Story Summary

Immigration Reform

senators-immigrationEight senators, four from each party, have unveiled a bipartisan blueprint for reform. House lawmakers are also said to be working on a bipartisan immigration plan.

President Obama will not present legislation, but will call for action during a speech on Tuesday (Jan. 29).

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More than 1,000 activists ended their hours-long rally and march through Hollywood on Saturday on a high note after getting word that Gov. Jerry Brown had signed several bills that would ease conditions for immigrants.


Diego Cap, 55, a member of Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, waves an American flag during a march and rally in Hollywood on Saturday. (Matt Stevens / Los Angeles Times / October 5, 2013)

Just before noon on Saturday, a swelling crowd of union workers, immigrants and activists started their march down Western Avenue before turning onto Sunset Boulevard and finally Vine Street.

Oscar Valladares, 34, was heading down Sunset holding a purple “Citizenship for the 11 million” sign. When told that Brown had signed the Trust Act, the father of a 4-year-old rejoiced.

Under the new legislation, law enforcement officials in California who arrest immigrants in the country illegally will be prohibited from detaining them for transfer to federal authorities unless they are suspected of committing a serious crime.

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WASHINGTON — The White House scrambled Sunday to keep congressional negotiations over immigration reform on track, reassuring senators it did not leak details of a draft bill being written by the administration.

White House aides were caught by surprise when details from a draft of an administration bill were published Saturday, and quickly contacted the eight Republican and Democratic senators who have been working behind the scenes to hammer out a compromise bill.

pres-obamaObama’s aides stressed in the phone calls that the president is pleased with the progress in Congress and said the administration had not leaked the details to nudge the process along, according to a White House official who asked not to be named describing private conversations.

“This was not the administration floating anything,” the official said, calling the disclosure “unfortunate” and adding that any draft being circulated to federal agencies would be in its early stages.

Obama said last month that he would propose his own legislation only if the Senate drive stalled.

The furious Republican response to the disclosure — Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the draft bill “half-baked and seriously flawed,” former GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin called the leak “counterproductive” — highlighted how fraught the negotiations have become.

“This raises the question: Does the president really want a result, or does he want another cudgel to beat up Republicans so that he can get political advantage in the next election?” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

McCain is one of four Republicans, including Rubio, in the so-called Group of Eight along with four Democrats who are trying to forge an immigration overhaul.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), another member of the group, said he was not upset at the leaked draft legislation.

Obama “agreed to give us the space we need to come up with a bipartisan proposal,” Schumer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I am very hopeful that in March we will have a bipartisan bill.”

Denis McDonough, the newly appointed White House chief of staff, used previously scheduled appearances on several TV talk shows to contain the political damage.

He reiterated that the White House would try to push its own bill only if the efforts in Congress failed to move quickly.

“Let’s make sure that it doesn’t have to be proposed,” McDonough said on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” adding that the administration is “aggressively supporting” the eight senators.

White House staff have provided technical assistance to the group for three weeks, a Senate aide said later.

Details of the draft bill, which includes an eight-year waiting period before legalized immigrants can receive a green card, were first published late Saturday by USA Today.

The White House did not confirm whether the reported details represented the current version of the draft.

An official who has read the draft said it would allow the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to apply for a “lawful prospective immigrant” visa and, if approved, ultimately become permanent residents.

The bill also would increase customs officers at ports of entry, and expand other border security measures.

The bill would also require employers to develop a system to check the immigration status of new hires within five years.

It calls for hiring 140 new immigration judges to speed up cases and requires the Social Security Administration to redesign Social Security cards to make them harder to forge, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity while discussing internal deliberations.

Those proposals track closely with legislation that failed in Congress in the past, as well as reforms Obama previously proposed.

In 2011, Obama unveiled a blueprint that called for setting an eight-year waiting period for an illegal immigrant to become a legal permanent resident, and an additional five-year delay to attain citizenship.

Immigrant rights advocates described the White House approach as too modest, and said the draft bill would create unreasonable delays for illegal immigrants to achieve legal status.

Gordon Whitman, policy director for the PICO National Network, which represents more than 1,000 churches, called the president’s proposal “too weak” for an opening bid.

-Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama told a group of Senate Democrats Wednesday that Congress must move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, or else he will propose his own legislation on the hot-button topic.

Obama met with Sens. Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet, the four Democrats in the bipartisan group of eight senators who introduced a framework for immigration reform last month. A bipartisan group of House members is also working in secret to craft immigration reform measures.

In a description of Wednesday’s meeting, the White House said Obama “reiterated the key principles he believes must be a part of any bipartisan, commonsense effort, including continuing to strengthen border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable and streamlining legal immigration.”

Those measures are included in the bipartisan framework that was unveiled last month, though that proposal (which has yet to be drafted into formal legislation) would require bolstering border security as a prerequisite to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

The White House has argued that the U.S. border is currently the most secure it’s ever been. Obama made the case Wednesday in his meeting with the lawmakers that “continuing to strengthen our borders and creating a path to earned citizenship that ensures everyone plays by the same set of rules are shared goals and should not be seen as mutually exclusive.”

And the president warned that he “stands ready to introduce his own legislation if Congress fails to act” on a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

In January – at the same time the bipartisan group of senators was outlining its immigration framework – Democratic sources told CNN that the White House had been advising senators and advocates that they were writing their own immigration bill in formal legislative language. The White House rarely writes its own legislation.

By presenting his own legislation, Obama could avoid GOP criticism that he’s disconnected from the process. Even if Obama’s bill failed to win congressional approval, the president would still be able to point to his legislation as evidence of engagement.

Democrats urged the president not to release his own bill in January, fearing such a move would stymie the delicate negotiations taking place among lawmakers in both parties. In terms of substance, sources familiar with both proposals said the border security trigger included in the bipartisan Senate framework was not a part of the president’s plan.

On Wednesday, an aide to one of the Democratic senators said the lawmakers told the president “they remain confident that a bipartisan bill could be agreed to in the coming weeks.”

“The Senators said the bipartisan negotiations were progressing well and that both sides were making progress and working together in good faith,” the aide said.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama called on Congress to send him a comprehensive immigration reform package, saying both sides agree on what measures need to be included to make the system work better.

“We know what needs to be done,” Obama said. “As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.”


Las Vegas (CNN) — President Barack Obama threw his full support behind a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws on Tuesday, saying “now’s the time” to replace a system he called “out of date and badly broken.”

Speaking at a majority Hispanic high school in Las Vegas, Obama said “a broad consensus is emerging” behind the issue across the country, with signs of progress in Congress.

However, he acknowledged a fierce debate ahead on an issue he described as emotional and challenging, but vital to economic growth and ensuring equal opportunity for all.

“At this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that’s very encouraging,” Obama said, later adding: “This time, action must follow. We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate.”

The president spoke a day after eight senators — four from each party — introduced a framework for overhauling the immigration system that would provide an eventual path to citizenship for most of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.

While touted as a breakthrough by its drafters, the plan was similar in many aspects to previous immigration reform efforts that have failed in recent years.

Obama described the blueprint as a sign of renewed desire by Democrats and Republicans to tackle the issue, saying the plan was “very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years.”

He was criticized by Latino activists for failing to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise to make overhauling immigration policy a priority of his first term.

As his re-election campaign heated up last year, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.

Exit polls in November indicated that Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves. Obama won Nevada, a battleground state with a large Hispanic population.

Obama appeared on Tuesday at Del Sol High School, which has a 54% Hispanic student body, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.

The president, in his speech, specified three pillars of immigration reform: better enforcement of immigration laws, providing a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, and reforming the legal immigration system.

To earn the opportunity for citizenship, Obama said undocumented immigrants must first pass a background check, learn English, pay a penalty, and then get “in the back of the line” behind people trying to come to America legally.

Millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in the United States, under the compromise plan crafted by the senate group. That outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers.

Only after those steps occurred could undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence — green cards — as a step toward citizenship, the senators said at a news conference on Monday.

Before Obama spoke on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said any legislation based on the framework he helped draft must include tougher law enforcement sought by conservatives to get his vote.

“We need border security, we need workplace enforcement, we need a visa tracking system,” Rubio said, adding later that would oppose a bill that lacked language guaranteeing that “nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place.”

Rubio and other senators involved in the bipartisan immigration effort said Monday they plan to provide a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, with hopes of getting the measure passed over the summer

A few hours later, Obama said he would propose his own immigration bill if Congress failed to act on the issue in a timely manner.

On the House side, a similar effort on immigration is said to be under way involving a group of Republicans and Democrats.

Two senior House Democratic sources briefed on that effort told CNN the group was working to release some sort of outline of its plan soon, possibly as early as this week, but concede “they are not as far along as the Senate.”

Senate lays out blueprint

The principles described by Obama on Tuesday were similar to the framework proposed Monday by the eight senators.

Conservatives split on reform

Other conservatives immediately voiced their opposition to what they called amnesty, a code word on the political right for providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

“Our immigration laws aren’t broken, they just aren’t enforced,” argued Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, after Obama’s speech. ” … We’ve been down this road before with politicians promising to enforce the law in return for amnesty. And then after the amnesty, they fail to make good on the enforcement promises. The American people should not be fooled. When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah objected to the framework by his Senate colleagues, saying the guidelines “contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to undocumented immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country.”

Rubio rejected such a characterization on Tuesday, saying that the framework would require undocumented immigrants to undergo a background check and face immediate deportation if they committed any serious crimes.

Otherwise, they then would have to pay any taxes owed as well as a fine to get what Rubio called “the equivalent of a non-resident visa that allows you to work here.” An opportunity to get a green card and possible citizenship would only come after the government undertakes other steps, such as increasing border security, he added.

Obama, meanwhile, signaled disagreement with Republicans over the state of border security, saying in his speech that the Southwest border was more secure than ever.

He mentioned steps to crack down on the hiring of undocumented workers, as well as unclogging the legal immigration system to encourage highly skilled and educated workers already in the country to remain instead of taking their expertise abroad.

Democratic senators backing the framework unveiled Monday plan include Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado. On the Republican side were Rubio, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Durbin said Tuesday that immigration reform must have bipartisan support to work, so it won’t include everything everyone wants.

“It’s going to look different than what I might write, or the president might write,” he said.

Like the Senate framework, the House plan will include a path to citizenship, but details of how that will work are still being discussed.

The Senate proposal is a good starting point, Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Florida, said Tuesday on CNN.

“I think it puts us in a very good place,” he said.

A litany of left-leaning advocacy groups spoke out on the senators’ plan, praising it as a good first step but cautioning against harming the rights of workers.

“The people of this country are ready for us to be one country again without second-class people being mistreated simply because they lack paper, even though they are already contributing to our economy and our tax system,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told Yahoo News on Tuesday that his labor federation representing 12 million people will mount a “full-fledged” campaign in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

“We think everybody ought to have the right to work hard and to progress to citizenship,” Trumka said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue has been in talks with Trumka on the issue. He said after Obama’s remarks that American business hoped for changes this year.

“We should seize this opportunity to create an immigration system that serves the interests of our economy, our businesses, and our society,” Donohue said.

In a sign of the heated public debate on the issue, a group of about two dozen protesters standing across the street from the Las Vegas high school waved signs opposing amnesty for undocumented immigrants as Obama’s motorcade drove past.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — One of the largest gatherings to watch the president’s speech on immigration reform was in held downtown Tuesday.

The La Plazita Methodist Church has been a haven for undocumented people since its beginning in 1925.

Jim Nash was at the church with more.

POMONA, Calif. (KTLA) — More than two-thousand individuals in two different ceremonies at the Pomona Fairgrounds clutched family members and flags to achieve a common goal.

After finally meeting all the requirements, everyone in this giant room, every man, woman and child were able to raise their hand with a new-found pride.

To be sworn in as citizens of the United States of America.

Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama rolled into Las Vegas on Tuesday, ready to double down on immigration reform.

After failing to press the issue during his first four years in office, he has made it the top legislative priority of his second term.

Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority of his first term.

Last year, as his re-election campaign heated up, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.

Exit polls in November indicated Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves.

While in Nevada, Obama will press for quick action on immigration reform and share more details about his immigration proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

Washington (CNN) – Undocumented immigrants would be able to seek legal status without first going home under a compromise framework floated Monday by a bipartisan group of senators, according to a source familiar with the plan.

The outline for a possible immigration reform bill reflects a mainstream Republican willingness to compromise on what President Barack Obama calls a top priority of his second term.

However, conservatives immediately voiced their opposition to providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, especially in the Republican-led House.

One House Republican labeled the senators’ plan as “amnesty” — a politically loaded word that seeks to ensure conservative rejection.

Obama won re-election in November with strong support from Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic.

That has caused GOP leaders to seek a deal with Democrats that would provide a path to legal status for many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants — an outcome long opposed by conservatives as amnesty.

“There is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle — including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle — that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Sunday.

“We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that,” McCain told ABC’s “This Week.”

McCain is one of the eight senators proposing the compromise. Four are influential Democrats, while Republicans joining McCain in the effort include tea party backed newcomers Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona — two states where immigration is a major issue.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office was non-commital, saying he looked forward to learning more about the senators’ plan, while conservative Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, rejected it.

“When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” said Smith, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

NumbersUSA, a group seeking to reduce U.S. immigration, called the Senate plan an attempt to “out-amnesty Obama” and said it was activating its 1.3 million members to push for congressional opposition.

The senators will announce their plan a day before Obama speaks in Las Vegas on immigration reform, signaling a major push by both sides to focus on the contentious issue in the new Congress.

Aides say the president’s remarks on Tuesday will touch on the blueprint he’s detailed in the past: improving border security, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and creating a pathway to “earned” citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Those provisions align closely with what the eight senators laid out in a framework of their legislation, which was obtained by CNN on Sunday.

The legislators based the proposal on four “pillars.” These include:

– A “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, after bolstering the nation’s border security;

–Overhauling the country’s legal immigration system, including attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. universities;

–Establishing an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers;

–Creating a guest worker program for positions that Americans are either unable or unwilling to fill.

Democratic senators backing the plan include Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado. Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina rounds out the overall group.

Menendez said the time was right for pushing major immigration reform through the Senate.

“First of all, Americans support it in poll after poll,” he said. “Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.”

A source familiar with how the eight senators came up with the plan told CNN that Graham called Schumer after the November vote to restart work on an immigration bill that broke down in 2010.

Soon, a core group of six senators formed and met five times in the following weeks in the offices of Schumer and McCain, the source said, adding that Flake and Bennet also took part in some of the meetings and were the last to agree to the proposal.

An initial timetable by the senators called for a framework by the end of January, the text of a bill to to the Senate Judiciary Committee by March, and Senate passage by the end of July, according to the source.

The group last met on Wednesday, then worked through some details before Schumer called Obama on Sunday to tell him of Monday’s planned announcement, the source said.

While specifics on border security and legal status for undocumented immigrants need to be worked out, the framework lacks any requirement for people in the United States illegally to return to their home countries before getting a shot at legal status, according to the source.

Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority of his first term.

Last year, as his re-election campaign heated up, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.

Exit polls in November indicated Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves.

Since the election, mainstream Republican leaders and some conservatives such as Rubio, a child of Cuban immigrants and considered a rising star in the party, have called for addressing the immigration issue instead of ceding the Latino vote to Democrats.

McCain, a veteran of failed attempts to address the issue during the George W. Bush administration, said the senators’ proposal wasn’t “that much different from what we tried to do in 2007.”

Obama met behind closed doors Friday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and vowed to “move the debate forward,” the White House said in a statement. Rep. Xavier Becerra , D-California, who was at the meeting, said that Obama had indicated that immigration reform “is his top legislative priority.”