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12/29: What We Might Expect in the 109th Congress From NIF

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    Update – What We Might Expect in the 109th Congress December 29, 2004 From: Lynn Tramonte, Maurice Belanger National Immigration Forum This is another
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30, 2004
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      Update – What We Might Expect in the 109th Congress
      December 29, 2004
      From: Lynn Tramonte, Maurice Belanger
      National Immigration Forum
      This is another in a series of updates from the Forum with analysis of the
      election, summarizing the work of the recently adjourned Congress, and
      discussing what we might face in the next Congress.
      Happy New Year.
      Where Might We Be Headed in the 109th Congress?
      Comprehensive Immigration Reform
      Given the dynamics in the House and Senate, political will on the part of
      the President will be necessary to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the
      109th Congress. If the President engages meaningfully on this issue, will
      he “go it alone” with Republican allies (and perhaps a few Democrats) in
      Congress and try to get an exclusively temporary worker program passed, or will
      he bring Republicans and Democrats together meaningfully to craft real and
      lasting reform?
      It may be nearly impossible for the President to accomplish the former.
      There is a significant number of Republicans in both chambers who would abandon
      the President on this issue, and never vote for an increase in even temporary
      immigration. Therefore, the President will need Democrats on his side, and
      will be unable to carry enough by adopting a guestworker-only model. To work
      in a bipartisan manner, the President must be open to modifying his January
      2004 plan.
      There are early indications the President will go the bipartisan route. He
      has already met with one immigration reform leader in the Congress since the
      elections, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is one member of Congress who can
      work meaningfully across party lines to pass legislation. We hope that other
      key immigration reform leaders from both sides of the aisle, and both
      chambers, will be brought in quickly to contribute their perspectives and draft a
      bill that can be enacted in the next Congress.
      AgJOBS and DREAM
      The need for these bills has not diminished, and neither has the resolve of
      the advocates clamoring for their enactment. The question now becomes: do
      AgJOBS and DREAM continue to move on tracks separate from (and even ahead of)
      the comprehensive immigration debate, or do they become part and parcel of the
      advocacy for a systematic fix. These questions will be hammered out in
      detail by the constellations of advocates driving these issues in the coming
      weeks.
      CLEAR
      Now that the CLEAR Act/Homeland Security Enhancement Act has been
      discredited, proponents will be assessing the situation. We fully expect
      Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) and Senator Sessions to re-introduce their
      legislation, perhaps with serious or simply cosmetic modifications. We do not know if
      they will retain the support of all original co-sponsors and others who
      signed up after introduction.
      Any kind of positive immigration reform plan that is advanced in the next
      Congress will likely face the threat of a CLEAR-like amendment. Given the
      makeup of this Congress, some immigration enforcement will very probably be part
      of a package of immigration reform. This reality requires advocates to work
      with our allies in Congress to develop an immigration enforcement plan that
      is fair, more humane, and respectful of rights. We have a chance to make
      immigration enforcement better if we engage in figuring out what the rules should
      be and the consequences for not following them. Otherwise, decisions will
      be made by others more concerned about toughness, not fairness, and a version
      of the CLEAR Act passing in this situation becomes increasingly likely.
      Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
      Given the realities in this Congress, prospects are not great for passage of
      the Civil Rights Restoration Act (CRLA). However, good legislation serves
      an important role in educating Congress, the media, and the public about the
      issues, and to organize the field—all to pave the way for change when a more
      favorable climate returns. Also, as we saw in the 108th Congress, pieces of
      this bill can always be pulled out and offered for consideration with other
      proposals, which would be a way to enact some of these needed reforms sooner
      rather than later. Advocates are just meeting to discuss options with CLRA
      and identify a direction to take the bill in the 109th Congress.
      The makeup of the 109th Congress suggests that we may spend more time on
      defense on the Hill, fighting off bills that will further curtail due process
      and civil liberties. Additionally, provisions in the PATRIOT Act are set to
      sunset in 2005, and the “PATRIOT 2” proposal rumored last year showed up in
      pieces in the House 9/11 recommendations bill, so we know there will be fights
      on these issues next year.
      Miscellaneous anti-immigrant proposals
      As we saw in the 108th Congress, dormant legislation can often creep into
      unrelated proposals when those proposals are suddenly moving on a very fast
      track. An anti-due process bill known as the Fairness in Immigration Litigation
      Act (FILA, S. 2443/H.R. 4406) was introduced by Senators Hatch, Chambliss,
      Cornyn, Kyl (R-AZ), and Sessions, and Representatives Sensenbrenner,
      Hostettler, Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Nathan Deal (R-GA) in 2004. This legislation
      picked up where the 1996 immigration and anti-terrorism laws left off, further
      denying immigrants’ access to judicial review, increasing the burden of proof
      for asylum-seekers, and requiring repatriation of immigrants who are
      deportable but face dangerous home country conditions if returned.
      This bill was never scheduled for mark-up. However, it surfaced when the
      9/11 recommendations bills were drafted in September 2004 and provisions of
      FILA were attached to the House bill (H.R. 10) and proposed as amendments to the
      Senate bill (S. 2845). The provisions seemed poised for immediate
      enactment, but ultimately fell by the wayside. Advocates were successful in pointing
      out the fact that these provisions are not related to the 9/11 Commission
      recommendations.
      We fully expect these and other anti-immigrant measures to pop back up again
      and again in the 109th Congress. Specifically, Rep. Sensenbrenner has
      already promised to re-introduce, as soon as the new Congress begins, measures
      that were dropped from the 9/11 bill, such as a ban on acceptance of the
      Consular ID card; an expansion of expedited removal; making it harder for asylum
      seekers to win asylum; indefinite detention for certain foreigners; making
      drivers’ licenses unavailable to undocumented immigrants; and the list goes on.
      As always, we will be playing defense with one hand as we attempt to advance
      the ball with the other. But the shriller our anti-immigrant foes get—and the
      more desperate their proposals—the more we know we are having an impact. We
      know that we will ultimately prevail in the larger debate; it’s not a
      question of if, but when, and not a question of how, but by how much.
      Other proposals on the horizon
      The exhaustion of H-1(b) and H-2(b) temporary worker visa quotas early in
      the government’s fiscal year will lead to some debate next year on Capitol Hill
      regarding changes to those temporary worker programs. Such debate and
      discussion will likely have implications for our work on comprehensive immigration
      reform.
      H-1(b) visas, given for three-year periods, are visas for high-skilled and
      educated workers. Up to 65,000 of these visas are allocated annually. H-2(b)
      visas are issued to seasonal, non-agricultural workers, such as those
      employed for the summer tourist season. Up to 66,000 of these visas are allocated
      annually.
      In the 108th Congress, legislation was introduced to raise the H-2(b) cap.
      The H-2(b) visa quota has not been adjusted since the program’s inception in
      1990. Some seeking to reform the employment immigration system point out
      that the H-2(b) program does not adequately meet the needs of employers seeking
      less-skilled employees. The employment immigration system leaves many
      employers without access to longer-term legal workers when such a labor need
      exists. Others with truly seasonal labor needs are out of luck when the cap is
      exhausted before their recruiting starts.
      Though the system is in need of a comprehensive overhaul, Congress is more
      apt to modify existing programs than create new ones, and we may be required
      to think creatively to advance our comprehensive reform agenda in order to fit
      this possibility.
      Whatever happens in the next Congress, work on our issues is likely to begin
      early, and become very intense. The stakes will be high, and will require
      unprecedented cooperation and discipline on the part of advocates. The
      restrictionists are already making preparations. They have shown over and over
      that they can flood Congressional offices with calls and e-mails. The thing is,
      though, they don’t have a solution for our broken immigration system. We
      do.
      ===================================================================
      National Immigrant Solidarity Network
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