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Cross-posted from Huffington Post:

Since Judge Hanen issued his controversial midnight order blocking President Obama's executive actions on immigration there has been a lot of speculation about what will happen next. Will the Court of Appeals quickly reverse the ruling? How long will it take for the case to wind its way through the appellate courts? Will the U.S. Supreme Court have to weigh in?

I've been answering questions like these on and will continue doing so, but there are three key questions that many people are asking today.

What does the Republican Lawsuit against expanding DACA and the new DAPA program mean for the 5 million immigrants that would qualify for these programs?

The Republican lawsuit against DACA expansion and DAPA was undoubtedly a bump in the road, but it is not the final word. The law is clear and DAPA/DACA expansion policies are legal, despite what Judge Hanen thinks. Until the Texas case is resolved on appeal, DREAMers and parents who were preparing to apply should continue to do so.

Importantly, applicants for the DACA program created in 2012 can and should continue to apply. The lawsuit does not affect them.

Applicants for DACA expansion (the changes announced in 2014) should continue to collect documents and other proof showing of arrival in the U.S. before the age of 16 and that they were in the U.S. on January 1, 2010.

DAPA applicants should collect all necessary proof that they've lived in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010 and, on November 20, 2014--the day President Obama announced his immigration executive actions--were the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

And, of course, applicants should be prepared to pay the expected $465 application filing fee which includes the cost of criminal background checks.

Does the Republican lawsuit block all of President Obama's immigration actions?

No! While the future of DAPA and DACA expansion could be tied up in the courts for the next few weeks or (maybe even months), Republicans cannot touch Obama's immigration actions that are already being implemented.

Judge Hanen's order does NOT affect the original, existing DACA program. Individuals who qualify for deferred action based on the criteria outlined in 2012 can and should continue to apply.

Judge Hanen's order also has NO effect on the immigration enforcement priorities that President Obama laid out as part of his executive actions. These new priorities, which are detailed in a memorandum from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, direct immigration agents to focus on the deportation of aliens who are national security threats, felons, criminal gang members, visa abusers and serious immigration violators.

This means that DREAMers and parents of U.S. citizens who meet the criteria for DACA expansion and DAPA generally should not be deported--even if they come into contact with ICE or CBP. They are only at risk if their deportation would service an "important federal interest" such as individuals who pose a threat to community safety.

Nobody has (or can) seriously question whether or not President Obama's immigration enforcement priorities are legal. And they go beyond the confines of DACA and DAPA to prevent unjust deportation of other undocumented immigrants with roots and ties to the United States.

But how can we trust that these priorities are being implemented?

This is an important question given past experience with various iterations of "enforcement priorities" memos.

The good news is that so far ICE field offices seem to be following the new enforcement priorities. In Ohio, for example, ICE agents took it upon themselves to postpone the imminent removal of an undocumented mother of a U.S. citizen child after the policies were announced. While the woman still needs DAPA to get stability, at least her low priority removal status allows immigration enforcement agents to focus on dangerous criminals and national security risks. Vox's Dara Lind reportedlast week that 1000 people have been released from immigration custody since DHS released its enforcement priorities in November.

Nevertheless, immigration advocates must remain vigilant. If a DREAMer, undocumented parent or long-term resident is apprehended, detained or facing removal, ICE officials should be notified immediately that the person is not an enforcement priority and should not be detained or removed. Ideally this should be done through a licensed attorney who is experienced with the deferred action process. If local officials appear to not be following priorities, attorneys should sound alarm bells to higher immigration agency authorities and immigration advocacy groups likeAmerica's Voice Education Fund who can work to ensure that ICE agents closely follow the President's smart enforcement priorities.

David Leopold is an immigration attorney and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.


Over the past weeks and months, we've heard every kind of excuse for the GOP's failure to move forward on immigration reform. Today, America’s Voice has tried to unpack the GOP’s weak justifications for inaction and offer our assessment of some of the recent developments in the immigration reform debate.

Three reasons why the Republicans’ latest excuses for blocking immigration reform are transparently weak:

1.      The Votes Exist in the House to Pass Immigration Reform Right Now: Last week’s House vote on the debt-ceiling again demonstrated that a “governing majority” does exist in the Houseto pass priority legislation.  The so-called “Hastert rule,” the supposed ironclad rule that only bills receiving support from the majority of the majority move forward, is now officially the “Hastert excuse” – the debt-ceiling vote was the fifth instance this Congress in which Speaker Boehner ignored it.  On immigration,the votes exist to pass reform, if Speaker Boehner allowed a vote to occur.

2.      If It’s a Political Calculation, Why Aren’t House RepublicansActing on Immigration?  Per the Washington Post, House Republicans are openly stating that they will not pursue “big-ticket” legislation like immigration reform this year and will instead prioritize “calming divisions,” avoiding “intraparty drama,” and building “Republicans’ ground game ahead of November’s midterm elections.”  The open acknowledgment that political implications are driving their legislative strategy begs a larger question – why focus on such short-term political scenarios when the 2016 and longer-term political implications are strongly in favor of passing immigration reform?  If the Post report is true and House Republicans continue to block immigration reform, this means that only immigration floor action that House Republicans will have taken this Congress will be their vote in favor of anti-immigrant extremist Steve King’s (R-IA) amendment to defund the DACA program and subject DREAMers to deportation.  Not exactly a strong rebuke of the GOP’s recent “self-deportation” past.  Plus, the idea that Republicans will hurt their 2014 chances by pursuing reform is misguided.  As former NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer recently said to Greg Sargent of the Post, “The idea that someone who is sitting at home mad at the president about Obamacare is going to wake up in October and say, ‘I’m really mad that Republicans voted to solve the immigration mess, so I’m not going to vote’ — I just find that to be ridiculous.”

3.      Wait ‘Til 2015? Not Going to Happen: The notion that Republicans can block immigration reform in 2014, but take the issue back up in 2015 is a non-starter, despite numerous House Republicans making this assertion recently.  As Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said on CNN last Sunday, “To wait until 2015 when we're involved in Republican primaries, obviously, would not be a viable scenario.”  And the Wall Street Journal recentlyeditorialized that “the opponents will raise the same furor whenever it comes up, and Democrats will be less likely to compromise figuring they can use the issue to drive minority voter turnout in 2016.”

Despite the continued House Republican obstruction to reform, here are three reasons why we think immigration reform is coming:

1.      The American Public Strongly Backs Immigration Reform & Republican Voters are Surprisingly Supportive: The American public broadly and consistently backs immigration reform with a path to citizenship, with Republican voters more pro-reform and pragmatic on the issue than conventional wisdom suggests.  As a new Gallup poll finds, public sentiment is moving even more in a pro-reform direction, with Americans placing equal importance on a plan to deal with the undocumented population and border security measures.  As Gallup notes in its poll summary, this “is a shift from the past, when Americans were consistently more likely to rate border security as extremely important.”  Meanwhile, key constituencies like the American Farm Bureau and in-state business leaders (see this op-ed from Nebraska, for example) continue to speak out about the need for reform and the policy consequences of inaction.  And Latino voters’ political engagement and behavior remains closely tied to immigration reform debate (see this recent summary of Latino voter polling on immigration from Latino Decisions).  With both overall public sentiment and the intensity factor on the side of the pro-reform movement, it’s only a matter of time before that wins out. 

2.      The Demographics are Relentless and the Political Consequences of Inaction are Severe: Republican obstruction to immigration reform would cement their anti-immigrant brand to the fastest-growing segments of the electorate, meaning that their prospects of re-taking the White House in 2016 and beyond will be imperiled.  As John Feehery, a former House leadership aide and current Republican consultant, recently noted, “If we don’t pass immigration reform this year, we will not win the White House back in 2016, 2020 or 2024.”  Beyond the presidency, observers are increasingly noting that immigration could harm Republicans’ chances in a host of 2016 down-ballot races as well.  For example,Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats in 2016 – seven in states carried by Obama – while Democrats need only to defend 10 seats.  A filibuster-proof majority is possible.  Republican inaction in 2014 could mean the GOP is doomed as a national party in 2016 and beyond.

3.      Pressure on President Obama to Take Executive Action is Rising, and GOP Inaction in 2014 Will Virtually Guarantee He Will Exercise it:  If House Republicans block a legislative fix to immigration in 2014, pressure will only grow on President Obama to take executive action to suspend deportations for those who would qualify for legalization under pending legislation.  Already, the President’s allies and immigration activists are providing a preview of what’s to come if legislation remains blocked.  At the recent House Democratic retreat, several lawmakers asked the President about relief for parents of DREAMers and administrative efforts to encourage re-unification of families separated by deportations.  Meanwhile, as MSNBC highlighted, approximately “30 religious leaders, immigrants, and supporters holding signs and singing songs in protest to President Obama’s deportation policy were arrested outside the north gate of the White House,” in a protest organized by the United Methodist Church and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) yesterday.  If the GOP blocks reform and the President delivers on executive relief, it would inject the issue into the Republican presidential primary cycle, burnish the President’s legacy among Latino and Asian-American voters and box the Republican Party in politically – much like President Obama’s DACA announcement did in June 2012.


A few weeks ago, we first heard the story of Brigido, a father of two who was in detention and awaiting deportation.  Even though thousands of petitions were signed and phone calls were made, even though Chicago activists this week chained themselves to his bus to try and prevent it from leaving, Brigido was deported on Tuesday.

On a press call today, Brigido's wife, Maria, told her powerful story and called on Congress and President Obama to take action and stop the separation of families like hers.  We transcribed Maria's statement below.

To listen to Maria's story, click here.  Her segment begins at [22:05]

My name is Maria Perez, and I always believed Obama when he said that he's not going to separate families, especially if the immigrants were not criminals. But my husband, Brigido, was deported last Tuesday, on November 19th. When he was first detained, I thought that it would be a fight, but it would be a fight that we could fight together, that he'd get out and he'd be with us. But as the days went by, I found out that I was wrong. There was no bond set, and lawyer after lawyer told me there was nothing I could do but pray that he was deported quickly.

He had a prior deportation order from 2002, even though in that incident he had a valid tourist visa. He did not come into the country, he was interrogated at the airport and bullied into signing a deportation order. He used his own ticket to go back to Mexico, but they count that as a deportation. And so when they found him in 2013, all they had to do was reinstate that prior order of deportation. He's never gone before a judge, he's never had a hearing, they just deported him.

I need my husband, and his 3-year old son and 13-year old daughter need their father. The father's role in a child's life is so important, I'm just picturing my son not being able to go to soccer games or anything with his father. My children cry every day for their father. We will not have Thanksgiving with him, we will not have Christmas with him, my son won't celebrate his birthday with him.

But I couldn't just take no for an answer, I couldn't just sit by and watch him be deported. So, I called everyone I knew to see if they knew anybody that could help me, and I finally got in touch with America's Voice and Markos Moulitsas...Petitions were put up online, calls were made to Congressman Gutierrez's office, anything that I thought could help keep my husband in the United States so that we could be a family. But his two stays of deportation were denied by ICE, and he was scheduled to be deported on the 19th. As a last attempt, OCAD was planning on stopping the bus that was taking the deportees to the airport, so I signed on.

It was amazing, to say the least. I spoke at a press conference first, then we headed to the detention center. Six of the relatives chained themselves together in front of the bus, and six of them actually chained themselves around the wheels of the bus. One of the relatives actually held up a sign for the bus driver that said, "stop, there are peopple under your bus." But the driver actually kept going for a little bit, he was inches from running over one of the young women who was under the bus. We chanted, we yelled, we tried everything, we actually got to talk to the people on the bus through bullhorns, and through tears I just told my husband that I loved him and I wasn't going to stop fighting, that I was going to bring him back, that I needed him back with me, that I was going to fight to get that deportation order withdrawn.

But I also called on Obama, and I called on Obama to stop playing politics, to actually do something. That not one more person should be deported, until an immigration reform bill is passed. I called on Obama to look on my face and remember my face this Thanksgiving, when he's with his family and I'm not.

We were about 75 people, students, relatives, trying to stop the bus, and they actually called on four SWAT teams from different suburbs to try and quell us. We had no weapons, we had nothing but cardboard signs, but they called SWAT teams in. The people under the bus and in front of the bus were cut out of their makeshift chains. The bus rolled back, and the deportees were taken to the airport.

That night, when I spoke to my husband from Mexico, he told me that they could see us, but they could not hear us. The officers on the bus actually blasted the air conditioning, and you have to keep in mind that we're in Chicago. It was about 32 degrees outside, and they blasted the air conditioning. A lot of them didn't have jackets or sweaters, they were just in t-shirts. So they could see us, but they could not hear us. They did start hitting the windows, kicking the bus, they thought of maybe tipping the bus over but then realized that would probably crush somebody that was under the bus. And one of the officers actually told my husband to sit down. And my husband asked him why--"what are you going to do to me? Are you going to put me in jail? Because that's where I'm coming from. Are you going to deport me? Well, isn't that what you're doing anyway? What are you going to do to me NOW?" And the officer couldn't say anything.

There is nothing more you could do to this man. You're taking his family away. You're taking his life away.

But the bus rolled back and he was deported. He told me that they were chained, hand and foot from the minute they got onto that bus until they got to Mexico. His wrists are all cut up. On the plane, they would give them a little bag of food, but if they wanted to eat it, they actually had to bring to their knees, because the chain wasn't long enough. And drinking water, they just had to get creative, and bite on the bottle of water and tip it back because you couldn't use your hands, the chain wasn't long enough. ICE officers didn't care; he told them the handcuffs were too tight, and they said they were fine. So you're talking about over seven hours, being chained up, like animals. They treat them like animals, like they're real criminals, when all they've done is cross a border. And yes, I understand that it's against the law. But they weren't doing anything wrong.

So at this moment I call not just on the House to vote on immigration reform, but I also call on Obama to stop the deportations. Not one more person should be deported until at least a vote is taken. No other family should have to go through this. Thank you.


Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 01:59 PM PST

Help Stop Brigido's Deportation!

by AmericasVoice

Brigido, dad to two U.S. citizens, could be just a few days away from deportation. He needs your help getting his family back!

ICE officials have Brigido in detention on what they allege to be an expedited removal order from over ten years ago. But with an American fiancée, a son, a step-daughter, and a business to watch over, he deserves every chance to stay here!

Click here to send ICE a message -- Brigido's family needs him!

Right now Brigido could likely qualify for a pathway to citizenship that's currently being blocked by Republican leaders in the House. But ICE still has the power to exercise "prosecutorial discretion" and let him return back home to his family. We need to help him!

Brigido's family needs him. He runs an insurance business with his fiancée Maria, and is a loving father to their two kids. He shouldn't be torn apart from the family and life he has built here just because the House has failed to act.

Help keep Brigido with his family. Please send a message to ICE today!


Immigration reform advocates have long warned Republicans to shape up on immigration reform or face the electoral consequences--in 2014, 2016, and beyond.  But this very fall, just a stone's throw away from Washington, DC, the Virginia gubernatorial race between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe is also coming down to a referendum on immigration--and what happens when a candidate is perceived as anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant in a quickly diversifying electorate.

The Virginia election will be about many other things as well, of course, like jobs and the economy and both candidates' weaknesses in discussing their business relationships.  But Cuccinelli was a documented anti-immigrant hardliner before he began running this year, and that may come back to haunt him:

-- While on a conservative radio show in 2012, Cuccinelli compared immigrants to rats, saying: "They have to relocate the rats.  And, not only that, that’s actually not the worst part, they cannot break up the families of the rats!  So, anyway, it is worse than our immigration policy…You can’t break up rat families.  Or raccoons, and all the rest, and you can’t even kill ‘em.  Its unbelievable."

-- That may explain why Cuccinelli is apparent BFFs with another serial animal/immigrant comparison maker, Steve King--Cuccinelli in 2012 said that "Steve King is one of my very favorite congressmen."

-- And then there are the policy positions: Cuccinelli in the past has supported legislation that would amend the US Constitution and do away with birthright citizenship, and been in favor of self-deportation laws like Arizona's SB 1070.

In recent months, Cuccinelli has tried to soften his tone somewhat when it comes to immigration, and been caught scrubbing immigration issues off his website.  But that's not fooling anyone, or making anyone think that Cuccinelli's stances are any less hardline than they used to be, despite former GOP state representative Jeff Frederick's claims that the only reason Cuccinelli cleaned up his website was because immigration is "not what people are thinking about."

Much more likely, Cuccinelli has realized that (according to a Harper poll) 85% of Virginians believe that it's important for Congress to fix the immigration reform system this year, and 69% support a path to citizenship.

This week, Cuccinelli brought Senator Marco Rubio to Virginia to campaign for him--a visit which only highlighted Cuccinelli's problematic history opposing immigration reform. Fredrick Kunkle from The Washington Post wrote about that history in an article today. Here's an excerpt:

Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general, championed hard-line immigration policies while rising through the state ranks — but he has awkwardly sought to play down his record in hopes of not alienating Hispanics and Asians who represent a small but growing part of Virginia’s electorate.

Republican leaders have conceded that presidential nominee Mitt Romney damaged his candidacy last fall by promoting “self-deportation,” and some have pushed the party to embrace more liberal policies to woo Hispanics and move the issue off the agenda in future elections.

Cuccinelli isn’t quite doing that, but his appearance with Rubio at the tickets-only fundraiser suggests that he is trying to soften perceptions about his stand on immigration.

Cuccinelli spent his career pushing anti-immigrant policies. But that's a political liability these days -- even in Virginia (especially vote-rich Northern Virginia.)

We do agree with Cuccinelli on something he saidtoday at the Rubio event::

Cuccinelli spoke for fewer than 10 minutes before introducing Rubio, saying the eyes of the nation are fixed on the race to see how Republicans respond after being defeating by President Barack Obama in 2012.
Without any meaningful reforms in the way that he thinks about immigration, we doubt that Cuccinelli's cosmetic changes will be enough.

No words can describe just who exactly the House GOP thinks it's fooling, in releasing this new video today celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

The video begins by featuring House GOP leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy, before going on to speaking parts from Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bill Flores, and Raul Labrador, a couple of them speaking in Spanish.

The video* is perhaps the latest effort to satisfy this year's RNC directive to make the Party friendlier to immigrants, Latinos, and minorities.  But it's incredibly rich to think that such a video will go anywhere when some of the people in it are reasons #1, 2, 3 of why Congress has yet to pass immigration reform--a key priority of Hispanics and Latino voters.  Seriously, there's a reason why the only policy prescription the RNC included in its March report was a plea to reform immigration.

Yes, Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen are immigration reform supporters who are in favor of a path to citizenship.  And Raul Labrador was part of the House Group of 8 on immigration before he left, citing irreconcilable differences in June.  But Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy?  Hardly the best ambassadors for the GOP to the Latino community.  There are already enough votes in the House to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship--if it weren't for the Hastert excuse that Boehner and his buddies are clinging onto—and House GOP leadership is the only thing standing in the way of making reform a reality this year.

Policy-wise, they're leaving our nation's immigration system in the hands of Steve King--an anti-immigrant blowhard who compares immigrants to animals, claims that most DREAMers are actually drug mules with "calves the size of cantaloupes," and thinks that members of self-identified ethnic groups are people who "feel sorry for themselves."  Steve King is also the only guy whose policy preferences on immigration have been voted on by the entire House, when Boehner allowed a vote on King's June amendment to deport DREAMers and others.

We're guessing that's not stuff that the House GOP would want to put in a Hispanic outreach video.  But that's their real record on immigration—at least, until they finally decide to give us our vote.


* Also check out this online campaign from Reform Immigration for America, which is asking its Facebook and Twitter followers to comment on the video and ask the House GOP leadership to pass immigration reform.


Over the weekend, Thousands of Immigration Reform Supporters Appeal to House Leaders’ Sense of Justice

Below is the second article in the series, “Immigration Reform Summer,” by Gebe Martinez, Advisor to America’s Voice Education Fund.  This article is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper attribution.

View the slideshow from this weekend

Across five states, in the home districts of House Speaker John Boehner and other key leaders of the GOP-controlled House, thousands of immigration advocates rallied and marched for a House vote for an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Capping off a week in which Republican leaders were forced to denounce the hateful comments of Rep. Steve King, R-IA, who claimed immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they are drug smugglers, members of families trapped in the broken immigration system prayed that Congress justly resolve immigration because it is a moral imperative.

“People’s comments will make your blood boil, but in the past years I’ve learned something about Americans. We are good. We are compassionate. We love justice,” said Lana Heath de Martinez, at a rally in the Virginia district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. She and her husband, an undocumented immigrant, and their child live in Richmond where she studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

“Don’t stop (contacting Congress) until you know that they have heard your voice and they will do what we are telling them to,” she added.

Another mother, Linda Cedillos, cited Bible verses upholding the sanctity of family and told of last seeing her husband, Humberto, 18 months ago when he was deported to Honduras. “I will fight for him until the day I die,” she said.

Key Republican leaders are hearing the public clamor for the House to vote for a path to citizenship. The question is whether they will muster the courage to produce sensible solutions and not yield to the noisy nativists who preach “self-deportation” and renounce the growing Latino electorate that cares about immigration.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the fourth-ranking GOP leader whose Washington State district has a large population of farmworkers, acknowledges her party’s need to repair its image with all demographic groups. But her public immigration stance is still evolving. During the weekend, singers, artists, faith leaders, DREAMers rallied outside her district office and asked that she meet with immigration advocates in Washington.

One who already lost at the hands of the Latino electorate is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, who was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 when the ticket lost to President Obama.

Before his town hall at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine on Friday, Voces de la Frontera brought 200 people and held a prayer vigil before the start. Ryan promised a vote on a path to citizenship, but the proposal would be one of several separate bills -- not part of a comprehensive reform bill favored by advocates -- and the path to citizenship would take 15 years, two years longer than proposed by the Senate.

Not good enough, DREAMers in the audience suggested.

It gets worse among other leaders. Rep. Peter Roskam boasts of how Chicago area “legal” immigrants have strengthened the local economy, but opposes reforms sought by advocates, suggesting that eventually -- after strict enforcement measures are in place -- undocumented immigrants might have a chance to “get right with the law.” West Chicago constituents responded this weekend, as 1,500 people marched to his office to demand a real solution for their families.

Boehner, meanwhile, is being urged to lead his divided caucus and bring a path to citizenship to the House floor.

At City Hall in Springfield, OH, where Boehner has an office, Jeff Cook, a Cedarville University professor who teaches Bible and urban ministry urged the 500 gathered not to let history’s mistakes be repeated. "We don't want to be on the wrong side of history. We know looking back to the Civil Rights era there were a lot of people sitting on their hands, and we say 'Shame on them.’ We must act,” Cook implored.

Failure to act will have political consequences, as naturalized citizen, Luzmila Toussieng, warned in Richmond this weekend. “I vote(d) for Eric Cantor. Now, Eric Cantor, vote for us.”

For more on Speaker Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan:


Cincinnati Enquirer (July 27, 2013): Rally presses Boehner on immigration WDTN-TV (July 27, 2013): Immigration reform activists descend on Boehner's office


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (July 27, 2013): Paul Ryan lays out immigration proposals in Racine town hall meeting

Politico (July 26, 2013): Immigration bill 2013: Immigration vote may wait until October, Paul Ryan says

View more from Immigration Reform Summer here


Even Before August Recess Begins, Two Republicans in Tough Districts Register Support for a Path To Citizenship 

Below is the first article in the series, €œImmigration Reform Summer,€ by Gebe Martinez, Advisor to America's Voice Education Fund.  This article is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper attribution.

We are in the midst of a political debate that will define who we are as a nation.

We have the opportunity to continue the American story that values the contributions of immigrants whose inventions and personal sacrifices helped make this a great country. Or, we can deny our own immigrant pasts and allow nativists to create a damaging social and economic divide that will live on in history.

At issue is whether the current generation of new Americans who seek to contribute to the country where they live, will be allowed to earn a path to citizenship.  The potential benefits to our communities and economy by their presence have moved pastors and priests, high technology and Main Street business leaders, and members of all ethnic communities to support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Standing in the way of history are House Republicans, from those who refer to immigrants as mules and dogs and oppose any path forward, to those who talk more civilly, but want to see immigrants remain in an indefinite second-class status. They cannot stop the dreams of 11 million aspiring Americans.

When members return to their districts for the summer recess, they will experience €œImmigration Reform Summer,€ as Asian, Latino and immigrant communities, along with allies from business and faith communities mobilize to urge them to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. They can act now, or face the political consequences in elections for years to come.

This moment in history commands courageous leaders to do what is right.

This report, “Immigration Reform Summer,” will chronicle the growing movement and urgency to pass immigration reform throughout the August recess, beginning with today’s report on the evolving immigration positions of two Western House Republicans. We invite you to join us as we watch history unfold.


The Heat is On: The Story of Two Republicans

The heat is on. Even before the start of the hot August recess, when House members will feel the push for immigration reform from  immigrant, Latino and Asian groups, along with business and faith communities allies, hard opposition from Republicans to a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants is starting to melt away.

Evidence the thawing positions of two Republican lawmakers, Congressmen Mike Coffman of Colorado and David Valadao of California.

The Coffman and Valadao districts are as different as their own backgrounds. One comes from the strident, anti-immigrant wing of the GOP, and the other represents the party’s future, if it is to survive the immigration debate. Yet, both have surprised constituents and GOP colleagues with their evolving stances on possible citizenship paths, an idea the conservative-led House has yet to accept.

Coffman, a Tea Partier who advocated denying U.S. citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants, said this week he is considering how to let undocumented immigrants be on provisional legal status while border security is increased. Once the border is “secure,” a citizenship process could begin. Coffman also favors awarding citizenship to eligible youths who join the military.

That’s a significant shift considering he once called the broader DREAM Act a nightmare and praised Arizona’s SB 1070 racial profiling law, shadowing the anti-immigrant stance of his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Days earlier in California, Valadao, a freshman, received cheers and hugs from 400 immigration reform advocates after giving full throated endorsement to a path to citizenship.

It was a brave move, as Valadao spoke just outside his own district, in the area represented by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Sharing the stage at the Bakersfield Christian Church were Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill, the House’s lead campaigner for immigration reform; Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, a Republican; and Ryan Zaninovich, a third generation California grape grower.

When first asked to actively campaign for reform with a citizenship path, Valadao demurred, suggesting his junior House status limited his influence, recalled Delia Serrano, an organizer with the Kern Coalition for Citizenship. But he has seen how speaking out wins local support. “He’s feeling more comfortable with the people around him,” she said.

Coffman and Valadao are warming up to the issue despite the cold and dispassionate House that lags far behind other institutions in accepting the economic, community and security benefits that would directly come from a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and families.

Immigration casework in Coffman’s old district centered on helping constituents get visas to go overseas, Coffman told the Denver Post. “It's very different now. I gotta tell you it really breaks my heart to sit down with some of these people and they tell me what their day-to-day lives are like. I admit I've been moved by some of those stories."

Like Coffman, Valadao is considered an endangered Republican in 2014 because his central California district has a 71% Latino population. But Valadao has roots in the district, as a former state lawmaker and son of Portuguese immigrants who founded a dairy business. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish. Supporting a path to citizenship was not a far reach for Valadao in his district.

His biggest obstacle is in Washington, where his party leaders consider “path to citizenship” too hot to handle. Nor is his cause helped by radicals who continue to insult immigrants with hateful rhetoric.

The hardline GOP messaging “is just not a good way to start a conversation” with voters, Valadao has said. House Republicans have not heeded the message so far.

But come August, the House will feel the heat.

For more on Reps. Valadao and Coffman:



Big week for Rep. Steve King (R-IA). He has clearly established himself as the leading (and loudest) GOP voice on immigration.

For years, we've know King has been one of ugliest anti-immigrant members of Congress. But there's an intense focus on the immigration issue right now, so King's voice is being amplified. And his recent bizarre comments that most DREAMers are drug runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes" continue to reverberate.

Last night, King explained his extremes views to Wolf Blitzer. This morning, Speaker John Boehner began his press conference by addressing King's remarks. And to top it off,  King took to the House floor today to deliver a rant that swung between everything from Jesus to Manifest Destiny to George Zimmerman to the rest of Western civilization.

“I think we need a policy that’s right… for America,” King declared. “I challenge this civilization to be reasonable!” (That's rich, coming from King.)

Claiming that he was espousing "the most logical and rational policy on immigration," King described what he believed that consisted of: “We need to build a fence, a wall and another fence,” he said. “We need to put the sensory devices on top of there.”

Then, referencing the hot water he now finds himself in from his cantaloupe comments, he apparently compared himself to Jesus:

As you remember, Mr. Speaker, the high priest said to Jesus, did you really say those things? Did you really preach those things? And Jesus said to the high priest, as the Jews were watching, ask them. They were there, they can tell you. That was, Mr. Speaker, the assertion by Jesus that he had a right to face his accusers. That principle remains today in our law that we have a right to face our accusers. And when he said ‘ask them, they were there, they can tell you,’ he’s facing his accusers and demanding they testify against him rather than make allegations behind his back. And what happened when Jesus said that? They believed and the high priest believed that jesus’ answer was insolent, and the guard struck Jesus. And Jesus said, ‘If I speak wrongly you must prove the wrong. If I speak rightly, why do you punish me?’ He asserted his right to be innocent until proven guilty before a Roman court. Those two principles remain today in our law, a right to face your accuser, innocent until proven guilty, you face that — proven guilty, you face that jury of your peer. you need a quick and speedy trial. they didn’t have that then. the punishment came quickly whether right or wrong.
Watch the video here:

Perhaps Igor Bobic, the assistant editor at Talking Points Memo, put it best:

Also view our blog today: 20 Calves That Prove Steve King Is Wrong


This morning, John Cornyn introduced his border security amendment to the Gang of 8 immigration bill--and many in the immigration reform world agree that it's a poison pill.  Harry Reid knows it, Chuck Schumer knows it, and now Greg Sargent at the Washington Post is calling Cornyn out on it.

As Sargent wrote:

The details of the Cornyn amendment are not encouraging. It looks like it is designed for the express purpose of killing the bill.
Which is Cornyn's purpose.  Cornyn may be making noises about supporting immigration reform if the enforcement conditions are right--and Marco Rubio may have been trying to work with him on that.  But it's a futile effort.  Cornyn is never going to vote for immigration reform.  What he wants to do is kill it.  And his chosen vehicle is this new border security amendment that uses enforcement triggers to potentially push around the goalposts that must be achieved before legalization and citizenship can be attained--a position unacceptable to immigration reform advocates.

As Sargent describes the amendment:

First, the details. The Cornyn amendment — which Marco Rubio, a key voice on reform, has made positive noises about — would harden the “trigger” that must be achieved before the path to citizenship can kick in. It does this by mandating that the Secretary of Homeland Security “may not adjust the status of aliens who have been granted registered provisional immigrant status” — those who, under the Senate bill, would be granted legal status at the outset, and would have to wait 10 years for the path to citizenship to start – until a number of conditions have been met.

Cornyn’s amendment would require that nine years and six months after immigration reform becomes law, the HHS secretary must submit a report to the president and Congress that, “under penalty of perjury,” that states that “full situational awareness” and “operational control” of the southern border has been achieved; that the mandatory employment verification system is operational; and that a biometric entry and exit data system has been implemented at all designated airports and seaports. If DHS cannot attest that these conditions have been met, undocumented immigrants cannot get green cards or embark on the path to citizenship.

Here’s how that differs from the current Senate bill. The gang of eight compromise also stipulates that “e-verify” and the entry-exit system be set up before citizenship can happen. But it does not tie border security metrics directly to citizenship as a condition for it. Rather, the Senate bill directs DHS to come up with a plan to secure the border and allots billions of dollars to carry it out. The Senate bill also sets as a goal that by the fifth year, 90 percent of border crossers must be being apprehended and 100 percent of the border must be being surveilled. If that doesn’t happen, a border commission is set up and another $2 billion is allotted for border security.

In the Senate bill, failure to meet those security metrics would not nix the path to citizenship. By contrast, in the Cornyn amendment, if the 90 percent apprehension and 100 percent surveillance metrics are not being met, citizenship doesn’t happen.

But, if this amendment became law, it would be far too easy to hold off legalization and citizenship forever by continually manipulating and pushing back the metrics in order to claim that the border still wasn't secure enough.  Even now, conservatives are basically doing just that--claiming that we cannot pass immigration reform until the border is secure, even though they won't give a reasonable definition of what a secure border should look like, and even though we already spend $18 billion on immigration enforcement every year.

As Sargent continues:

In other words, if citizenship is dependent on those metrics being met, in 10 years a Republican Congress could redirect border security money elsewhere for the explicit purpose of falling short of achieving them, according to Frank Sharry, the head of the pro-immigration America’s Voice. Or a DHS secretary appointed by a Republican president could simply decline to find that the metrics have been met, he adds. In this scenario, Sharry concludes, you could have come very close to achieving those metrics, but if you fall just short of 100 percent surveillance or 90 percent apprehension in just one sector of the border (something that could be engineered deliberately), it could nix citizenship for millions.

“It’s not that these metrics can’t be achieved,” Sharry says. “It’s that they would now be subject to manipulation so that they deliberately won’t be achieved.”

Also, as Chuck Schumer brilliantly explained yesterday, the Gang of 8 bill doesn't need anymore security provisions.  It already is a balance between strict enforcement provisions and measures that grant legalization and citizenship.  Senators like Mark Kirk(R-IL) may, troublingly, want the Cornyn amendment to pass as a prerequisite for their support of immigration reform.  But that is not a position in support of reform at all--because the Cornyn amendment, if passed, is sure to kill the bill. As Greg Sargent concludes:
The Senate “gang of eight” bill already gives conservatives much of what they say they want. It requires billions to be spent on border security — and a plan to be drawn up to enforce it — years before citizenship happens. And it does contain triggers that citizenship is contingent upon – such as e-verify — that would enhance security. “The way to stop people from crossing the border, improving border security, is to make it harder for them to get jobs illegally,” Sharry says.

The problem is that the Cornyn amendment is very well designed to make it hard for Republicans not to support it. Senator Rubio has been insisting that the bill must be moved to the right to win over more Republicans; it’s an open question whether he’ll support Cornyn’s amendment. But Republicans who don’t embrace it may now find themselves exposed to criticism from the right for not supporting “hard triggers” as conditions for citizenship. The question of whether Rubio will ultimately embrace Cornyn’s changes is crucial, given that many Republicans are closely watching Rubio for cues, and given that Democrats have repeatedly said they are a non-starter.

Concludes Sharry: “Cornyn could very well destabilize the debate in a way that threatens it.”


Earlier today, as we noted, Majority Leader Harry Reid said:

I am concerned that some who oppose the very idea of reform see these triggers as a backdoor way to undermine the legislation. And I believe some Republicans with no intention of voting for the final bill – regardless of how it is amended – seek to offer these amendments with the sole purpose of derailing this vital reform.
It's very clear to us that one of the Senators who has no intention of voting for reform but is offering poison pill amendments to kill the bill is John Cornyn.

Today, we learn that Senator Chuck Schumer understands the game Cornyn is playing. He's seen it before -- as has Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America's Voice.  Schumer is shutting down the idea that Democrats are looking at Cornyn's amendment as anything other than a poison pill -- because that's what it is.

FromTPM's Brian Beutler: 

Democrats want it to be crystal clear. They don’t think Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is crucial to passing immigration reform. So they aren’t negotiating with him over his non-starter amendment to make a pathway to citizenship contingent upon establishing an unrealistic border security regime.

An article published by National Journal quotes Cornyn claiming Democrats are “talking to me” about his amendment, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has called a “poison pill,” and suggesting it’s an indication that they lack 60 votes to pass the broader bill.

But in unreported remarks Wednesday morning at a “Bibles, Badges and Business” event in downtown Washington, D.C., Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the leading Democratic immigration reform bill negotiator, implicitly disputed Cornyn’s claim — and a source close to Schumer, who provided the quote, says Cornyn’s characterization is false.

“We cannot accept the Cornyn amendment,” Schumer said. “I’ve told John that already. The way it would change the triggers would jeopardize the path to citizenship. You should tell the people you’re lobbying that that is not going to happen. There may be other amendments dealing with the border that we can accept but not that one.”

The source close to Schumer adds, “Schumer likes Cornyn a lot personally, but he spent the first two years after President Obama’s election in 2008 trying to work with Cornyn on an immigration reform bill. He’s impossible to get to ‘yes’ on this issue.”

On the Senate floor Monday night, Schumer told Cornyn “you know full well that [your amendment is] a deal killer,” and that other Republicans are kicking around border security ideas that might ultimately be amenable to Democrats. But because Democrats don’t consider Cornyn’s vote gettable, there have been no staff- or member-level discussions since then.

Cornyn is impossible to get to yes on immigration reform. His goal is to block the path to citizenship and kill reform. Fortunately, Senate Democrats (and we suspect some of Cornyn's fellow Republicans) are on to him.
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