Saturday, January 26, 2013

Obama to announce an Immigration Reform Plan        
President Obama will debut his plans for comprehensive immigration reform at an event Tuesday in Las Vegas, the White House said Friday.
In a statement, the White House said the president's proposal would call for legislation to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Obama held a strategy session Friday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, telling the lawmakers that reform efforts would be "a top priority" in his second term.
"The President was pleased to hear from CHC members and noted that they share the same vision, including that any legislation must include a path to earned citizenship," the White House statement said. "The President further noted that there is no excuse for stalling or delay."
The White House described Obama's trip to Nevada on Tuesday as an opportunity to "redouble" efforts to fix the immigration system within the next year.
Among those in attendance at Friday's White House meeting with Obama were Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), House Democratic Caucus Chair Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
"After today’s meeting, it’s clear that President Obama is determined to fix our long broken immigration system," Becerra said in a statement following the meeting. "The President expressed a great sense of urgency and that comprehensive immigration reform, including an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, is his top legislative priority."
The CHC developed a nine-point immigration plan earlier this year, and that is likely to serve as the template for the president's immigration reform efforts.
"Immigrants need action now and immigration reform cannot wait," Gutierrez said in a statement after the White House meeting. "We have a unique opportunity to finally put our government on the side of hard-working immigrants. We all need to work together — the President and Congress, Republicans and Democrats — to get something done right away."
The caucus's ambitious overhaul calls for a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants, new work visas for skilled professionals, and the establishment of an employment verification system. The Associated Press reported Friday that that the White House will debut its plan separate from a bipartisan Senate working group that also hopes to outline its proposals next week.
The president has said that he is "very confident that we can get immigration reform done" and suggested he would debut his plan early in his second term.
"I think it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken, because we have to secure our borders," Obama said at a press conference shortly after winning re-election.
"I think it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them. And I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity, are here simply to work." Earlier this month, White House press secretary Jay Carney hinted that Obama would use his upcoming State of the Union address to push for reform.
"I would say, broadly speaking, that State of the Union addresses tend to include at least a sample of a president's agenda," Carney said at his daily press briefing. "And immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, is a very high priority of the president's. But I don't want to get ahead of the speech."
Republicans have also been aggressive in pushing new immigration reforms, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spearheading efforts.
In interviews earlier this month, Rubio called for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the United States. Under the plan, immigrants would likely be assessed a fine and back taxes, undergo a background check and work through a lengthy probationary period.
That's a break from some Republicans, who have suggested that a pathway to citizenship would be tantamount to amnesty for illegal immigrants. But it's also a far more conservative plan than the one advocated by the White House, and one that has gained traction among top conservative leaders, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
Carney said last week that Rubio's comments "bode well" for striking a deal on reform.
"We are encouraged — referring now to recent reports ‚ that Senator Rubio's thinking — as reported — so closely reflects the president's blueprint for reform," Carney said. "The president has long called for partners from both sides of the aisle. And he has lamented the absence of partners from the other side of the aisle. It used to be a bipartisan pursuit, comprehensive immigration reform. For a while, it ceased to be. But he certainly hopes that it will be in the future."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Friday argued Republicans must embrace comprehensive reform.
“In some conservative circles, the word 'comprehensive' in the context of immigration reform is an epithet — a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare that securing the United States border must come before moving toward broader reform,” Bush and conservative immigration scholar Clint Bolick wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating."
It is very refreshing to see that we are getting back to basics and talking about resolving the plight of undocumented residents of the U.S. as the very necessary first step in any attempts to “fix our broken immigration system”. Congress has been dancing around the issue and sweeping it under the rug for far too long. The time has long since passed for them to “take the bull by the horns” and get it done.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

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