Thursday, May 9, 2013

Immigration Debate Heats Up in the Senate as Hearings Begin

Can the Republican Party survive the debates on Immigration or will they go so far hard right that immigrants will never vote Republican?

Border Security is primary to the success of the Immigration bill according to members from both parties who have been working on this Immigration bill for months.  The Immigration bill is sponsored by Sen Schumer (NY) with the seven Senate co-sponsors, Bennett (CO), Durbin (IL), Flake (AZ), Graham, (SC), McCain (AZ), Menendez (NJ), and Rubio (FL).  Noted that neither of the GOP Senators from Texas, Cornyn or Cruz are part of this group which is strange since Texas has the longest part of the border.  Things have changed since Kay Bailey Hutchison represented TX just six months ago.  Is Cornyn shifting harder right with the reelection coming up in 2014?

After amnesty was passed under Reagan, very little was done with border security as it still leaked like a sieve.  It is not just the southern border we hear about all the time but Senators also need to look at the northern border where it would be fairly easy for terrorists to come into the Country.  Believe Senator Coburn is correct in his assessment:
"If, in fact, the American people can't trust that the border is controlled, you're never going to be able to pass this bill," Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, told four officials from the Department of Homeland Security during a hearing Tuesday. "So you're going to have to help us figure out how to do it."
The biggest problem I see about border security fencing ideas of a double fence is that it works well in populated areas but not so well in the vast expanses along the Texas border. El Paso does have the double fence with which we saw up close during the Sun Bowl trip.  We noticed as we drove along I-10 that they had surveillance guard units in the air about every 50 yards along with stadium lighting at night.  You were warned at the hotels NOT to cross the border.  Many of the popular restaurants in Juarez that tourists used to visit are now open in El Paso.

Double fencing works for places like El Paso to secure the border from Juarez but what about the places that a double fence is impractical like Lake Amistad that is shared by Texas and Mexico which is 217 feet deep.  Lake Amistad sits about 19 miles NW of Del Rio and is heavily patrolled by US and Mexican border agents as many have learned while driving boats along the border and crossing over only to have law enforcement immediately arrive on the scene.  Big Bend is another problem as well as other mountains that are along the border.  Fencing is not the complete answer and any Senator who thinks it is, obviously hasn't driven along the Texas border.

In remote areas, the coyotes (smugglers) will build a tunnel under the fence or simply cut the fence if no one is watching.  In 2010, law enforcement discovered a what they called a narco tunnel from Juarez into an El Paso storm drain.  The tunnel went under the Rio Grande which flows through a concrete aqueduct between Juarez and El Paso.

People complain about drones but this is the perfect area to have drones as the eyes in the sky so Border Patrol agents can be moved to an area rapidly where people are crossing the border illegally.  Note to the anti-drone crowd:  These drones are used for surveillance not for firing missiles at people.

Wonder if Senator Leahy when he promised an open amendment process thought he would get over 300 amendments and counting.  When I see that Senator Cruz has submitted an amendment, I automatically toss it out as being too hard right and mean without reading based on his history.  He didn't disappoint once again as he leads off with the #1 most heartless amendment.  Think Progress has published a list of the most heartless amendments:
Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has promised an open amendment process, leading senators from both parties to offer more than 300 changes to the underlying legislation. Republicans introduced almost two-thirds of the changes, including a series of draconian provisions preventing the undocumented population from ever earning citizenship and or receiving any government assistance. Here are 11 of the most heartless GOP amendments:
1. Undocumented immigrants can never become citizens. “No person who is or has previously been willfully present in the United States will [sic] not in lawful status…shall be eligible for United States citizenship.” Offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
2. Mandatory DNA testing. Registered provisional immigrant applicants must submit a DNA sample to the Department of Justice to compare against the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) at the FBI. Offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
3. Zero assistance. Would prohibit undocumented immigrants who earn provisional legal status from applying for permanent residence if they qualify for state means-tested assistance, the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), the temporary assistance for needy families program (TANF), or supplemental security income benefits (SSI). Offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
4. Bans humanitarian travel. Immigrants who are in provisional legal status but have to go back to their home countries for a humanitarian reason (to visit a sick relative, for instance) would be prohibited from re-entering the United States. Currently, the provisional legal status includes an authorization for travel.Offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
5. Guts family re-unification. The green card distribution for some foreigners relies on a point allocation system in which a certain number of points must be accumulated before those individuals can qualify for a merit-based visa. This amendment would eliminate points for siblings of U.S. citizens and points for individuals from low-sending countries from counting towards merit-based immigrant visas. Offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
6. In-person interviews for 11 million immigrants. Sure to slow down the process time for 11 million immigrants, an in-person interview would be required to determine one’s eligibility requirements for provisional legal status. Offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
7. Limits visas to South Korea. In an effort to force South Koreans to buy beef from the United States again, this amendment threatens to withhold E-5 visas from South Korea immigrants until the country removes its age-based import restrictions on beef. Offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
8. Enforces head-of-household deportation and causes family separations. Under the current bill, immigration judges have the authority to decline to deport individuals if they believe that the immigrant’s removal will result in hardship for his or her U.S. citizen child. This amendment would waive this judicial discretion and allow the deportation to occur. Offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
9. Prevents low-income undocumented immigrants from seeking legalization. The amendment would require individuals applying for provisional legal status to maintain regular employment and a “regular income or resources” above 400 percent of the poverty line (more than $92,000 for a family of four). Under the current bill, immigrants must earn at 100 percent of the poverty line or show regular employment. Offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
10. Restricts visas for refugees. This amendment would prohibit individuals from applying for refugee and asylum status until one year after the Director of National Intelligence submits a review related to the Boston bombings to Congress. Offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
11. Allows for racial profiling. Would allow Federal law enforcements to take into account an individual’s country of origin when allowing them into the country. Offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Adam Serwer notes that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) filed an amendment allowing people to hire undocumented immigrants as maids or butlers. 
One thing I take away from this list is that Chuck Grassley from Iowa has been in the US Senate for too many years which has either affected his empathy for others or he is just a cruel and unfeeling person.  The fact he wants to ban humanitarian travel hit me totally wrong.  Grassley shows his true colors when he wants to add an amendment restricting visas from S. Korea to make them buy more beef from the United States.  There is something un-American about buy our beef or the US will restrict your visas.

Then we have the bigoted Senators like Mike Lee (UT) who wants to allow people to hire undocumented workers only as maids or butlers.  Then Grassley strikes again on racial profiling for anyone wanting to enter the Country.  Then there is Jeff Sessions who doesn't want low income immigrants to be able to apply for legalization.  What does this tell you about the Republican Party of today?  They are cruel, mean, angry white men for the most part who have not adapted to a changing society in the United States as people from all over the world call America home today.  Today's immigrants bring a different culture with their customs that end up merging with ours.  Would hate to think that we wouldn't have pizza in this Country brought to us by Italian immigrants if these Neanderthal Republicans would have been in charge at the beginning of the 20th Century.  They seem stuck on the 50's mentality and why the Republican Party has trouble attracting minorities.  Today the GOP even has having trouble keeping people with common sense who don't buy into that 50's mentality of the south.

The longer this debate goes on, the larger the split is becoming in the Republican Party from top to bottom.  As a Mother, I have often wondered what I would have done if I lived on the other side of the border and could look across at all the benefits on the American side for my children including education and health care. Would I have been one of those sneaking across to provide a better place for my children?  Was fortunate to have been born in America so I didn't face a choice between abject poverty and a dream with only a river separating reality.

We are all immigrants except for the native tribes -- some of us had family come here before the Revolutionary War, others came through Ellis Island from faraway places like Italy, France, and Ireland in the late 1800's/early 1900's.  All were looking for a dream to make life better for their families.  Why are some in this Country so mean and cruel to people from south of the border who want that same dream for their families?

When I heard there was a bi-partisan group working on Immigration, I figured the naysayers of the GOP would come out in force.  For a party that is already splitting, will Immigration be the final nail for the Republican Party?  RNC's rebranding effort is failing as we are seeing and hearing the hard right agenda from 'true' Republicans in the Congress and State Houses around the Country.

Asked myself many times in recent years how I could be a member of such a heartless party for so many years.  Then I realize that the John Birchers, Koch Bros/Big Donors, religious right, social conservatives, and Mormon Church did not have such a huge say in the GOP when I was growing up.  In fact, President Reagan threw out the John Birchers from the GOP.  Today every hard right wing ideologue is welcomed in the Republican Party.  If you have common sense, believe in a centrist philosophy including advocating social issues belong in the home and community not at the federal level,  believe in equal rights for all, and don't support the hard right agenda, you are told to get out of the GOP and join your liberal friends.

Immigration is always a tipping point with the hard right as I have learned over the years and today is no different. Yet, these same people try to launch an outreach for minority votes?  Simply amazing and shows how they will pander to anyone in public while cutting them off at the knees behind the scenes.  We are seeing a glimpse into what has been happening for years behind the scenes as these elected officials bring their true feelings on immigration out in the open.  It is not pretty and frankly very disgusting with the rhetoric we are hearing from hard right Senators.  The divide in the Republican Party is as wide as I have ever witnessed with some historians pointing to what happened to the Whigs on slavery which led to the new Republican Party under President Lincoln.  Is the Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower going to end up like the Whigs because they refused to acknowledge that "All People are Created Equal?"

Immigration reform divides Republicans 
The party is having an unusually emotional debate on the immigration reform bill, in the Senate and beyond. 
May 8, 2013, 6:37 p.m. 
WASHINGTON — The immigration reform bill crafted by a bipartisan group of senators has deeply split the Republican minority even as lawmakers prepare to take the first votes on the proposal Thursday. 
Alabama's Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative former prosecutor with a courtly drawl, has emerged as the leading opponent of the bill. He is aiming at his GOP colleagues with unusual zeal, and calls out the architects of the bill as, essentially, dishonest. 
"Sen. Flake is wrong: It's not a 13-year path to citizenship or welfare," blared one recent missive from Sessions targeting Arizona's Republican senator, Jeff Flake, who helped draft the legislation. "The mass legalization occurs immediately." 
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican author of the bill, punches back almost daily with his own "Myth vs. Fact" campaign, separating what he considers truth and fiction in the immigration debate — with much of the latter attributed to his fellow Republicans. 
"MYTH: This bill will hurt American workers," reads one recent entry fingering Sessions as the perpetrator. 
Republicans are not accustomed to this sort of public infighting, especially in the Senate. 
But recent elections changed that as the dominance of the GOP's right flank grew. At the same time, its leaders have sought to broaden the party's appeal to minority and female voters, who have recoiled from the right turn. 
The immigration debate splits Republicans with an emotional tone not apparent in recent rifts on the budget and other top issues. 
A growing coalition of religious and business leaders has rallied around the argument that newcomers bring many benefits to the nation. On the other side, supporters of more restrictive policies see high levels of immigration as a drag on the wages of U.S. workers and a threat to the country's traditional culture. 
"Our duty is to represent the people that are here, the people whose parents fought the wars and made America great first," Sessions said Wednesday as he walked through the Senate halls. "And even though we have sympathy for the people who want to come here — and even those who've been here a long time illegally, we have sympathy for them — we need to be sure that what we do does not place our workers, our people who need jobs, at an adverse advantage."
"I believe that's the moral position. I believe that's the right legal position," he said.
The divide within the party will be on full display Thursday as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the painstaking task of reviewing the 844-page bill and debating amendments, which is expected to take the rest of the month. 
The bipartisan proposal drafted by four Republican and four Democratic senators involves complex trade-offs. It would beef up security on the Southwestern border to prevent future illegal crossings and create new guest-worker programs, particularly for low-skilled labor. Employers would be required to verify the legal status of all workers. 
Within 13 years, most of the estimated 11 million people who have entered the country illegally or overstayed visas would eligible for citizenship if they pay back taxes, fines and fees. Some immigrants who work in agriculture or who were brought to this country as minors and now serve in the military or attend college could begin the legalization process sooner. 
Hundreds of amendments have been proposed. Some Republicans have proposed changes that would gut the overhaul. Some Democrats would extend immigration rights to gay couples, a move others in their party oppose because it would cost crucial GOP support. 
But it is the Republican feud that is the most stark. 
The party's leadership has embraced reform, believing it will help Republicans with Latino voters, who have tilted heavily toward Democrats in recent national elections — dramatically so in President Obama's reelection. 
"The fact of the matter is, some of our friends are on the wrong side of the line," said one Republican aide, who asked for anonymity to discuss the party tensions. "They get hit with some of the shrapnel." 
Sessions has attacked the bill in the same vigorous way he pushed for convictions as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. 
Several full-time lawyers and a few legal fellows assigned to his office spent long nights poring over the bill behind an unmarked door on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building.
So far, Sessions is leading what, for the moment, appears to be a small dissident faction of Republicans. Most GOP senators are largely holding their fire. But his campaign, if it takes root with the party's voters, could cause more Republican senators to question the bill. 
Sessions heard about complaints from Senate colleagues that he was using his post as the top Republican on the Budget Committee to engage in the campaign, and switched to using mostly his personal office, said sources who asked not to be identified while talking about internal discussions.   
Read More at the LA Times
It just hit me I have been using the Los Angeles Times for years as a source.  If the Koch Brothers buy the Times, that will be the last time I read them or use them for a source as they taint everything they touch.  How much money are they going to put into a campaign to fight Immigration?  We need real transparency in Government so that any and all donations used to support or defend a bill or candidate are known.  No more hiding behind a dark money PAC.  Every single donation from $1 to millions needs to be documented so the voters know who is opposing legislation like Immigration or Gun Control.

What are the chances of meaningful Immigration Legislation passing?  Would put the chances a little higher then gun control but not much.  With the Judicial hearings, we will probably start seeing the big money get off the sidelines.  When Grover Norquist who supports Immigration Legislation challenges Jim DeMint of Heritage Foundation who opposes the legislation to a debate, pass the popcorn as this is going to get interesting.  The Country is in for a wild ride when it comes to Immigration Reform.

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