Tag Archives: CIR

Thoughts on Viernes…06282013

Where Are The Latinos?

Next week, I’ll begin a series of challenges to my fellow Latino males out there. I didn’t see many of them, other than political operatives, saying much to support Wendy Davis and the Women of Texas this past week. Where are you?

Beyond elected officials (and I’m glad to see Ed Gonzalez earned another nod from Planned Parenthood Action Fund) and those others running for office, I expect some of those Latino activists out there to stand up and be counted, too.  Your sisters need you!

Lots of Tears This Week

When the decision to gut the Voting Rights Act came down, it didn’t take long to go from anger to tears. No, not because Republicans get to suppress folks without any supervision, but because I thought about all those who bled and died for the VRA. And for Scalia to declare there is no longer any racism, especially when we continue to hear the anti-Latino rhetoric during the immigration debate, is insulting. We are up for many battles on fixing the VRA.

To watch State Senator Wendy Davis and her fellow Senators take on the Republican majority on SB5 this week, along with watching Texas women and men make their voices heard at the Capitol, brought some tears of hope. Perhaps Rick Perry’s misogynistic attitude toward women evident in his call for another costly special session will cause more people’s uprisings. Perhaps they will be cause to rally around a full ballot for 2014. But there is hope at the moment beyond attempting to defeat SB5.

And when DOMA and Prop. 8 were decided this week, well, let’s just say there were a lot of tears. Along with the excitement that I may get to attend more gay weddings (which are awesome, by the way), I also thought about my late brother Mike Kelley. Although he and his husband longed for Texas to allow same-sex marriages, they also knew there would be plenty of battles along the way. DOMA and Prop. 8 were among those battles and I know Mike is smiling at the moment.

And the tears stopped while it seemed everyone was celebrating a victory in the Senate over immigration reform. I can’t find any reason to smile over the militarization and droning of the border, an extended “path,” and other punitive things that brought over a few votes. What’s even more disturbing is that organizations which at one time stood up against these things are now “OK” with it. And for what? Boehner, fearing an insurrection from his own right-wingers, is using the Hastert Rule to avoid bringing up the Senate bill. And I keep hearing this “end of the year” thing about when something would finally get signed. No, not excited at all.

MUSIC BREAK PARA LAS MUJERES: Joan Baez – No Nos Moveran

 

Gallego Wants An Update to Immigration Impact Study

Congressman Pete Gallego (D) Alpine sent a letter to State Comptroller Susan Combs requesting an update to a study that her predecessor did in 2006. In it, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn that the removal of undocumented immigrants would cost Texas almost $18 billion in gross state product.

Gallego informs Combs:

A more recent study from the Immigration Policy Center noted, “[i]f all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Texas, the state would lose $69.3 billion in economic activity, $30.8 billion in gross state product, and approximately 403,174 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time.”

So, it would seem that an update is in order.

As public servants, the weight of our words is heavier. The passage or failure of immigration reform will profoundly affect Texas. An updated study from the Texas Comptroller’s office would shed light on the true impact to our state by unauthorized immigrants. Your findings and conclusions could also prove invaluable during deliberation on the various proposals being considered by Congress. It would be unfortunate for groundless statements presented as facts to go unchallenged.

Get to it, Comptroller!

 

Previous Post:  And don’t forget to read about the latest poll on Latino feelings toward Republican immigration proposals.

Poll: Latinos Reject Border-First Approach to CIR

Latino Decisions and Presente.org just released the results of a poll that measures how Latinos are feeling about this latest attempt at immigration reform. Needless to say, they aren’t feeling the enforcement/border-first approach being pushed by the Republicans with little defense from the Democrats. Of course, in all of this, no one seems to be asking how Latinos, much less immigrants, feel about all of this, right? I’m glad Presente.org is doing it.

The survey of 500 Latino registered voters asked opinions on a wide range of specific policy measures that have been debated in Congress and finds overall that 81% of Latino voters reject the notion of “border-security-first” approach. Instead, Latinos prefer to see a path to citizenship unfold simultaneously with any border security measures.  Further, Latinos are firmly opposed to increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdowns against immigrants.  When asked if ICE should be asked to increase the number of immigrants detained 73% of Latino voters said no. When asked if ICE should be asked to increase the frequency of workplace raids 66% of Latino voters said no. Full topline results are posted here

So, one has to think that Chuck Schumer is complicit in this whole border-first strategy, and an article in Politico speaks to the division among Senate Democrats that hasn’t really boiled over, yet.

Sen. Chuck Schumer’s pitch to find 70-plus votes for a sweeping immigration overhaul is running into skeptics from his own party – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin.

The top two Senate Democrats believe that the push to win more GOP senators could significantly water down the measure, arguing their party should instead focus on the more achievable goal of securing the 60 votes needed to break an expected Republican filibuster. The Democratic leaders don’t believe they should make major concessions to conservatives — mainly on issues such as border security — in order to inflate the vote tally.

Schumer seems to think that inflated numbers will force the House Republicans to go along with a worsened bill. Meanwhile, Leader Reid and Dick Durbin fall more on the side of showing a little backbone and not allowing the Republicans to run over the Democrats, or in this case, immigrants.

Back to the poll, it would seem that Latinos are a-ok with LGBT immigrants being included in the bill.

In addition, 61% of Latino voters want to see LGBT family unification included in the immigration reform bill.  As the Williams Institute has noted, nearly 270,000 undocumented immigrant adults identify as LGBT and could be penalized and not allowed to sponsor their spouses for residency or citizenship under the current bill.

Family is family, obviously, and Senator Leahy filed his amendment today. Hopefully the evangelicals will get on board and not freak out. Still, it will be tough for the amendment to pass. But, let it  be heard that if it doesn’t pass, it will be because of homophobic members of Congress, and not Latinos.

And what about “Latino” Ted Cruz’s strategy of providing for legal status, but not citizenship?

 More than three-quarters oppose the option of providing legal status only without a path to citizenship, and a majority oppose excessive fines on undocumented immigrants.  A resounding 86% say the appropriate waiting period to apply for citizenship if 5 years.

So, Republicans, especially their whiny Latino in the room, continue to be disconnected from Latinos on immigration reform. If anything, both Republicans and Democrats have been effective at keeping the worst of the bill out of the ears of Latinos, since a majority didn’t know about the $6.5 billion border boon for contractors. And if Democrats don’t shape up and fight against enforcement-heavy initiatives, it seems no political party will gain much, especially trust, from Latinos (and I don’t mean the future citizens).

Want to find out where Latinos stand? Click on the link and read the results carefully.

Judiciary Committee Sends CIR to Senate

Well, at least their version of CIR, which will probably be called by right-wing-nuts in the House the “liberal” bill, or the “amnesty” bill. Or something negative.

After going through almost 300 amendments, the committee passed 100 of them–some good, some OK, many of them bad. One important amendment that went ignored without a vote was one that would allow American citizens to sponsor a foreign-born, same-sex spouse for citizenship. If you can’t even vote, then there are some guts missing in DC.

The Senate is expected to vote sometime next month. Meanwhile, the House has been working on their version of the bill, but a Republican-created glitch regarding health care for immigrants has Dems calling for a re-do.

The language — supported by Republicans and some Democrats in the House group — says that immigrants seeking citizenship must pay for their own health care. In this proposal, immigrants would no longer be eligible for citizenship if government has to pay for it. (DC’s Emphasis)

But the tough language sparked concerns among Democrats about the possibility of emergency surgeries, and whether expensive procedures would plunge these immigrants into debt, and out of the country.

How heartless can you get? Tricking sick immigrants out of getting health care when needed, or worse, keeping them in some some bottom-class status if they do use it, even in an emergency. The Republicans won’t budge without this specific language. The fact that Dems want to stop any health care for those who gain status has me a bit pissed off, too.

I won’t show even a bit of excitement with the Senate’s “progress” as some in the Democratic Party or the non-profit, pro-migrant establishment have been showing in their press releases. As I stated, whatever comes out in the end will more than likely be mostly bad and not even close to being termed a legislative victory.

I’ll keep watching this from the cheap seats, and keep taking a closer look at what’s being proposed.

FYI:  My sis and I are on tour and we’ll be speaking at the Humble Democrats meeting on Saturday, 2 PM, at the Octavia Fields Library. As always, Toni will give the legal/legislative side of things, and I will provide the political side of things. Come on over!

 

 

Results of First CIR Mark-Up Session

The Senate Judiciary Committee began to take up the first group of amendments to the immigration reform bill (S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act) submitted by the Gang of 8. Thankfully, the group struck a few of the most idiotic and punitive amendments, including a Ted Cruz amendment that would make reform unattainable, with a call for operational control of the border of “over 100 percent” and tripling the number of Border Patrol agents to over 60,000.

(For perspective, the peak number of troops in Iraq was around 150,000–and that was a war zone, not a border crossing.)

I’m sure there are more bad amendments to be considered, as well as a few good ones. To check out the entire list of submitted amendments, one can visit here.

In DosCentavos news, today I shared the stage with attorney and sister Toni Medellin at the Harris County Democratic Party’s Brown Bag. Together, we discussed the legal and political aspects of the immigration bill and the process. It was a great discussion with Democratic activists–a discussion that will need to continue as we increase support for immigration reform.

I found some of the best play-by-play on the amendments done on the Facebook page of Reform Immigration For America. Keep checking it out for the latest.

Republicans Plan Hack Job on CIR

Well, it’s the month of May and all seems to be going as predicted regarding comprehensive immigration reform. While the Gang of 8 attempts to strengthen the bipartisan support for their grand plan–even after Boston–the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party, including the policy hacks at the Heritage Foundation, are announcing plans to derail the whole thing.

The committee will take up the legislation just days after the Heritage Foundation released a report that estimated that the measure, which would offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people already in the country, could cost taxpayers at least $6.3 trillion over time.

What no one is saying that the “cost” is factored into a time period of fifty (yes, 50) years, failing to take into account the economic realities of bringing millions out of the shadows. In other words, it’s just another racist fear tactic on the part of the right-wing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the plan the Gang of 8 is offering is a bad one. The billions more that will be spent on “enforcement” measures will be a boon to a few private corporations, private prisons, and drone manufacturers. But it is still amazing to see that, even with a bad plan, that Republicans are hell-bent on attacking Latinos. In the political sense, they are just not getting it.

So, expect the usual delay tactics, along with the GOP race-baiting where they throw around “illegal” and “amnesty.”

“The longer this legislation is available for public review, the worse it’s going to be perceived,” Mr. Sessions said Monday in a phone interview. “The longer it lays out there, the worse it’s going to smell. The tide is going to turn.”

It’s the tried and true way of Republicans killing legislation–delay it and add even more bad stuff to it until it dies.

Of course, the Democrats leave much to be desired on their “defensive” posture.

“The Judiciary Committee is going to be a good proving ground for our bill because the committee includes some of the Republican Party’s most vocal opponents of immigration reform,” Mr. Schumer said. “By honing our responses to their criticisms, and perhaps even accepting some suggestions for improvement, our compromise will be all the more battle-tested when it hits the floor.”

Reminder:  Local immigration attorney, Toni Medellin, will be speaking on the topic of immigration law and policy on Thursday, Noon, at the Harris County Democratic Party’s Brown Bag. I’ll be joining in to speak on the politics of the whole thing.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Viernes…03082013

Mayoral Update

Well, Annise Parker earned the nod from the local cops, as well as women’s political powerhouse Annie’s Emily’s List. Annie’s Emily’s List is having a good run, having helped elect and re-elect a whole bunch of great women to the Texas House and Texas Senate nationally, so, I think this one is huge.

The opposition kicked off their campaign this week, and, if I understand correctly, he wants to cut taxes and fees, pump money into corporations (and did I understand “international” ones?), and make Houston “grander.” Well, a lot of that takes revenue, doesn’t it? I’m sure we’ll hear more about this as he rolls out his campaign.

I tend to agree with my friend Mustafa Tameez that there isn’t a case to be made to change Mayors since things haven’t been bad, if anything, I’ve enjoyed Houston a lot more since moving into the big city. I can’t say I’ve agreed with everything Mayor Parker has done, but not to the point where I’d click another name on the ballot.

We’ll see where voters gravitate during this long season.

Editor’s Note:  When you have your phone buzzing, your FB messenger popping, and people bothering you with other things, you tend to get a bit fuzzy, so apologies for the error above. 

Luis Gutierrez is coming to town

The Illinois Congressman of Puerto Rican descent has been more vocal than most, if not all, of our Chicano members of Congress on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and whenever he comes to town, he really revs up a crowd. This time around, though, things seem a bit different with both sides in some kind of discussion. Unfortunately, the human rights factor of the issue continues to take a back seat to deportation/enforcement measures, cheap labor exploitation programs, and the usual vitriol about immigrants from some of the Republicans who refuse to budge. Ultimately, without people moving on the issue, members of Congress cannot do much. They need to hear from the people, and that’s what I’m thinking this event does–rev up the people, get them calling/writing Congress, and keep the message moving. Find out about the event here.

Congressmembers Al Green and Luis Gutierrez

Saturday, March 9 at Noon

Bayou City Events Center * 9401 Knight Road, Houston, TX 77045

MUSIC BREAK ~ Los Palominos – Siente El Amor (Urbana Records)

DCReview

Latino Issues Pendulum Swings Toward Immigration

As I’ve stated previously, Latinos have a whole bunch of issues we keep our eye on, but when the policy talk and negative rhetoric hops up on immigration, all attention seems to go in that direction. A new poll from Latino Decisions states as much.

Overall, 58% of Latino voters now rate immigration reform as the most important issue they want Congress and the President to address, up from 35% who rated immigration reform as the top concern in our November 2012 election eve poll.  The economy and jobs was rated second at 38% followed by health care (19%) and education (15%).

74% of Latinos find it very important that immigration reform be passed in 2013. Latinos also found that DC must work on both the economy and immigration reform  at the same time, rather than the economy taking precedence over CIR.

Disturbing was one question asking Latinos if they would vote for a Republican who takes a leadership role on the issue, and 44% responded in the affirmative. The pollsters felt that perhaps because some have taken that role in trying to come up with a solution, that Latinos are giving the GOP a second look.

That said, things clear up when Latinos were asked if they would vote for a Republican who would block a path to citizenship and 42% stated they would not, including 33% of Latinos Republicans. 41% of Latinos stated they would defect to the other side if Democrats blocked reform.

But when it comes right down to it, they can ask all the questions they want about scenarios. How do they really feel about things?

When asked which party has been most responsible for immigration reform not passing over the last few years, 64% say the Republicans are to blame, compared to 10% who blame the Democrats.  And how do Latinos currently evaluate each party’s outreach to the Latino community? As of March 2013, things look fairly similar to November 2012.  While 72% say the Democrats have done a good job reaching out to Latinos, only 21% think the Republicans have done a good job.  In contrast, 45% think the Republicans “don’t care too much” about Latinos, and 22% think the Republicans are being hostile towards Latinos.  For the Democrats, 17% think the party doesn’t care, and 4% think Dems are hostile.

This was a poll of 800 registered Latino voters from across the U.S., by the way. The poll can be easily slammed by the right, given that it was put out there by pro-immigration reform groups like SEIU. But I will give it some “lefty” criticism, too. It doesn’t seem like President Obama’s deportation programs were mentioned, which could affect the numbers. Another criticism is that the poll seems to have missed the gun control debate completely, which sometimes seems to take precedence over CIR.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that immigration reform is at the top of the list of Latino voters again, and a path to citizenship is at the forefront of what Latinos want in the reform package. Thus far, Republicans “leading” on the issue, like Marco Rubio, are against citizenship. Add to that 2016 prospect JEB Bush and Republicans really are back where they have always been–wanting to exploit immigrants for their corporate funders’ benefit.

And Latinos, apparently, are watching and ready to blame who is stopping immigration reform from happening.

BuzzFeed: The Obama CIR Fact Sheet

The President’s speech on comprehensive immigration reform left much to be desired, at least for me. When I was listening to the radio on the way into downtown, there was much talk about how “liberal” the plan would be, but no one able to say how it could be considered “liberal.”  According to Buzzfeed, the big difference:  “…it treats same-sex couples the same way as straight couples, and doesn’t include a “trigger mechanism” to make reform contingent on stricter border security efforts.” Here’s the info off the fact sheet that Buzzfeed published.

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

· Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

· Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

· Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

· Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

· Strengthen border security and infrastructure. The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.

· Combat transnational crime. The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.

· Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement. The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are keys to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.

· Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling. The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.

· Deporting Criminals. The President’s proposal expands smart enforcement efforts that target convicted criminals in federal or state correctional facilities, allowing us to remove them from the United States at the end of their sentences without re-entering our communities. At the same time, it protects those with a credible fear of returning to their home countries.

· Streamline removal of nonimmigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.

· Improve our nation’s immigration courts. The President’s proposal invests in our immigration courts. By increasing the number of immigration judges and their staff, investing in training for court personnel, and improving access to legal information for immigrants, these reforms will improve court efficiency. It allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs. It also provides greater protections for those least able to represent themselves.

Cracking Down on Employers Who Hire Undocumented Workers

· Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President’s proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses.

· Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud‐and tamper‐resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.

· Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

Pathway to Earned Citizenship

· Create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Agricultural workers and those who entered the United States as children would be eligible for the same program. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits, including subsidies or tax credits under the new health care law.

· Create strict requirements to qualify for lawful permanent resident status. Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident.

· Earned citizenship for DREAMers. Children brought here illegally through no fault of their own by their parents will be eligible for earned citizenship. By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship. The President’s proposal brings these undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

· Create administrative and judicial review. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

· Provide new resources to combat fraud. The President’s proposal authorizes funding to enable DHS, the Department of State, and other relevant federal agencies to establish fraud prevention programs that will provide training for adjudicators, allow regular audits of applications to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, and incorporate other proven fraud prevention measures.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

· Keep Families Together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.
· Cut Red Tape for Employers. The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations.

· Enhance travel and tourism. The Administration is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our nation’s security. Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on travel and tourism, the President’s proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa. And finally it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

· “Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas. The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States. It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

· Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs. The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.

· Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S. economic development. The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; provides incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds new measures to combat fraud and national security threats; includes data collection on economic impact; and creates a pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

· Create a new visa category for employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories. The proposal creates a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs after being in the United States. for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

· Better addresses humanitarian concerns. The proposal streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence. It also better protects those fleeing persecution by eliminating the existing limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum.

· Encourage integration. The proposal promotes earned citizenship and efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically.

Thoughts on Viernes…01182012

Congrats to Anna!

I just want to give a “Congrats!” to Houston ISD’s new Board President, Anna Eastman. I’m sure she’ll run some smooth meetings

She said she wants the school district to focus on ensuring more students complete higher education.

I like that focus!

All That Political Capital!

Let me preface this by saying I like the Obama-Biden plan on curbing gun violence. We don’t need assault rifles to be readily accessible, we don’t need huge gun clips, and everything else they mention. I’m there. That said, with all the political capital they are about to expend on this effort, will anything be left for immigration reform?

I’m the first to say that Obama cannot win CIR alone, but we do need a strong Presidential push that will encourage activists to stand up to right-wing nonsense on the issue. Heck, we even need VP Joe Biden to get involved and burst out in his colorful commentary (BFD). But I’ll say it–this whole anti-gun-violence push has me worried. I hope they use the same resources to push for immigration reform.

SD-6 Early Voting Weekend!

Pick an early voting location. Pick any early voting location and get it done! Over 5,000 have now voted. That leaves another 279,000 (or so) that can still vote. Go for it!

Music Break:  Los Texmaniacs and Los Lobos in Austin Tonight! 

Here is what I’m hoping happens tonight. To those going…have fun for me!