Posts tagged: immigration reform
Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, who has been at the center of talks in Congress on immigration reform, now says he now believes reform likely won’t happen this year after all, and he’s advised House GOP leaders that “it’s not the time” to negotiate with the Obama Administration on the issue. Labrador’s comments come as reform proponents, including prominent Idaho business and agriculture leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stepped up a lobbying effort this week to push for reforms now.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen this session unless we start seeing some more good-faith efforts on the part of the president to negotiate,” Labrador told reporters Friday. The recent fight over the government shutdown and fiscal crisis “just exacerbated the lack of trust between the two sides,” the second-term congressman said. “There’s no need to negotiate, if the issue that they have is that it has to be their bill or the highway.”
Labrador said, “My goal is to fix the system, if it takes one year, or three years, or five years, whatever it is. Hopefully it’s not five years.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
As Congress returns from its summer break today, 1st District Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador says the debates over Syria and the debt limit are likely to push immigration reform to the back burner, the AP reports. Labrador said he and other members of Congress “were all hoping we would have a debate in October, now it looks like September and October are going to be pretty full with other issues.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Immigration reform advocates are joining the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho along with Mennonite and Unitarian churches in Boise to launch 11 days of fasting and prayer for immigration reform, culminating in a candlelight prayer vigil Sept. 13 at Lakeview Park in Nampa, with the 11-day timeframe symbolizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants now estimated to be in the United States.
Church leaders said the issue goes straight to their faith. “Abraham himself was an immigrant,” said the Rev. Debbie Graham, an Episcopal priest serving Meridian, Payette and Weiser, in a news conference at Boise’s historic St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral today. She noted the Biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger. “One of the sad things in our country is that for too long, our undocumented neighbors have been strangers to us,” she said. The advocates noted that the Catholic Church is planning immigration reform messages at services nationwide on Sunday.
Mark Schlegel, pastor at Hyde Park Mennonite Church, said his Mennonite ancestors came here in search of religious freedom, “in search of a place where they could farm in peace.” He recalled the nation’s struggles as it absorbed immigrants from Ireland, China and more. “But as a nation, we forget our stories,” he said. “And when we forget, we become the oppressors.”
The Rev. Karen Hunter of Grace Episcopal Church in Nampa said her congregation is conservative, but the issue was brought home for them when a church member was imprisoned because he is undocumented; he was brought to the United States as a young child, and has a wife and three children, including one with autism. The man now faces deportation. “This has kind of opened our eyes and our hearts to the real injustice of the present situation,” Hunter said.
Bishop Brian Thom of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho, which includes 30 congregations, said, “In exercising the immigration laws that we have now, we actually do harm to our souls and families. … It must change.” The religious leaders and the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho called on Idaho’s congressional delegation to make immigration reform a top priority when Congress reconvenes next week.
Idaho's dairy industry is applauding the Senate passage of bipartisan immigration reform legislation - and scolding Idaho's two senators for voting against it. “This legislation, should it become law, will greatly assist the largest industry in Idaho with the ability to grow and increase productivity,” said Brent Olmstead, director of Milk Producers of Idaho. “We are disappointed that Idaho’s two senators chose to not join in the bipartisan effort to fix the current immigration system. We have been and will continue to work with the Idaho delegation in the House to keep the current momentum on immigration reform going.”
Tena Petter, the group's chair, said, “There is no issue more important to the Idaho dairy industry than this legislation.” Click below for the Milk Producers' full statement.
The U.S. Senate has voted 68-32 in favor of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, sending the measure to the House. Both Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo were among the 32 Republicans who voted no; Risch tweeted, “Our country needs immigration reform. But, this bill overreaches and I did not support it.”
Fourteen Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill, along with every Senate Democrat. The Hill reported, “Senators took the rare step of voting from their desks to mark the occasion while Vice President Biden (D-Del.) presided from the dais. The Senate used the same formal procedure to pass ObamaCare three years ago. The bill’s authors fell just short of their goal to win 70 votes for the legislation but said the robust bipartisan vote creates a strong mandate for the House to act next month on the issue.” Read The Hill’s full report here.
Crapo issued a statement, saying in part, “It is clear that reforms are past due. However, S. 744, the Border Security, Stabilization and Modernization Act, would not provide the types of reform to stop illegal immigration at the border while ensuring fairness for both current Americans and immigrants alike. Unfortunately, the current Senate bill bears striking resemblance to laws passed in 1965, 1968 and 1986. Americans need and deserve better, and we cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes of the past.” You can read his full statement here.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted against ending debate and moving to a final vote on the immigration reform legislation in the Senate today. “The triggers in this bill with regard to border security are not strong enough,” Crapo said. Risch said immigration reform is needed, but called the bipartisan reform bill “just a political Band-Aid” that he said “commits U.S. taxpayers to turn over their hard-earned money to someone who is not a citizen.” You can read the two senators’ full statement here.
The vote to invoke cloture, ending debate, passed 68-32, and a vote on final passage is expected later today.
Grover Norquist is best known as an anti-tax activist – he wrote the no-tax-hikes pledge that’s now been signed by nearly every Republican member of Congress – but he’s also a big backer of reforming the nation’s immigration laws, a cause he’s been pushing for the past 30 years. Norquist came to Boise today (shown in Joe Jaszewski photo above) to tell Idahoans why he thinks conservatives should support immigration reform, and drew a big crowd to the talk sponsored by the City Club of Boise; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
“Those people who tell me, ‘You know, I’m for this rule of law thing,’ I wonder where they were when we had a 55 mph speed limit,” Norquist told the crowd. “We had that into the ‘80s. … As a result, there was a great deal of illegal driving going on. And I don’t remember anyone saying, ‘First thing we do is arrest everybody who’s been illegally driving, and then we’ll have a conversation about what a normal, reasonable speed limit is.”
The Harvard MBA and president of Americans for Tax Reform spoke in support of the bipartisan bill now being debate in the U.S. Senate – which thus far, both Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have opposed – and lauded Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador for being “front and center” in the debate in the House. Norquist’s talk was underwritten by the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, but he asked for no speaking fee and was compensated only for expenses. “It’s important,” he said. “I went to Austin, Texas and did the same thing, I went to Kansas.”
Norquist said he came to Idaho because “you had a business community that was interested … and also to be supportive of Labrador’s efforts,” and to encourage Idaho’s two senators to get on board. He spoke with Idaho Sen. Jim Risch on Monday, but “we just talked general Idaho politics,” he said. “We didn’t talk very much about immigration. … I knew he was a no vote at that point. I sent him my stuff.”
A new statewide poll shows Idaho voters strongly in support of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill now being debated in the U.S. Senate, with 67 percent saying they support the bill, 75 percent saying they back a path to citizenship that includes tough requirements, and 89 percent saying the United States should fix its immigration system this year.
Damond Watkins, Idaho Republican national committeeman, said, “The results of this statewide poll should be yet another indication to our elected officials in Washington that their constituents want, and are ready for, a real and lasting solution to mend our broken immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform is one of the rare issues that is both good politics and good policy.”
In the first two procedural votes in the Senate on the measure thus far, both Idaho senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, were among the 15 opponents of the bill.
The poll was conducted in 29 states; in Idaho, it had a sample size of 590, a margin of error of 4.03 percent, and was conducted by phone using interactive voice response June 2-3. Harper Polling, a GOP firm, and Public Policy Polling, a Democratic pollster, collaborated on the poll, which was commissioned by three groups, Alliance for Citizenship, Partnership for new American Economy, and Republicans for Immigration Reform.
The pollsters said they found “overwhelming, bipartisan support for the bill” in all 29 states in which they conducted polling. “The bill that’s been constructed has broad support with every segment of the electorate in every part of the country,” the pollsters wrote. You can read the full Idaho results and poll questions here.
The second procedural vote to clear the way for debate in the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed just like the first earlier today, and the debate can now start. The vote was 84-15, little different from the earlier 82-15 vote; again, both Idaho senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, were in the minority. Crapo said in a tweet, “#Senate is officially on the #immigration bill. We need an open amendment process & significant changes before I can support the bill.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter David Espo in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate voted 82-15 today to clear the way for debate on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, turning back an attempted filibuster. The 15 “no” votes all came from Republicans, including both of Idaho’s senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo. A second procedural vote also is scheduled today; if that goes like the first, several weeks of debate are then expected before the Senate takes final votes on the bill, proposed by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” but likely to see various amendments. Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.
The “Gang of Eight” includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona; and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durban of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
First District Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador pledged today to keep working on immigration reform, despite having walked away last week from a bipartisan group of eight members working to craft a House bill. “I promise you, this does not delay the process,” he told a dozen members of the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho, who stood chanting in the foyer of his office for nearly 40 minutes before Labrador emerged from a conference call. Labrador then talked with the group, answering questions in both Spanish and English, for the next 45 minutes, in a conversation that was sometimes friendly, but occasionally heated. “Just this morning, John Boehner announced that he wants immigration reform done by the Fourth of July,” Labrador said. “My goal is to have immigration reform done by the end of this year.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Labrador said his differences with the bipartisan “Group of Eight” went beyond the health care issue he pointed to last week – that he believes immigrants should cover their own catastrophic health care costs, rather than qualify for coverage under Obamacare. He said he’d earlier “agreed to disagree” with the group over guest worker programs, and he saw what had been overall agreement on a broad array of issues disintegrating as the lawmakers got into the details of crafting a bill, with the health care issue as the second big disagreement. “My goal is to make sure that something good passes,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe the bill the bipartisan group was working toward would end up passing the GOP-dominated House.
“I decided that there’s a better way,” Labrador said. He said he’s working with members of the House Judiciary Committee, on which he serves, and he expects an array of reform bills to come to that panel. “What we’re probably going to do is a more step by step approach,” he said. But once the House has passed something, it’ll have to go to conference with the Senate. “In the conference, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan solution, whatever happens,” he said. “When it gets to the conference, it will be comprehensive.”
Ruby Mendez, a 21-year-old intern organizer for the Idaho Community Action Network from Star, said, “We have supported you when you were practicing law, and we have even voted for you so you can fix our immigration system.” But she said she and others in Idaho’s Latino community were surprised and disappointed by Labrador’s move last week. “I think as a Latina in Idaho, I’ve seen many of my family and friends be affected by a broken immigration system,” she said. “To see the injustice, it’s been a tough task. … We represent here in Idaho 11 percent – we’re a growing community.”
The Idaho group stresses keeping families together; Labrador said he shares that goal. “This is the main reason that I have not walked away from immigration reform – we have to do the right thing for America,” he said. “We have a broken system, and I worked in the system for 15 years. I saw families broken up. … We can’t allow the immigration system to stay this way.”
Labrador said he doesn’t fully support the current Senate bill as written, but might in the future depending on how it’s amended. “I’m doing everything I can,” he told the group. After they left his office, Labrador said he’s gotten differing reactions from other groups since quitting the bipartisan reform talks last week. “Actually, most people are happy,” he said. “A lot of people in Idaho don’t want me to do any immigration reform.” But, he said, “I’m trying.”
Two themes — keeping families together and giving immigrants equal access to work, benefits and school — dominated a rally and march Wednesday in Boise, where more than 700 demonstrators urged lawmakers to overhaul the nation's immigration laws and system, the Associated Press reports. Demonstrators, waving American flags and placards and wearing red, white and blue T-shirts, chanted pro-immigration slogans and called out in unison during the march “Si se puede,” Spanish for “yes we can.” Some carried signs with messages such as “No human being is illegal” or signed petitions addressed to Idaho's congressional lawmakers, urging them to get behind changes to federal immigration laws; click below for a full report from AP reporter Hannah Furfaro.
The Atlantic has an interesting profile of Idaho 1stDistrict Rep. Raul Labrador this week, headlined, “Does the Fate of Immigration Reform Depend on This Idaho Congressman? Puerto Rican-born, Tea Party-purist, GOP-leadership-defying immigration attorney Raul Labrador has confounded expectations throughout his political career.” In the piece, Labrador talks about immigration reform, saying, “Most hardcore conservatives in the House come from rural agricultural districts, so we understand the need for reform.”
Labrador also tells the Atlantic, “The old guard believes that if we fix the immigration we will all of a sudden get 43 percent of the Hispanic vote. We won't. In fact, I don't think we will get much credit for fixing the immigration problem.” But he does see broader political advantages. “If we fix this problem, [Hispanics and minority voters] will listen to us on other issues.” You can read the full article here.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee in the House – the panel that’s expected to handle immigration reform, on which Labrador is positioning himself to become a player. Yesterday, Politico dubbed Labrador one of “five Republicans who matter on immigration,” beyond the “big three,” Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. “This freshman with rock-solid conservative credentials is high on the list of likely partners for Democrats on any immigration overhaul,” Politico reported. “Labrador certainly has the expertise; he practiced immigration law for years and started his own practice. And the Puerto Rico native, who moved to the mainland as a teenager with his single mother, brings a compelling personal tale to the debate.”
Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports that to get the Judiciary Committee seat, Labrador had to give up his spot on the Oversight & Government Reform Committee, where he’s been a vocal critic of the “Fast and Furious” gun scandal and has repeatedly called for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; you can read Popkey’s full post here.
Labrador remains on the House Natural Resources Committee. “I am excited to join the Judiciary Committee,” Labrador said in a statement. “It will allow me to work on realistic reforms to many of the most important issues facing Idaho and our country. … One of my top priorities as a member of the committee will be to fix our broken immigration system. I will fight to find a conservative consensus on immigration reform that secures our borders and modernizes our immigration system.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: WASHINGTON (AP) ― The House has approved legislation to offer green cards to foreign students with advanced degrees, but only after a partisan fight that portends trouble when Congress attempts a wholesale immigration overhaul next year. In approving what is called the STEM Jobs Act on a 245-139 vote, Republicans who control the House were signaling Hispanic voters who abandoned them in the election that they're serious about fixing the flawed system. The bill passed Friday would provide 55,000 permanent residency visas to foreign students with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But it drew fire from Democrats because it would kill a program that helps less-trained people from Africa and elsewhere gain entry to this country.
Click below to read Labrador's news release on the House vote; you can see his floor speech here in favor of the bill, in which he compares himself to Charlie Brown and the Democrats to Lucy, saying they keep pulling away the ball in a game of political football over immigration reform.
Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador has his STEM jobs act up for a vote again in the House today, after it failed in a September House vote; he was interviewed by NPR's Renee Montagne about it this morning. The bill would replace the current diversity visa program, which grants 55,000 immigration visas a year through a lottery, with one targeting those completing post-graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering or math fields. “The diversity visa doesn't make any sense for the United States for the problems that we have today,” Labrador told Montagne. “We need high-skilled workers.”
Labrador said President Obama has come out against his bill “because it is not part of a comprehensive immigration reform plan.” He said, “If we do a comprehensive package, what you're going to have is a bill that every single member of Congress hates a certain aspect of it, and no one is going to vote for it. Let's start with the easiest thing first. … If we don't do it this way, it's never going to get done.”
Montagne asked Labrador about the Dream Act, which would allow young people brought illegally to the country as children a way to stay legally in certain circumstances, and Labrador said, “That should be the next thing we work on.” You can listen to the interview here, and read more here on today's vote from the Washington Post, which reports that the bill is likely to pass the GOP-controlled House, but not be taken up in the Senate.