House Republicans unveil immigration reform ‘principles’

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A draft of House Republican leadership principles for immigration reform became public during a GOP retreat this week in Cambridge, Md. The principles drew quick support from some agricultural groups, but brought to the surface the huge divides within the political arena over both substance and timing.

According to the draft document’s “preamble,” immigration reform cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation, and House Republican leaders declared they will not go to a House-Senate conference that includes the comprehensive Senate bill approved last June. Instead, the House will continue to seek a step-by-step approach, starting with securing U.S. borders and tighter law enforcement within the country.

Under the guidelines, there would be no special path to citizenship for immigrants already in the United States illegally – estimated at about 11 million. Rather, those persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their guilt, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families without access to public benefits.

The Senate bill approved last summer would guarantee that immigrants would be able to gain permanent legal status, known as a green card, in 10 years and citizenship three years later, provided they meet a series of requirements.

The Republican plan would allow opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for children brought into the United States illegally through no fault of their own, provided they meet certain eligibility standards, serve honorably in the military or attain a college degree.

Reforms to the legal immigration system would be employment-based. Visa and green card allocations would match the needs of U.S. employers and the desire for highly skilled individuals to work in the United States.

A temporary worker program – particularly for agriculture – would create enforceable, usable, legal paths for worker entry into the United States, to help meet the economic needs of U.S. producers, without  displacing or disadvantaging American workers.

Employment verification and workplace enforcement would be accomplished by full implementation of an electronic employment verification system.

In addition, after reforms are implemented, there would be a “zero tolerance policy” for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future. The measure would also prevent a president from unilaterally stopping immigration enforcement.

How and when the Republican proposals advance is uncertain. The future is full of potential political ramifications in an election year, with conservative Republicans opposed to pursuing reform, at the same time the GOP faces the prospects of losing more Latino voters to the Democratic Party. If it is to move forward, congressional action may have to wait until early summer, protecting Republican incumbents from conservative political opponents in spring primaries.

While Democratic leaders and the Obama Administration took a cautious approach to the Republican principles, Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of employers working to advance immigration law reform, called the Republican guidelines “a historic breakthrough” and a “game changer.”

Among the most important of the principles, Jacoby said, was the commitment to create new, better, streamlined programs to admit foreign workers – high-skilled and low-skilled – who will grow U.S. businesses and contribute to the economy.

“Without immigrant workers, the hospitality, construction, food processing and food service industries would all be severely hobbled, in some regions coming close to collapse,” Jacoby  said. ”Employers across these sectors often search desperately for legal options, and they need help from Washington – additional lawful ways to meet their labor needs.”

“The best antidote to illegal immigration is a legal immigration system that works – and an effective guest worker program, along with enhanced border security and worksite enforcement,” Jacoby said.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said a comprehensive labor plan “is long overdue” to address the agricultural labor shortage. He commended House leadership for recognizing that farmers and ranchers need access to a legal and stable workforce.

“America’s farmers and ranchers depend on the workers who show up every day to tend crops and care for livestock,” Stallman said. ”In short, our farmers and ranchers need long-term access to a steady and reliable supply of skilled agricultural workers.”

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Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  January, 31, 2014 at 09:48 AM

When it comes to government policies (D or R) it always comes down to the almighty dollar. They are trying to figure out what to do with the poor that are already here yet simply allow the rich foreign nationals to buy their way in under the EB-5 green card program.

Dave Francis    
Indianapolis, IN  |  January, 31, 2014 at 02:17 PM

Indifferently to the Rule of Law, and as printed in the Federal Registry, Democrats through the directives of the Department of Homeland Security are not arresting illegal aliens on the Southern toxic border, but under presidential degree are restraining U.S. border officers from completing their duty. U.S border patrol agent sources yelling their frustration relating to both political parties being pressed by special interests, that drug cartels and human traffickers are wasting no time in prospering from smuggling thousands of illegal aliens across the Southern border. Federal agents are aware of the massive problem, as they see large numbers of footprints the New River, which meanders from Mexico onto our soil. Officials announced that traffickers are transporting whole families, including young children through open areas of the border regions and many reporting themselves to the border agents, completely without fear of being deported, certainly aware of the controversial immigration amnesty being tracked through Congress. An anonymous Department of Homeland Security official stated, “Right now, entire families — groups — show up at the border and turn themselves in,” said who works along the Arizona border with Mexico. “It’s only getting worse. They bring their children with them and they know they will not be turned back — the majorities are given a free ride into the U.S. This is out of control and passing immigration reform without enforcing current laws will make it worse, not better.” Another Texas Border officer who was promised anonymity in his commentary,” Human smugglers are using the “promise of immigration reform” among those desperate to immigrate to the U.S. from overseas. Many illegal migr

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