens of other high-profile Venezuelan political asylum cases.

“All of my high-profile cases have been referred to headquarters, where they are just sitting,” Grossman told me. “This is true only of Venezuela. It’s impossible to obtain any information about when they are likely to be adjudicated, impossible to obtain information about why they are still pending.”

Two other immigration attorneys said they have the same problem with prominent Venezuelan clients.

What could explain this logjam? Grossman has a theory: The Obama administration is catering to Chavez. “What’s happening,” she says, “is that for political reasons the government doesn’t want to create a space for Chavez to react when we grant asylum to someone he has labeled a criminal.” The result: “We are leaving deserving applicants and their families in a permanent state of limbo. It creates the image that we are not observing the rule of law.”

Asylum decisions are supposed to be nonpolitical, and DHS officials I spoke to denied that politics has infected the Venezuelan cases. They said that high-profile cases typically take longer to adjudicate because they require more investigation. But Grossman’s theory happens to coincide with Obama administration policy. Under Hillary Rodham Clinton, the State Department sought first to “engage” Chavez and then, when that didn’t work, adopted a strategy of seeking to avoid public scrapes with him, on the theory that he would only use them to rally domestic and regional support.

The price of this policy is borne by Chavez’s victims — journalists, union leaders, businessmen, would-be opposition presidential candidates — whom he persecutes and frequently drives out of Venezuela. The administration rarely speaks up for these beleaguered defenders of human rights and democracy; and when it does, then only at a low level. It has made no effort to hold Chavez accountable at forums like the Organization of American States.

Now it appears to be dragging its feet on helping even those Venezuelans who come to the United States to seek physical protection from the regime. In recent years Venezuela has been one of the largest sources of asylum applicants: It ranked eighth in the world on a DHS list in March. So far in 2011 there have been 670 applications, which can cover families as well as individuals. DHS officials told me that the overall rate of approval for Venezuelan cases has remained constant in recent years. But 135 of 467 cases in 2010 remained open at the end of the year.

Mezerhane says he would like to use his time in the United States to work for change in Venezuela, which has grown steadily more violent and chaotic. For now, however, he and many like him are paralyzed. “It is hard for them to bring their families over,” said Grossman. “They can’t work. They can’t travel. We are effectively silencing them and denying them a platform to voice their opinions.”

Is this really the right way to counter Hugo Chavez?

The Story Behind the Marco Rubio Story

Washington Post (Opinion): One of the key ingredients in a good news story is dogged, original research. And that’s what lies behind The Post’s story about Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and his misleading narrative that he is the child of immigrants who left Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

As we know now, and as Rubio himself has acknowledged, his parents left Cuba on May 27, 1956, some 2 1 / 2 years before Castro came to power and some five years before Castro declared a “socialist revolution” in April 1961.

So how did The Post figure this out? Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia was on book leave, working on his forthcoming biography of Rubio.

In the course of researching Rubio’s family, Roig-Franzia hoped to find more details about the parents’ life in Cuba and their early years in America. He came across their immigration documents after hours of slogging through microfilm records at the Library of Congress.

He then brought the idea for the story to Post editors; they asked for further research and confirmation. On Oct. 20, when the editors were satisfied the story was ready for publication, Roig-Franzia contacted the senator for comment.

Now this is where the competitive nature of the news business comes in.

On Oct. 19, the St. Petersburg Times published its own story, mainly about the birther movement questioning Rubio’s qualifications to be president or vice president because his parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of his birth in 1971.

But buried deep in the Florida newspaper’s story was an accusation by a prominent figure in that movement, Charles Kerchner, that Rubio’s parents came to the United States in 1956 and not post-Castro, as Rubio had indicated before in interviews and speeches.

The Post knew it had all the documentation to prove that fact, plus more, so the pressure to publish intensified. Editors decided to publish Roig-Franzia’s story online Oct. 20, and in the Oct. 21 paper.

That decision prompted a lot of back and forth between Rubio’s office and Roig-Franzia on Oct. 20: e-mails, phone calls and the written statement that the senator’s office had offered the St. Petersburg Times the day before.

According to Post records, Roig-Franzia’s story with quotes from the written statement was published online at 4:08 p.m. At the moment of publication, Roig-Franzia was at the senator’s office, examining Rubio’s parents’ passports, which showed their trips to Cuba after coming to the United States in 1956, and hoping he might snag Rubio himself for an interview. Rubio’s press secretary, Alex Conant, finally squeezed Roig-Franzia in for a 14-minute interview with the senator. Afterward, Roig-Franzia phoned in quotes from the senator’s office, and the Post updated the story by 4:31 p.m.

Was there a press of time at the last minute to get the story out? Yes, but the fact-checking and documentation had been done. The last piece of the puzzle was Rubio’s comments, and the senator’s office indicated to Roig-Franzia that the senator was busy and there was no guarantee of an interview. The Post initially published with just the statement.

Conant, in a note to me later, objected to the story being published without the senator’s direct quotes. I see his point, and in a perfect world that would be the preferred path. But in the competitive pressures of today’s online and Twitter world, I can’t fault The Post for publishing as it did. And it updated the story with the senator’s quotes less than 30 minutes later.

Rubio’s office objected to The Post saying that the senator “embellished” his family history. Conant said Roig-Franzia should have asked the senator whether he thought he had embellished his life story by saying his parents left Cuba post-Castro. I think that’s a issue more of writing than of interviewing. I think embellishing is the perfect verb for what Sen. Rubio did. His own Senate biography stated that his parents had left Cuba after Castro’s victory, and he changed it as soon as The Post published.

Rubio said he based his story on family lore and that he didn’t have all the documents in his possession. Parents don’t always tell their kids everything about their immigration experience. But if I were running for office, I would want to know, and I wouldn’t say they came after Castro’s rise unless I was sure.

Obama Deportation Numbers

Politico (Letter to the Editor) by Rep. Luis Gutierrez: I try not to address the esteemed chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the press, but I have to respond to Rep. Lamar Smith’s Opinion piece, “Obama Deportation Numbers a ‘Trick’” (POLITICO, Oct. 26), arguing that the record deportation numbers of the Obama administration are an illusion or some form of “hocus-pocus.”

As I travel the country, I hear the stories of U.S. citizens, long-term residents and upstanding members of local communities whose family members are being deported. There is no magic to it.

I invite the chairman to talk to my constituent, Francisco. He called me because he has been in the country illegally since 1989 and is now in deportation proceedings. Francisco has been married to a U.S. citizen for 19 years, and his three children are U.S. citizens — doing well in colleges and high schools in Chicago.

Under current law, Francisco cannot apply for legal status based on his wife’s citizenship. So he is in line to be one of 400,000 people who will be deported this year.

There is nothing magic about four U.S. citizens — a wife and three kids — losing their husband and father. There is no illusion in being deported because Congress has failed to pass meaningful, sensible immigration reform over stiff opposition from Republicans.

The chairman recently told PBS’s “Frontline” that he believes our policies should be based on the notion that 10 million immigrants will leave our country — magically disappear — and that such a mass exodus of workers, consumers, and taxpayers will — poof — free up millions of jobs in agriculture for unemployed citizens.

If the chairman wants to carry off a real magic trick, he should get his Republican colleagues to join me and other Democrats to talk about realistic immigration reform. That’s some magic I’d like to see.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is the chairman of the Immigration Task Force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Undocumented Workers

New York Times (Letter to the Editor) by Rep. Lamar Smith: Re “So Much for the Nativists” (editorial, Oct. 27): With 14 million Americans unemployed and 7 million illegal immigrants working in the United States, jobs should be protected for legal workers.

A federal E-Verify law could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all employers to use this program. E-Verify quickly identifies individuals working here illegally and opens up jobs for citizens by checking Social Security numbers of new hires.

Individuals eligible to work here are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time. With this track record, it’s no wonder a recent poll found that 82 percent of likely voters support requiring all employers to use E-Verify.

Because growers often face a shortage of available American workers to fill seasonal agricultural jobs, I have also sponsored a bill to provide them a workable guest worker program. This bill eliminates the problems plaguing the current program and establishes a more effective system that is responsive to the needs of American growers while maintaining strong safeguards to protect legal workers. And it will help growers hire a legal work force without a fraud-ridden mass amnesty.

It seems that some critics oppose E-Verify and a guest worker program because they want illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and get amnesty. But why should we put the interests of illegal workers ahead of those of unemployed Americans?


Washington, Oct. 27, 2011

The writer, a Republican from Texas, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Once Again, Alabama Has Become a National Embarrassment

San Jose Mercury News (Opinion): In my forthcoming book that chronicles key events of 1963, I argue -- as have other historians -- that Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor was the Civil Rights Movement's best ally in changing the laws in Birmingham. He also changed how the nation viewed civil rights as an issue.

It was Connor who ordered the police dogs and high-powered fire hoses on nonviolent protesters that was covered on the front pages of newspapers across the country and the evening news. Connor's tactics were an embarrassment for the nation.

It seems the state of Alabama has decided to rekindle the legacy of Connor to the extent that it is once again a national embarrassment.

In June, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed HB56, which is considered by many to be the toughest immigration law in the country. Among its provisions, it requires law enforcement officials to check a person's immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests if they suspect the person is in the country illegally.

The impact of HB56 has caused Mexicans, in the country legally and illegally, to understandably engage in a mass exodus from the Yellowhammer State.

But the draconian illegal immigration policy, like all legislation, came with unintended consequences. In this particular case, the Alabama legislature has successfully enacted an emotion-based policy that ultimately hurt its own economy.

The state's $5.5 billion agriculture industry is in serious jeopardy and it does not appear there are enough legal residents to fill the void -- a key canard used to justify the tough law.

Lawmakers in Alabama failed to consider that those who are unemployed need full-time work, rather than a seasonal bandage.

Alabama's obvious objective is to rid the state of illegal immigrants. But what it is achieving in the process is the purging a substantial portion of the state's productive population, which will lead to unavoidable economic loss.

What began as a problem with agriculture will soon spread into other sectors of the economy. Farmers are unable to plan ahead, which impacts orders for seed and large equipment contracts. Where will it end?

Imagine the impact on the nation if California followed Alabama. Given that California is the nation's top agricultural state. The state's agriculture industry generates approximately $36.2 billion a year.

While I don't see anything of this magnitude emanating from the Legislature, it is plausible for something similar to Alabama's legislation to come by way of the initiative process.

All it would require is the enough moneyed interest to place it on the ballot. With emotion, fear and 30-second sound bites leading the way, legislation of this scale in California could bring the nation to its knees.

The common retort from right-wing led state legislatures is their frustration with the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration. They, instead, offer shortsighted legislation that hurts their own economic interests.

Using fear and hatred, Alabama has enacted legislation that does not make them better. Nor does it solve the intended problem because it potentially cripples the state's economy in the process.

What may be worse is the state's unwillingness to address the obvious. The initial response to the agriculture industry has been, in effect, to "grin and bear it."

At a recent gathering of 200 farmers, tomato grower Theresa Smith told Republican state Rep. Elwyn Thomas, "We're going to go out of business, and it's not just going to hurt us, but everyone in this state is going to feel it economically."

But Thomas told those assembled there would be no revisions in the law. The sheer arrogance of being undeterred by potentially putting farmers out of business is mind-boggling. I thought Republicans were the party of pro business and pro growth.

Our elected officials at the state and federal level are unable to craft judicious legislation in part because they are unable to conduct a judicious conversation on illegal immigration.

Alabama demonstrates what can happen when reactionary-based policies are used to address problems -- you make them worse. Whatever problems may have resulted from illegal immigration, taking the jobs of those who are in the country legally and playing by the rules has been proven not to be among them.

Unable to address a perceived problem in a thoughtful manner, Alabama has reached back for fear and xenophobia to once again guide them.

It didn't work so well for Bull Connor 48 years ago, we'll see how well it works today.

Owning up to the Immigration Law

The Huntsville Times (Opinion): Governor Robert Bentley says he doesn't want to be remembered as the ugly face of the illegal immigration in America. Sorry, Guv, it's too late to unring that cracked bell. Before the dust settles you'll have about as much chance of disassociating yourself from Alabama and America's immigration fiasco as George Wallace did distancing his legacy from segregation.

When the full economic and social impact hits, your legacy is made. You will have earned immortality, if not immorality when you scratched your "X" on HB-56.

You didn't think of that when you stood with grinning mini-minions Beason and Hammon and basked in the power and the glory.

You say you "are confident you did the right thing." You chose your side. Stay there.

Here's betting that if you succeed in scraping this off the bottom of your shoe, Santa Claus will recuse his mercenary self for the season and allow Christ back in Christmas.

An estimated one-fourth of Alabama's immigrants have packed up and left for parts unknown - and many of them were here legally and were skilled business owners and employers. That should help us rebuild from the tornadoes, huh?

For some reason, even the legals feel unwelcome now. Go figure. Want a shocked look? Say "Hola" and hold the door for a Hispanic - like a well-raised southerner would for anyone.

If only Alabama's legislators had been smarter than 5th graders they could have gazed into a crystal football and foreseen that knee jerk anti-immigrant measures like HB-56 would have the strongest impact on the farmers. With untold numbers of farmers reporting losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each, they are (surprise!) scrambling to find prison labor to replace the absent workers.

That will last until the first magnolia blossoms of Alabama womanhood gets raped, robbed and ravaged by a produce-picking inmate who makes a break for it.

It didn't take Nostradamus to predict that the poultry industry would decline swiftly. If you need proof, Hispanics in Alabama recently skipped work one Wednesday to protest the law; at least six poultry plants closed or dialed operations back.

A spokesman for Wayne Farms, a major poultry processor and employer in Alabama, watched the proverbial tumbleweeds blow through the parking lot. He's quoted as saying, "I don't think it's going to be just today," The plant normally employs 850 people.

Georgia Farmers could have told them the "send'm all back" approach will not work.

Georgia, which passed its law first, saw that the inevitable exodus of harvest-skilled, Hispanic migrant labor resulted in an estimated $140 million in losses during the spring and summer harvest, They, too, were so desperate that they resorted to using prison labor -with pitiful results because the workers were not as productive.

Even if they could pick the stuff as fast, why would they? Would you want to get out of that fresh air and sunshine and hurry back to the cage?

Are you ready for much higher grocery prices? When you open your checkbook at the checkouch, I mean checkout, get ready to write bigger numbers and remember the good ol' days when fruit and vegetables weren't luxuries. Remember Gov. Robert Bentley fondly as you write that check.

He will, after all, be the father of this mess countrywide.

It is easy to criticize without offering alternatives. Doubtless something needed to be done about the illegal immigrant situation - just not this.

Tune in next week for part 2, same bat place, same bat paper, when I propose one solution to the immigration circus that will benefit the economy, create jobs, win the war on drugs and greatly aid homeland security.

Gracias, Pero No Gracias

New York Times (Editorial): There are almost 12 million potential Hispanic voters in the United States. And both parties say they are eager to court their votes. So one has to wonder why the Republican presidential contenders would miss the chance to debate before the largest possible audience of Spanish-language television viewers.

This month, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman Jr., Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich said they would not participate in a debate on Univision tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29, before Florida’s Republican primary. Instead, they are expected to debate in December on NBC’s Telemundo, which has less than a third of Univision’s typical evening audience.

The move came after allies of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, asked them to boycott the Univision debate. Mr. Rubio has been feuding with the network over a report it did last summer about his brother-in-law, who was convicted of drug trafficking in 1989. According to The Miami Herald, Mr. Rubio’s staff charged that Univision tried to use the report to pressure the senator into agreeing to go on its Sunday news program. The staff said the network offered to drop the story in exchange for the interview. Univision denies that.

After the call to boycott went out, the Perry campaign sent a letter to Univision saying he would not participate in a debate until Univision corrected its “ethical breach.” Mr. Romney’s campaign said he would not participate “unless and until Univision satisfactorily addresses this situation.” A spokeswoman for Representative Bachmann wrote that “we reserve our right to participate in the Univision debate pending a positive resolution of this matter by Univision.”

There are many reasons why the candidates would want to keep Mr. Rubio happy. Florida is a must-win state, and he is a political comer and a darling of the Tea Party. But there may be an additional explanation for their move.

The candidates will be asked about immigration whatever Spanish-language network they are on. But on Univision they were to be questioned by Jorge Ramos, a Mexican-American anchor who has been harshly critical of policies to crack down on undocumented immigrants and openly supports a path to legalization. On Telemundo, they will face its less hard-charging host, Jose Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who is the brother of two powerful Florida Republicans, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Mr. Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants and opposes “amnesty,” has been happy to go on the show of Mr. Diaz-Balart, who has treated him with kid gloves and defended him from his critics. So far, the senator has declined to be interviewed by Mr. Ramos.

The Other Jobs Crisis

Wall Street Journal (Editorial): A labor problem is stalking parts of the U.S. economy, and we don't mean the awful 9.1% unemployment rate. It's a labor shortage, and a major cause is the crackdown on illegal immigration.

Even with high joblessness overall, shortages exist at both the high- and low-skilled ends of the labor market. At the high end, tech companies have trouble finding computer scientists and engineers. They need more visas for foreigners who study science and math in the U.S.

And at the low end, many employers can't find enough hands to pick their crops, bus tables, or in some places do construction. That's because thousands of laborers from south of the border have been scared away by U.S. immigration laws, leaving unfilled tens of thousands of jobs that few Americans seem to want.

Hardest hit here are farmers. Most of the 1.6 million agricultural laborers in America are Hispanic, and a majority of them are assumed to be undocumented immigrants. Without a steady pool of migrant labor during harvest season, farms have lost millions of dollars as crops have needlessly rotted.

In Washington state, apple orchards are running a radio recruitment campaign offering jobs that pay $100 to $150 per day, but so far with little success. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said, "We're not getting anybody to take a bite on these jobs, so we don't have anybody to do these jobs." California avocado growers and Texas vegetable farmers are also desperate for help. Similar stories come from Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Vermont and more.

Alabama was the latest state to implement a tough anti-immigration law this month. The Department of Justice sued to strike down the statute, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended parts of it, including a requirement for schools to check the immigration status of all students. But Alabama farmers and other businessmen say they're already feeling the labor squeeze. Governor Robert Bentley plays the problem down. "Those are anecdotal stories," the Republican told the Dothan Eagle newspaper. "It'll work itself out."

Yet across Alabama's eastern border, the impact has been far more than anecdotal. Georgia this spring passed a law that, among other steps, obliges employers to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of prospective workers against a federal database. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas introduced a bill this year that would take the Georgia E-Verify scheme nationwide. Within weeks of the Georgia law's adoption, farmers reported a shortfall of 11,000 workers, affecting perishable fruit and vegetable producers most of all, according to a survey by Georgia's agriculture department.

The estimated cost to the state's overall economy will be $391 million this year, according to a study released this month by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. It found that some 3,260 full-time jobs were lost in food production and such related businesses as transport or packaging. While undocumented workers tend to pick the harvest, their labor creates many more jobs down the production stream. The study looked at the impact of a labor shortfall on seven specific crops and extrapolated the findings to Georgia's $11.3 billion agricultural economy.

Many states are resorting to desperate measures to find labor. Idaho and Arizona use incarcerated criminals to work the fields, and Georgia and Alabama are looking into it. Georgia initially tried to get people on probation into those jobs but found few takers. The work is strenuous, and experience matters, which is why farmers prefer to see the same immigrant employees coming back each year.

Migrant labor is highly sensitive to market signals. When the economic or political climate sours, they choose not to come or to avoid certain states. Over time, food producers can make a similar decision and move their operations overseas. Peaches don't have to be grown in Georgia, or lettuce in Yuma.

Republicans have made immigration control one of their main passions, yet they continue to ignore the economic costs. They claim to champion deregulation and business-led growth, but then they impose new hiring and enforcement burdens on any business's most important assets—its workers.

There's a better way. At the state level, stop treating Mexican fruit pickers like alien invaders. In Congress, overhaul the guest worker program to widen avenues for legal immigration, drop calls for obligatory E-Verify and offer those in the country without papers a way to become legal. The result would be fewer crops rotting in the fields, more jobs for Americans, faster economic growth, and fewer farmers taking their production overseas.

Federal Homeland Security Official Tells Congress Her Department Isn't Going to Help Alabama Implement its Wrongheaded Immigration Law

(Editorial) Federal Homeland Security official tells Congress her department isn't going to help Alabama implement its wrongheaded immigration law, and that makes sense.

As The Birmingham News reported: Alabama looks like it's on its own where the state's punitive immigration law is concerned. But it's not like we haven't been here before.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress this week that her department, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will not help implement Alabama's immigration law.

That shouldn't be too unexpected. The U.S. Justice Department is challenging the law on constitutional grounds. The federal government argues that immigration enforcement is not a state responsibility.

That makes sense, too. We can't have 50 different immigration laws across the country. Alabama's immigration law so overreaches, that at one time it made criminals out of people who gave undocumented workers a ride to church. It forced schools to ask the immigration status of students and their parents. It prohibits contracts between undocumented workers, the government and businesses.

Some provisions have been blocked by federal courts. But one provision -- allowing police to detain a person to verify immigration status if the person is stopped for another reason -- remains. We all know what that can lead to: profiling.

As has already been seen, under this law, children of Hispanic heritage were pulled out of public school classrooms to fill out immigration questionnaires because they looked a certain way. A three-judge panel with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta stayed the provision that forced schools to act as immigration officers.

Napolitano said Alabama's priorities in enforcing immigration laws aren't the same as the federal government's, and they shouldn't be.

ICE deported nearly 400,000 people in fiscal year 2011, the largest number in the agency's history. The priority for ICE is to detain and remove undocumented residents who are a threat to others. That makes sense.

In Alabama, the law was intended to make it uncomfortable for all undocumented residents, whether they were a threat to anybody or whether they were part of a mixed-status family that was simply trying to get along and have a decent life.

While Alabama might have to make adjustments to how it enforces the immigration law without help from Homeland Security, one of the law's sponsors, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, doesn't think so.

"It was not designed to go out and arrest tremendous numbers of people," Beason told News Washington correspondent Mary Orndorff. "Most folks in the state illegally will self-deport and move to states that are supportive of large numbers of illegals coming to their state."

Alabama never had "large numbers of illegals" to begin with, and Beason confirms that the law is meant to scare people into leaving. Of course, it also scares those who are legal but are afraid they'll get caught up in the xenophobic frenzy of Beason and his ilk.

The real trouble with this overreaching immigration bill is that it reminds the nation and world of a time when Alabama wanted to scare its African-American citizens.

It's encouraging that Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security aren't going to be a part of this wrongheaded law. The hope is that the Legislature would reconsider when it meets again but, more likely, we'll have to once again depend on the federal government to make us act responsibly.

New Faces and a Contentious Revival

New York Times: Business has never been slower at Mina Bridal, which sells billowing taffeta ballroom dresses in colors like hot pink and electric blue for quinceañeras, the traditional 15th birthday celebration for Mexican girls.

Mina Madriles, who has run the downtown store for nearly three decades, said that a generation ago girls would have elaborate parties just as their parents had — where a $1,000 dress was just a fraction of the expense. Now, she is giving away her dresses to some families who hire her to coordinate the party at their homes to save money.

“Nobody has any money anymore; there’s nothing we can do,” Ms. Madriles said.

Fourth Street — also known as Calle Cuatro — has long been the center of Latino business in Orange County, the place where Mexican immigrants could find nearly anything they might have looked for in their homelands. Along some stretches, it is impossible to hear anything but Spanish. The signs beckon customers to travel to Guadalajara or buy a pair of snakeskin cowboy boots for a “super discuento,” and the sidewalk vendors shout, “Frutas, frutas,” as they call attention to their freshly cut coconuts and mangos.

But as the economy has soured, many of these stores have struggled to stay afloat. Some stores closed, others asked their landlords for a reduction in rent. At the same time, several property owners began pressing to create a group to improve downtown Santa Ana.

The owners, who were mostly white, were determined to make it more welcoming to English-speaking clients and bring in customers from more affluent parts of Orange County. What they really wanted to do, opponents said, was scrub away any suggestion that it is an immigrant hub, in a city that is 85 percent Latino. Fiesta Marketplace changed its name to “East End,” and the pink buildings that might evoke a Mexican plaza were repainted in muted hues. A few stores put up signs proclaiming, “Stop ethnic cleansing.”

Supporters of the changes say any charge of racism ignores the fact that nearly all of the new businesses that have opened in the last two years are owned and operated by Latinos.

But what is largely left unsaid is that those shop owners and their customers are second- and third-generation Latinos, often far less interested in buying the “goods from back home” that attract more recent arrivals. This generation has more money to spend and is more like the well-heeled shoppers one would find throughout Southern California.

“I don’t want to go someplace else to buy my suits,” said Carlos Bustamante, a city councilman and Santa Ana native, the son of Mexican immigrants. “There should be options for everybody here. The city is not changing ethnically; it’s changing socioeconomically.”

On one corner of Fourth Street, a restaurant that served Mexican seafood for decades is being replaced with a high-end hamburger joint. Farther down, a longtime jeweler closed its doors this year. But a T-shirt and tattoo supply shop a block away says business has never been better, as high school students stop in daily.

“All of them are children of immigrants,” said Danielle Barragan, the owner of the store. “Their parents might not want to spend the money, but they will give it to their children, and they will come spend it here.”

But business has dried up for the dozens of quinceañera shop owners like Ms. Madriles. Her husband, Adolfo Lopez, was one of just two immigrants on the board of the Downtown Property Business Improvement District, the group promoting the area. But he was forced to resign when the couple did not pay the taxes required by the group.

Ms. Madriles echoes much of the anger of the older merchants downtown: “What are we paying for? They don’t do anything for us. They only care about nightlife and bringing in the wealthy, but those people aren’t going to help my business.”

Much of the ire has been directed at Irving and Ryan Chase, a father-and-son team who own a large swath of buildings on the east end of Fourth Street that had long been called Fiesta Marketplace.

For decades, the area housed a carousel and small bandstand, which served as an impromptu gathering spot and occasionally as a more formal event space. When the Chases revamped the area, they removed the carousel and the kiosk, replacing it with a large tree and circle of benches. The project was partly financed by a $765,000 redevelopment grant from the city.

The Yost Theater, a former Spanish movie house that eventually became a home for a Pentecostal church, has now been transformed into a club and concert venue. Boosters hope that it will be one of the major draws for downtown, but detractors see it as a symbol of the immigrant community’s losing what it once had.

“You have this area that was something public and you have an owner who can just take it away without any input from the community that really relies on it,” said Carolina Sarmiento, a board member of El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a community group that was once housed in a downtown building but was recently kicked out, when owners said that the teenagers it attracted were damaging the building. That prompted a new round of criticism that the new projects were designed to get rid of Mexican culture in the area.

“They are only interested in making money for themselves, that’s it,” said Sam Romero, a longtime community activist who has run a Catholic book and gift shop for more than 40 years. Mr. Romero bristles at the suggestion he should modernize his store.

“I have one of the messiest stores in downtown, I don’t care,” he said. “If I go buy expensive new furniture and merchandise, people aren’t going to come here. And then I have a loan I can’t repay and they’ve succeeded in kicking me out.”

Irving Chase said that he had gone to great lengths to help many of the struggling businesses, reducing their rent by as much as 75 percent.

“They’re in business because I’m propping them up,” he said. “But I can’t do that forever. Some of them are going to make it because they are going to change, and others are just going to keep doing things the way they’ve always done, and they will fail.”

His son said he had purposely kept vacancies in his buildings for more than a year, waiting for just the right tenants. When one barber shop owner approached him, he initially said he was not interested, but when he looked at the Web site for the shop, he realized that the “cool retro vibe would be something totally different for the area,” Ryan Chase said. Now, the American Barber Shop has a prime corner of Fourth Street, with its vintage barber chairs clearly visible from the street.

At the west end of Fourth Street sits Calacas, a gift shop that has become one of the most popular new places. The owners, Jackie and Rudy Cordova, sell everything from tiles to papier-mâché skeletons.

For those who worry about gentrification, Rudy Cordova is seen as a born-and-bred native. For those eager to revitalize the district, he is seen as a brilliant entrepreneur. Mr. Cordova, a 38-year-old son of immigrants, thinks of himself as somewhere in between. His children are learning Spanish, he said, but his son is attending far fewer quinceañeras than he did at his age. He knows today’s teenagers are unlikely to shop in the discount stores along Fourth Street that his parents once favored.

“But can you really wipe out the culture of Santa Ana?” he asked. “No matter what changes, this city is going to be Mexican for a long time.”

Children of Immigrants Hit an Economic Ceiling

Los Angeles Times: A Salvadoran flag wrapped around his neck to block out the sun, Geremias Romero hunches low to the ground alongside the other laborers, following the tractor along rows of cantaloupes.

He reaches into the leafy green rows of fruit, touches a melon to gauge its ripeness, and then tosses it into a cart, where another laborer boxes it. Walk, pick, toss. The pattern goes on all morning.

Harvesting cantaloupes for $8.25 an hour isn't the job that Romero, 28, dreamed of as a child. Born in Newark, N.J., to immigrant parents from El Salvador, he graduated from high school and has taken classes at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Merced Community College. He has experience as a special education teacher but, unable to find a teaching job, he's started working in the fields.

"I'd rather keep myself working than get in trouble," he said, wiping his hands on his ripped jeans, stained with grass. "My dad started from nothing. He worked hard, so I don't mind working hard too."

Many young Americans are finding themselves worse off than their parents were at their age, without jobs or working below their skill and education levels. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 17.4%, up from 10.6% in 2006.

The situation is even tougher for children of immigrants, such as Romero. Their parents paved the way by working tough jobs so their children could get an education and secure their place in the middle class. Now, with middle-class jobs disappearing, many children of immigrants are settling for the jobs their parents did, even if they are better educated.

"We've never had so many American-born working in the fields," said Joe Del Bosque, the Central Valley farmer who hired Romero and other laborers like him to pick melons. "Farm work is usually the big step for some people to push their kids into the American Dream."

They include Raul Lopez, 23, who worked as a contractor for a utility company during the construction boom but is now back in the fields picking cantaloupes.

"We're still struggling, so we have to go where the work is," said Lopez, whose mother, a Mexican immigrant, just passed her U.S. citizenship exam.

Economists worry that this lack of mobility imperils the country's productivity, especially since about a third of American adults ages 18 to 34 are foreign-born or children of immigrants.

"It's a great waste of talent and motivation," said Alejandro Portes, a Princeton University sociologist who studies children of immigrants. "Since this is a growing population, the fact that they find so many obstacles to becoming productive citizens represents a significant waste for a knowledge-based economy."

Only 47% of Americans think their children will have a higher standard of living as adults than they do, down from 62% in 2009, according to a poll done in May on behalf of the Pew Economic Mobility Project.

Concerns about the availability of a middle-class lifestyle are likely to be a hot topic this election season. It has already come up in such diverse forums as Occupy Wall Street and the Republican presidential debates. About half of Americans think the government does more to hurt people trying to move up the economic ladder than it does to help them, according to the Pew poll. About 80% said the government was doing an ineffective job of helping poor and middle-class Americans.

"There is clearly a demand among voters and working Americans in general for Congress and the president to do something bold to create jobs" said Catherine Singley, senior policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza.

In 2008, there were about 32 million people in the U.S. with either one or two foreign-born parents. They include a wide range of educational and cultural backgrounds, but overall, those ages 18 to 34 lag in reaching traditional adult milestones, including leaving home, finishing school and entering the workforce, according to a 2008 study by Ruben G. Rumbaut, a sociology professor at UC Irvine.

"If I had to update that study, the situation would be much more dire for children of immigrants," Rumbaut said.

In the study, about 24% of young adults born in the U.S. to Mexican parents were high school dropouts, compared with 11% of whites with native parentage and 7% of children born in the U.S. to Indian immigrants.

Even education doesn't always help, as some of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy are those that require few skills. Personal service and care jobs, which paid an average of $25,000 last year, grew 27% over the last decade. Food preparation and service jobs grew 11%. They pay an average of $21,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"A lot of families who felt at one point that they were on the solid rung of the American middle-class ladder are slipping and falling down a rung," said Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at UC Berkeley.

Decreasing access to the middle class could especially imperil economic recovery in states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas, where nearly 60% of young adults are immigrants or children of immigrants.

"A key to the future of California — and to that of a nation being transformed by immigration — will be how the rapidly expanding generation of young adults is incorporated" into its economy, politics and society, Rumbaut wrote. "For a sizable proportion of the nation's immigrant population, that access is now blocked."

Dorian Alcanzar, 24, doesn't feel as if he's being incorporated into the economy at all. He has a degree in civil engineering from Cal State Long Beach, but he has started applying for low-wage jobs here because he can't find work in his field.

"We came here for his dreams, for the future, for the opportunity, but we don't see that here," said his mother, Aida Hermosillo, 43.

Alcanzar is considering returning to his mother's home in Mexico, where his cousins are working the jobs they want. His current situation reminds him of visits to Mexico while he was growing up, where family friends who had trained as lawyers worked as street vendors.

"I'm not very optimistic right now," he said. "I feel that we're going to have an economy similar to a Third World country."

Beyond 2012 Field, Nuanced G.O.P. Views on Immigrants

New York Times: Representative Tim Griffin, a Republican freshman from Arkansas with a university in his district, supports legislation that would make it easier for foreign math and science professionals to get legal residency.

Representative Bobby Schilling, Republican of Illinois, is resisting intense pressure to support a House bill that would require employers to verify the legal status of their workers because he is concerned that businesses would be unduly burdened.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, one of the most conservative members of the chamber, recently teamed with Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat, on a bill that would provide three-year residential visas to foreign home buyers who invest at least $500,000.

While the Republican presidential campaign trail bristles with talk of moats, militarization and electrified fences when it comes to illegal immigration, the view among some Congressional Republicans has become more nuanced and measured.

Now many Republican freshmen, lacking the scar tissue of previous Congressional attempts to make sweeping changes in immigration law, are advocating that policy be changed in small, bite-size pieces that could help bring order to the system and redefine their party’s increasingly anti-immigration image, even as they maintain a strong push for better federal border security.

The move comes as some leading Republican voices are warning that the view of their party among Hispanics is doing significant political damage and causing economic disruption.

“It does cause me a great deal of concern,” said Mark Shurtleff, the Republican attorney general of Utah, where the Republican-controlled Legislature recently passed a law to give some protections to illegal workers who find employment in the state. “The rhetoric I hear from the Republican candidates, and that state legislatures that are passing enforcement-only provisions, are both damaging the economy. We ought not to be doing things to hurt the economy right now, and I think this hurts us politically.”

In addition to worrying that Hispanics are turning away from their party, some Republicans feel the heat from local employers, who need immigrant labor to fill jobs they have repeatedly been unable to fill with American workers. Others still worry about the drain of American-trained math and science students back to their home countries, where they will compete with Americans in building businesses.

“We Republicans are hearing more and more from businesses and the agricultural communities that this system isn’t working,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho. “The subtle difference that I see right now is that more and more Republicans are saying that, yes, we need border enforcement, but we also need to create a guest-worker program that works at the same time.”

Mr. Labrador has a bill that would allow foreign students with advanced degrees in certain high-tech and science fields to be immediately eligible for a green card if they are offered a job here.

Immigration, one of the country’s most incendiary policy issues, has long been a painful thorn for Republicans, who have sought to balance a desire to attract Hispanics to the party with the powerful antipathy toward illegal immigration among some voters that has animated every political race of the last decade.

Aware of those pitfalls, Republicans new to the Hill are thinking small.

“I think there’s is some low-hanging fruit on the immigration debate,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican and conservative favorite. The son of Cuban immigrants, he supports a visa program for some high-skilled workers and a limited one for agricultural workers and some students who came into the country illegally as children.

Without question, most House Republicans, including freshmen, have rallied behind bills to deter illegal immigration and made public statements that suggest their views are not open for interpretation or negotiation. Representative Mo Brooks, for instance, recently told a television reporter back home in Alabama that when it came to illegal immigrants, “as your congressman on the House floor, I will do anything short of shooting them.”

But members are increasingly supporting limited immigration measures that center on a discrete issue, like shortening the green card process, which can now take years, for science and math Ph.D. candidates who wish to teach or work in the United States. The limited number of green cards for such professionals, and country quotas, has caused a backlog of them trying to enter the United States, with the majority from India or China.

“I just thought this was something that should be a little less controversial and have bipartisan support,” Mr. Labrador said of his bill. “One of the most surprising things is that some of the freshmen are interested in talking about immigration in a positive way.”

In Arkansas, illegal immigration remains a hot-button issue, and Mr. Griffin supports tough border control. However, math and science professionals “are not people who snuck over in the middle of the night and crept over to a school and got a degree,” he said.

Officials at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have leaned on lawmakers like Mr. Griffin for years about the problem. “To increase entrepreneurs, we need sufficient number of people with science and math backgrounds,” said Michael Gealt, the dean of the university’s College of Science and Mathematics, where the doctoral program is 70 percent to 80 percent foreign students.

Immigration politics, he said, have complicated his efforts. “It has been my observation,” Mr. Gealt said, “that it is hard for lawmakers to differentiate between problems of people coming across the border and people coming for jobs where we absolutely need their expertise.”

There are also bills to address illegal immigration that some conservative Republicans oppose. A high-profile measure that would require private businesses to use a federal program that checks the immigration status of all job applicants recently cleared the House Judiciary Committee, but has since stalled because too many members, pressured by agricultural companies and other business groups, have reservations.

“I think you have got to be careful to force it on people,” said Mr. Schilling of Illinois, who said “it might start out with a good intent, but the next thing you know, it’s something totally different.”

Then there are members who simply face a new demographic reality, where many voters, including potential new Republicans, are Hispanic.

“I am troubled by the demonization of immigrants, legal or illegal, in our party,” said Representative Blake Farenthold, who represents a South Texas district and is a member of the bipartisan House Border Caucus. “We’ve got a country that was built on immigrants and immigration, and we’ve kind of lost sight of that.”

Other Immigrant Groups Generally Less Concerned Than Latinos About Alabama Immigration Law

Associated Press: Alabama's tough new law targeting illegal immigrants has provoked concern among Hispanics — even causing some to leave the state — but members of other immigrant groups appear to be less worried.

Mai Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who arrived more than 20 years ago in Bayou La Batre, the heart of Alabama's Gulf Coast seafood industry, said there was some initial fear, especially among those who speak limited English.

"I was a little worried when I first heard about it because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to explain to a police officer that I'm here legally," Nguyen said through a translator. But now she says she's more concerned about the shrimp harvest.

Nguyen is part of the robust community of Southeast Asians who settled here after the Vietnam War. Since they are naturalized American citizens or legal permanent residents, Alabama's new law targeting illegal immigration shouldn't affect them.

Some parts of the law have been blocked by courts, but a section that allows police to check a person's immigration status during traffic stops still stands. Some immigrants, even those in the country legally, worry that this could lead to improper detentions or racial profiling — concerns that police and supporters of the law dismiss.

People in Bayou La Batre's Southeast Asian community, especially the older generations, have been encouraged to apply for wallet-size passport cards that they can easily keep with them. That helped alleviate fears about the law, said Grace Scire, regional director for the Vietnamese-American advocacy group Boat People SOS.

Since Alabama's law was enacted, many Hispanics — the state's fastest growing immigrant group over the last decade — have reportedly left the state. Even among legal residents, many said they were leaving either because they feared the law would lead to racial profiling or because they have family members who are here illegally.

"Hispanic immigrants definitely feel like this is a law targeting Hispanics," said Elizabeth Brezovich with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice. But she added that some other immigrant groups are worried.

"It's making a lot of people start to think — even if they're here legally — about what they need to do to get their papers in order, to make sure they're OK if they get stopped by police," she said.

"The legislative hearings and record bear out that the people who introduced and passed the law were motivated to get Hispanics to self deport," said Olivia Turner with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. "But I think its effects may be broader."

Turner said she's heard from members of the south Asian community, many of whom are Muslim, that this law is yet another tool that will be used to harass them in the aftermath of 9/11. Some Haitian immigrants fear it will lead to racial profiling, she said.

Nguyen arrived in Bayou La Batre in 1990 after spending a year in nearby Mobile. She can see some parallels between her own experience and that of the Hispanics.

When she first arrived with her family, seeking a better life, some American workers resented the foreigners filling jobs — even humble jobs like shucking oysters. One of the main stated purposes for Alabama's new law is to make sure illegal immigrants don't take jobs from Americans.

As refugees, including many who fled persecution after Communist regimes seized power, the Southeast Asians have legal residency status and many are naturalized American citizens. They've lived in Bayou La Batre for more than three decades and are entrenched in the local economy.

Nguyen sympathizes with the Hispanic immigrants somewhat, but she said the law might have a good effect if illegal immigrants leave the state. They are often willing to work for lower wages and in worse conditions, meaning employers tend to prefer them over those who are here legally, she said. And with boats staying docked amid a slow economy, lots of people need jobs.

Food market owner Tom Khanthavongsa and his wife, Duang, immigrated to the U.S. from Laos in 1980. Khanthavongsa, 55, said he hasn't given much thought to the new law.

"We're not worried, we have all our papers and everything," he said, adding that a bigger concern is the struggles of the local Southeast Asian community who are his primary clients.

Across Mobile Bay, along the Gulf Coast, which attracts hordes of tourists to its white sand beaches in the summer, many low-skilled jobs are filled by workers from other countries.

Employers in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, where beachfront hotels, souvenir shops and waterfront restaurants cater to tourists, said they lost some Hispanic workers — who they say were here legally — when the law took effect.

But many jobs are filled by young people from Eastern Europe or Jamaica who come on temporary work visas to wait tables or clean hotel rooms during the summer high season. The law took effect as the season was ending, so it's too early to tell whether it will dampen their willingness to come to Alabama.

Eugeniu Gorbatia works as a bartender in a harbor-side restaurant. The 28-year-old from Moldova, who was granted political asylum, has lived in the U.S. for five years and speaks with a thick accent. He said he's not worried about the new law.

"I was pulled over during the summer, but the police didn't ask me about my immigrant status," he said. "But if they did I wouldn't worry. I have my papers."

His employer, Matt Shipp, said his workers on temporary seasonal visas weren't concerned about the new law, but he lost a handful of Hispanic workers, all of whom he believes are in the country legally. Some moved to Florida where the laws are less strict.

In the Montgomery area, the small Korean population is only concerned that the broad discretion granted to police officers may be misused, said Alabama State University professor Sun Gi Chun.

"Most people (in the community) are working here legally, so we don't have any fear about the law," he said. "We are a little concerned about people who might abuse their authority, but we haven't felt any abuse so far."

Mohamed Elhady, president of the Huntsville Islamic Center, which has members from many places, including India, Pakistan, Turkey and the Middle East, said he hasn't heard much concern about the new law.

"Our community is different," he said. "It is made up professionals — doctors, teachers, engineers — who are all here legally, so the law doesn't affect us. We are not concerned."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Panel Backs Bill to Lift Caps on Visas

CQ reported that: A House panel advanced a measure on Thursday that proponents say will foster economic growth by helping U.S. businesses hire highly skilled legal immigrants.

The bipartisan bill (HR 3012) would eliminate country-based caps on the number of employment visas issued annually and raise similar limits for immigrants sponsored by a spouse or relative in the United States. The Judiciary Committee approved the proposal by voice vote.

Bill sponsor Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, touted the legislation as “pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-family.” Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Zoe Lofgren of California, the top Democrat on the panel’s immigration» subcommittee, also back the bill.

Existing immigration law (PL 82-414) sets a limit of 140,000 visas annually for employment-based legal permanent residents and specifies that, each year, any given country be held to a numerical limit of 7 percent of total U.S. immigrant admissions. But the system is plagued by large backlogs, with some immigrants waiting decades to get work visas.

According to the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy, applicants from India face a 70-year wait for an employment-based visa because of restrictions limiting the number of visas issued by country of origin. A Chinese applicant has to wait about 20 years, and those from other countries should brace for waits of at least five years.

Supporters of the bill say lifting the country-based percentage cap will help ease the gridlock for countries with a large number of highly skilled applicants, such as India and China, by allowing those workers to move closer to the head of the line. The bill would not increase the total annual admission numbers.

“Because of these annual numerical caps on green cards and the fact that some countries have more of the skilled workers that American employers want, natives of these countries must often wait years longer for green cards than natives of other countries,” Smith said. “Why should American employers who seek green cards for skilled foreign workers have to wait longer just because the workers are from India or China?”

On Thursday, the committee set aside a Steve King, R-Iowa, amendment to eliminate a preference for employment-based visas for certain unskilled workers. King argued against encouraging unskilled immigrants to come to the United States to work, suggesting it would harm employment opportunities for the large number of unskilled U.S. workers.

King’s amendment was ruled non-germane because it fell outside the scope of the underlying legislation. Also ruled non-germane was a Lofgren proposal to allow the issuance of visas equal to the number of previously issued employment- and family-based visas that went unused because of bureaucratic delays.

Family Visas

Also Thursday, the committee rejected, 6-23, an effort by King to remove a provision in the bill that would raise the country-based cap on family visas from 7 percent to 15 percent of admissions.

King argued the increase would not support the goal of bringing in uniquely qualified workers, but rather would serve only to satisfy “liberals who want to open our borders.” But Chaffetz noted that the increase deals only with the percentage of immigrants from particular countries and would not alter the total number of visas issued.

The Judiciary panel also fended off King’s proposal to repeal a preference to issue visas to brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The amendment seeks to reduce the number of immigrants brought to the United States through family reunification, King said.

“When you go into brothers and sisters it just is out of control,” he said.

The amendment was ruled not germane.

How the GOP Can Win Over the Latino Community

The Guardian (Opinion) By Elyse Monroy: I am proud to say that in 2010, the state of Nevada elected its first Hispanic governor, Republican Brian Sandoval. However, Governor Sandoval only received 30% of the Latino vote. The reason for the low Latino turnout can be attributed to the lack of outreach by the Sandoval campaign and the Republican party to Latino voters in the silver state.

Shortly after the 2010 elections, Nevada Latinos for Prosperity was formed. We are working to improve outreach efforts with the state and local parties in Nevada to educate Latino voters about the Republican party's platforms, values and candidates.

My father, Elisiel Monroy, an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, raised me to live a life of traditional family values, personal responsibility and self-reliance. When the time came for me to register with a political party, the choice was an easy one for me. I felt the Republican party closely mirrored the values I was raised to have. I do believe strongly that the Republican party's message will advance itself within the Latino community, but the community just needs to learn to trust the messenger.

Both parties are justified in their efforts to reach out to the Latino voter. Historically, the Latino vote has been a swing vote. In 2000 and 2004, the majority of Latinos turned out for George Bush. In 2008, Latino voters turned out for Barack Obama. During his run for president, Obama made very lofty promises about immigration reform that he has not delivered on. Additionally, on President Obama's watch, the unemployment rate in the Latino community has gone from 9% to above 11%. The community is becoming more and more disappointed with his lack of leadership and inability to deliver on his promises.

This is great news for the Republican party, but the party's divisive and hurtful rhetoric about the Latino community is beginning to cause Latino Republicans to leave the party. A Latinodecisions.com poll found that if the Republican party's outreach is perceived as positive by Latino voters during the next presidential campaign, the GOP can expect a 38% voter turnout.

Changing the tone of the party's message on immigration would go a long way toward improving the GOP's image within the Latino community. The party doesn't need to change their policy, for we know and agree open borders are not a good thing and an amnesty won't work. But a more positive tone and more constructive rhetoric would go a long way toward keeping and recruiting Latino Republicans.

I challenge the GOP to go a step further and do more than just change their tone. I want the GOP to expect more from me and more from the Latino community as a whole. We are not one issue voters. Both parties have made a mistake by assuming immigration is the deciding factor for Latino voters. It is not. Unfortunately, the immigration debate is not being had on the floor of Congress right now – and it is not being had , either, over the kitchen tables of Latinos in the United States.

Latinos in the United States are concerned about keeping their jobs and businesses. They are concerned with keeping their children educated, fed, healthy and housed, just like every other voter in this country. The Latino community wants to be taken seriously for more reasons than just immigration reform.

Latinos in this country are business owners and teachers. We are doctors, lawyers and, most importantly, we are Americans. Listen to us and work with us, don't pander to us.

Can the GOP Win the Latino Vote? Does it Matter?

CNN (Opinion) By Shannon O'Neil: At last week’s Republican presidential debate a member of the audience provocatively reminded the candidates that not all of the Latinos in the United States are illegal, and then asked them, “What is the message from you guys to our Latino community?” Nearly everyone on stage dodged the question, saying that they didn’t have a specific message for Hispanic voters because “they want virtually exactly what everyone else wants” such as a healthy economy and access to affordable health insurance. That may be true, but the exchange raises the broader issue of whether the Republicans can connect with the growing number of American citizens with links back to Latin America.

Finding a good answer to this question is more important than ever. Some 50.5 million people – or one in six Americans – fall under this moniker. In every single state of the union, the Latino population grew over the past decade – including in swing states such Florida, Iowa, Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.

What the presidential frontrunners have done quite vocally is attack one another for “soft” immigration stances and lashed out against “illegals”. Herman Cain ratcheted up the rhetoric to an all time high, suggesting electrifying the border fence and killing anyone who tried to cross into the United States from Mexico. A wave of harsh immigration laws – requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is undocumented, punishing landlords that rent to those without papers, and even checking immigration status at schools — have passed in states including Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama. With the economy in the doldrums and unemployment near historic highs, blaming illegal immigrants for many of America’s ills has gained traction, particularly within the Republican Party. Though technically not directed at U.S. Latinos, many feel the rising hostility targets them all the same.

While it may be awhile until the full economic effects of these laws are clear (a recent study by the Council of the Americas suggests that the restrictive laws hurt rather than help local employment), the political impact is more immediate. How the polarization will play out in the primaries - will it further energize a strongly anti-immigrant conservative base, or mobilize Latino and other pro-immigrant groups (along the lines of the coalition that defeated an English-only bill in Nashville, Tennessee in 2009) - remains to be seen. But in the general national election, it is hard to imagine how it helps its proponents.

At the Western Republican Leadership Conference/CNN debate Rick Santorum was the only Republican presidential candidate who seemed to recognize what other prominent party leaders (such as Karl Rove and Jeb Bush) have been saying now for awhile: the Republicans cannot afford to alienate this huge and growing demographic. They also don’t have to. The Republican Party has the opportunity to connect with Latinos on a number of issues, including family values, faith-based views and an emphasis on entrepreneurship and small businesses. But if Rick Santorum is the only Republican hopeful that understands the importance of reaching out to Latinos, then the party is in trouble.

President Obama won a whopping 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, and preliminary counts suggest that this demographic will only be more important this time around. History suggests that minorities, while often punching below their electoral weight, tend to turn out for national presidential (as opposed to midterm) elections. In 2012, they will represent over a third of the voting age population — an all time high. To compete, the Republicans have to come up with a better answer, or they risk losing America’s fastest growing electorate.

Editor's Note: Shannon O'Neil is the Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she blogs.

Accommodation of Anger

Washington Post (Opinion): What is it about the immigration issue that brings out the worst in politicians?

Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry has a history of being an immigration hard-liner. Romney supported George W. Bush's attempt at comprehensive immigration reform in 2005, which included a (difficult) path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Yet Romney has attacked Perry for allowing educational benefits in Texas for the children of undocumented immigrants - calling this policy "a magnet to draw illegals into the state." Perry has responded that Romney's Massachusetts health care reform permitted the medical treatment of undocumented immigrants, which a Perry campaign spokesman calls an "illegal immigration magnet." In this exchange, both campaigns have managed - extending the metaphor - to be repellent.

It is one thing to debate techniques of enforcement along America's southern border. Most of the Republican candidates seem to prefer construction of a physical wall - a public-works program of questionable utility that would make the Egyptian pyramids seem a minor, shovel-ready project in comparison.

But a wall, at least, is a defensive measure. Building it would be wasteful instead of vicious. It is another matter to attack the provision of health and education benefits. This approach to immigration policy imposes penalties on the sick and injured, or on students who have often violated no law themselves. In most ethical systems, both groups would merit particular sympathy.

Apart from moral considerations, the denial of basic public benefits to undocumented immigrants and their children raises a number of practical questions: How does it benefit America to purposely limit the educational and life prospects of a whole category of students? Isn't public health broadly undermined by untreated disease, whatever the legal status of those who suffer from it?

Supporters of harsh restrictions argue that - however unpleasant - these measures are necessary to end incentives for illegal immigration. But the whole magnet theory is questionable. There is not much correlation between the level of illegal immigration to a state and the breadth of its health and education benefits. Immigrants generally do not come to America for the pleasures of its emergency rooms, or expecting to need future cancer treatment, but in pursuit of economic opportunity.

Romney, Perry and the others are, unfortunately, reflecting current Republican sentiments. But it is the responsibility of political leaders to address this issue without inflaming it. Republicans have a direct interest in avoiding ugliness. Latino political influence is not only increasing but concentrated in competitive states - a key to electoral success in Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.

To gain a respectable level of Latino support, Republicans don't need to play a sophisticated game of ethnic politics. They need to offer the realistic hope of job creation and economic mobility. And one more thing. They need to stop targeting the sick and aspiring.

Mack's Immigration Stance a Major Primary Problem

The National Journal: Rep. Connie Mack's entrance into the Florida Senate campaign will give political pundits another chance to see how potent an issue immigration will be within a Republican primary. Mack, who changed course and jumped into the campaign last night, is viewed as a leading candidate given the Republican field's fundraising struggles and his brand-name in Florida politics (his father, Connie Mack III, served two terms in the Senate from the Sunshine State.)

But he's been a strident critic of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration, even comparing the law to Nazi Gestapo tactics during World War II. If Rick Perry's support sunk in the presidential primary because he considered opponents "heartless" for opposing in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, imagine the damage those comments could cause Mack in a Republican primary.

Immigration has been a very delicate issue for Republicans, even those inclined to take a more moderate approach. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has touted his Cuban-American heritage as a candidate and senator, has tacked right on the issue. Rep. Jeff Flake, who is running for the Senate in Arizona, once co-sponsored a bill with liberal Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Now he's stressing his border security bona fides. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., repositioned himself as an immigration hawk to fend off a primary challenge last year from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

That's made it difficult for Florida Republicans: They need to appeal to the GOP base in a primary but can't risk alienating Hispanic voters -- especially the largely Puerto Rican bloc around the I-4 corridor -- who are crucial in winning general elections.

Mack's major primary opposition is coming from former Sen. George LeMieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. LeMieux has been under fire from the right for his close ties to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican party last year. Hasner has been rallying support with conservatives, but has struggled with fundraising and still lags in early polls.

About Face: Mack Running for Senate

The National Journal: In a sudden about-face that dramatically reshapes the Florida Senate race, an adviser to Rep. Connie Mack said on Wednesday that the four-term Republican will seek his party's nomination to run against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

David James, a senior adviser to the congressman, told the Miami Herald that Mack is already adding staffers for his campaign.

"Connie Mack is running for the U.S. Senate," James told the paper. "He is making calls. He is assembling a team. And he will have more to announce about the run in the weeks ahead."

Mack had previously declined to run, instead endorsing state Senate President Mike Haridopolos. But the state leader decided to end his campaign in July, opening the door for Mack.

The congressman enters a race that still features a bevy of Republicans, including former Sen. George Lemieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. But the field has been seen as disappointing thus far and lacking a true front-runner.

Mack could change that. His father and namesake, Connie Mack, served two terms in the Senate, giving him inherited name ID as high, if not higher than Lemieux or Hasner. Mack could likely raise far more money.

"Worst-case scenario is he comes in at the same level as the rest of the field," said Jamie Miller, a GOP consultant and former executive director of the state party. "My guess is he starts out higher."

Mack has sought to distinguish himself in Congress as an outspoken critic of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's repressive tactics, endearing the congressman to foreign policy hawks. But he stood apart from the conservative wing of his party by criticizing Arizona's tough crackdown on illegal immigration.

"This law of 'frontier justice' – where law enforcement officials are required to stop anyone based on “reasonable suspicion” that they may be in the country illegally – is reminiscent of a time during World War II when the Gestapo in Germany stopped people on the street and asked for their papers without probable cause," he said last year. "It shouldn’t be against the law to not have proof of citizenship on you." At a time when Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's moderate record on immigration has cost him support from conservative voters, Mack rivals could seek to capitalize on his opposition to the Arizona law.

Mack's most prized asset is his family name. His father held the same House seat that he now does before going on to the Senate; his great-grandfather, a baseball Hall of Famer, was the longtime owner of the Philadelphia Athletics. Still, the state's rapidly changing electorate in the decade since his father left Congress means Mack will still have to introduce himself to a lot of Florida voters.

He is married to another member of Congress: Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, who succeeded her late former husband, musician Sonny Bono, representing a Palm Springs district.

GOP Alienates Latinos, Moderates With Immigration Enforcement Agenda

Huffington Post Latino Voices: The harsh stand on immigration by some GOP candidates surprises Lionel Sosa, a Republican ad man who calls the rising anti-immigrant rhetoric "grossly insensitive and irresponsible."

Sosa, who has crafted Latino-targeted campaigns for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and now Newt Gingrich, said the party's position on the highly contentious issue has taken a dramatic shift.

"The message has gone from immigration is something we should take care of under Ronald Reagan, to immigration is something we should fear," Sosa said in a phone interview.

He isn't the only one frustrated by new GOP perspective. Lauro Garza, head of the largest organization of Latino conservatives in Texas, abruptly quit the Republican Party last week, calling the party's anti-Latino position unbearable. And DeeDee Garcia Blase, the founder of the same organization, Somos Republicans, said she thinks the party has strayed from what she called "Reagan's unique compassion for immigrants."

Critics within the GOP say the party's current stance on immigration stands in sharp contrast to the discourse of earlier decades, and warn that at times vitriolic language could hurt Republican candidates among moderate Republicans and Latino voters alike.

"I think that whoever the Republican nominee is -- if it is anyone other than Perry, Gingrich -- they're going to have a lot of back-peddling to do, especially because the Latino vote is so important in some states," Sosa said.


During recent campaign stops and debates, some Republican candidates have ratcheted up their anti-immigrant talk, pledging aggressive measures to secure the border.

Herman Cain has suggested installing an electrified fence and placing armed troops with "real bullets" on the border. Michele Bachmann called for "a secure double fence" and the elimination of "taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens." Rick Perry suggested enlisting Air Force Predator drones in immigration enforcement missions on the Mexican-American border, which would add to the expanding fleet of Predators alreadyused by Homeland Security. At one debate, when Ron Paul pledged to "attack their benefits," such as "free education" and "birth right citizenship," he was met with a roar of applause. The RNC didn't respond to a request for comment on the party's stance on immigration.

Those remarks would sound quite foreign to Republican presidential candidates from three decades ago. During the 1980 presidential campaign, both Reagan and the senior Bush focused on the human side of the immigration debate, not immigration enforcement.

"Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don't we work on some recognition of our mutual problems, and make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit," Reagan said. Bush said the children of undocumented immigrants should "get what society is giving to their neighbors." He called Mexican immigrants "good people" and "strong people."

When Romney answered a similar question on immigration at a late September primary debate, a radically different frame on the issue was offered. Romney described providing equal access to higher education for undocumented immigrants as an argument "he just can't follow."

And even if their policies don't always line up with the former president, many Republican candidates have made a habit of invoking Reagan's legacy during this campaign -- during an earlier September primary debate, Republican candidates said Reagan's name at least two dozen times.

That got the field into hot water with Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis. After the debate, Davis questioned in a Time magazine op-ed whether the candidates were being honest when they praised Reagan; she said she didn't see her father's actual opinions reflected in the words of the candidates. Davis, without addressing immigration specifically, said the candidates could "invoke my father's name until your tongues fall out, but you will never be anywhere near his shadow."

Explanations for the harsher tone on immigration vary, from post-9/11 security concerns and the increased numbers of undocumented immigrants to the rise of "opinion journalism" from outlets such as Fox News.

"We have a number of politicians and pundits and opinion journalists to thank for this," said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors hate groups and extremism in the U.S. "We are reaping what is sewn from their demonizing language."

Whatever the cause, it would be hard imagine today's GOP proposing similar legislation to the 1986 amnesty bill that granted legal status to nearly three million undocumented immigrants -- a law many Republicans now view as one of Reagan's greatest failures during his presidency.

But former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson said in an interview with NPR that the legislation fit firmly within Reagan's beliefs:

"It was in Ronald Reagan's bones -- it was part of his understanding of America," Robinson said, "that the country was fundamentally open to those who wanted to join us here."


With that message largely missing from today's Republican party, many moderate and Latino Republicans say they no longer feel their views are being represented by party leaders. Somos Republicans founder Garcia Blase said she joined the Republican Party precisely because of the ideals Reagan expressed.

"I joined the party because of my strong belief in capitalism and national security," said Garcia Blase, a fifth generation Mexican-American and a former business owner who served in the U.S. Air Force during the senior Bush administration. "But the Republican Party has lost its way."

She said the current Republican candidates simply don't trust Latino immigrants.

"They've dehumanized the undocumented immigrant, and people that look like them," Garcia Blase said. "I'm angry that I have to be defending my rights against laws like those in Arizona. I was willing to die for this country, and now I have to defend myself?"