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06/11/13 | Senate Floor Debate Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise

Washington D.C. – Today, the long-awaited opportunity to reform the country’s dysfunctional immigration system moves one step closer to reality as the full Senate begins consideration of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee set a high standard for civility and transparency during its markup of the bill last month, and we urge the full Senate to continue in this vein. The bill that emerged from committee offers a workable plan that takes a balanced approach to immigration reform. Evidence, rather than grandstanding and rhetoric, should drive the debate on the Senate floor. Common sense and good policy can trump political one-upmanship, as long as Senators keep the following principles in mind.

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05/21/13 | Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Pass Immigration Bill on to Full Senate

Mark-Up Characterized by Transparency and Bipartisan Cooperation

Washington D.C. - Today, on a bipartisan vote of 13 to 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, out of the committe and on to the Senate floor for a full vote in the coming days. The Senate committee mark-up spanned three weeks and covered many of the 300 amendments offered on every aspect of the bill. The resulting legislation represents a concerted effort to find a workable and fair immigration policy that makes our nation stronger. 

The following is a statement by Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council: 

“We congratulate Senator Leahy and the entire Senate Judiciary Committee on the spirit of deliberation, collaboration, and transparency that marked the process. Many amendments added during the mark-up will strengthen the bill in the areas of high-skilled immigration, protections for vulnerable groups and due process. However, other amendments, like those attempting to deny citizenship, may have been driven more by rhetoric than reality. In addition, not providing some relief to siblings who face extreme hardships because of their separation and not ending the discrimination against same sex couples legally married in the United States is short-sighted and bad policy. Yet despite these high costs, the overall bill coming out of committee now gives the Senate an important and rare opportunity to complete the task we have been working on for years—passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that finally moves us to our goal of fixing our broken immigration system.

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05/21/13 | Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Pass Immigration Bill on to Full Senate

Washington D.C. - Today, on a bipartisan vote of 13 to 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, out of the committe and on to the Senate floor for a full vote in the coming days. The Senate committee mark-up spanned three weeks and covered many of the 300 amendments offered on every aspect of the bill. The resulting legislation represents a concerted effort to find a workable and fair immigration policy that makes our nation stronger. 

The following is a statement by Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:

“We congratulate Senator Leahy and the entire Senate Judiciary Committee on the spirit of deliberation, collaboration, and transparency that marked the process. Many amendments added during the mark-up will strengthen the bill in the areas of high-skilled immigration, protections for vulnerable groups and due process. However, other amendments, like those attempting to deny citizenship, may have been driven more by rhetoric than reality. In addition, not providing some relief to siblings who face extreme hardships because of their separation and not ending the discrimination against same sex couples legally married in the United States is short-sighted and bad policy. Yet despite these high costs, the overall bill coming out of committee now gives the Senate an important and rare opportunity to complete the task we have been working on for years—passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that finally moves us to our goal of fixing our broken immigration system.


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05/20/13 | Legalizing 11 Million Aspiring Americans

Washington D.C. - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues mark-up of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Committee is expected to complete work on Title Three and then begin considering amendments related to the legalization component of Title Two.

Creating a pathway to citizenship is one of the fundamental principles of S. 744, but many of the amendments offered in Committee appear designed to weaken the bipartisan program put forth in the bill by limiting eligibility, creating more hoops to jump through, and undermining procedural safeguards. The Senate Judiciary Committee should evaluate such proposals by asking what is necessary to achieve a workable plan for legalization of 11 million people—one that ensures the program has integrity, but that is also designed to succeed. The Gang of 8’s proposal is not perfect, but it was crafted with this goal in mind.

Amendments that would deter many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants from applying for or remaining in the program, or that would make it a bureaucratic nightmare to implement, must be avoided. Instead, if we wish to ensure that we are not repeating the mistakes of the past, we must strive for a generous and fair program that recognizes the contributions already being made by undocumented immigrants to this country.

In order to create a successful legalization program, Senators should keep in mind the following principles when considering the amendments offered under Title Two:

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05/15/13 | Bringing Fairness to the Immigration Justice System

Washington D.C. - Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues mark-up of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Committee will complete work on Title Four and then begin to take up amendments related to Title Three, which addresses interior enforcement programs like E-Verify, as well as immigration court reforms and detention practices. We are encouraged to see the Senate take on the structure and quality of justice accorded immigrants who are caught in the enforcement net. The immigration removal system—from arrest to hearing to deportation and beyond—does not reflect American values of due process and fundamental fairness.

The failure to provide a fair process to those facing expulsion from the United States is all the more disturbing given the increasing criminalization of the immigration enforcement system. Over the last two decades, Congress has dramatically expanded the number and types of offenses that may render an individual deportable, subject to mandatory detention for long periods of time and without any opportunity for a judge to weigh the equities of a particular case.  Consequently, even relatively minor offenses can result in a person being detained in immigration custody and deported, often with no hope of ever returning to the United States.

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05/13/13 | Creating a Workable Future Flow Program in Senate Immigration Bill

Washington D.C. - Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues “mark-up” of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Committee will take up amendments related to Title Four, which addresses the majority of non-immigrant, temporary visas including those for high and less skilled immigrant workers, entrepreneurship and innovation programs, and a range of miscellaneous visitor visas. Title Four became one of the most intensely negotiated portions of the Gang of 8 bill, in part because issues regarding the future flow of immigrant workers strike at the heart of broad differences in opinion about how we supplement the American workforce through immigration. 

Inherent in this debate are deeply nuanced questions about the best way to create a competitive business climate that does not undermine worker rights and protections, as well as the need to promote and encourage innovation and growth through immigration.  The Gang of 8 should be applauded for tackling this enormous challenge and crafting solutions that attempt to address these concerns.  This makes the bill significantly different from what was adopted in 1986—when a legalization program went forward without tackling the question of how to regulate the future demand for workers.  

In this section of the bill, perhaps more than anywhere else, there will be disagreement about the best way to achieve a balance in S. 744 as it is readied for debate before the full Senate. In order to develop a smart and fair future flow program, Senators should keep in mind the following principles:

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05/09/13 | Senate Legislative Process Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise

Washington D.C. - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins “mark-up” of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. In an unprecedented move by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Charles Grassley, all amendments have been made publicly available in order to make the process more transparent and inclusive. Although nearly 300 amendments have been filed, the Committee will only take up a limited number over the course of the mark-up. It’s important that the amendments considered are those that really seek to improve and perfect the bill, rather than attempt to undermine it.

The point of a committee mark-up process is to expose a bill to careful scrutiny and debate. It is not the place for political grandstanding. Now more than ever, the Senate Judiciary Committee must use its authority to ensure that the immigration bill is workable, fair, and practical.

The United States needs a workable, efficient, and flexible immigration system that responds to the rapidly changing demands of a 21st century economy, technologies, and migration patterns. People live and work and create in ways that are different than they were twenty years ago, and yet our immigration system continues to operate on a series of static quotas and rigid requirements that ignore advances in every sector of our economy and the way we live today.

Additionally, we cannot wall ourselves away from the world. Many of the amendments that will be offered today will deal with border security and revisit the oft-repeated attempts to build a wall around this country—either through border fencing or by adding layers of national security screenings. We need to do what is smart, secure, and effective for immigration policy, but we should not revert back to the period of fear and suspicion that dominated immigration reform in the last decade. To be clear:

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05/06/13 | Bloated Estimate of Legalization Costs Ignores Immigration Reform's Broader Economic Benefits

Washington D.C. – Today, the Heritage Foundation released a report which attempts to assess the fiscal costs associated with legalizing the 11 million unauthorized individuals living in the United States. The new report is similar to a 2007 study, which was widely criticized at the time of publication and continues to be re-rejected today by conservatives. As such, this report serves as a reminder of why fiscal cost analyses cannot replace broader economic analyses.

The following is a statement by Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:

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04/17/13 | The American Immigration Council Welcomes Bi-Partisan Senate Immigration Bill

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council applauds the “Gang of Eight” Senators who have introduced the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act."  The Senators and their staff have been working tirelessly, for months, to create a bi-partisan solution that attempts to fix our broken immigration system. The Senate is to be commended for having the courage to lean into this difficult issue and bring forth a detailed and comprehensive proposal. In addition, labor and business groups should be acknowledged for their role in negotiating, in advance, some of the toughest sticking points to help ensure a smooth path through Congress. 

In the coming days and weeks as the bill is analyzed and debated, there will be many who criticize both the policy remedies in the bill, as well as the sheer length of the legislation. It is important to keep in mind, however, that developing a comprehensive solution requires striking a delicate balance between a diverse cross section of stakeholders and impacted constituencies. Furthermore, the dysfunctional system that we have developed over the past two decades is in dire need of deep and precise reforms. While there will be fair criticisms of some of the bill’s contents it is important to keep the spirit of the debate productive and to ensure room for compromise. 

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12/14/12 | The American Immigration Council Welcomes Customs and Border Protection’s New Guidance on Interpretation

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council (AIC) welcomes U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) decision, announced yesterday, to stop providing interpretation assistance to other law enforcement agencies.  This decision, which is set forth in new agency guidance that has not been publicly released, reportedly directs CBP personnel to refer requests for language translation to a list of private regional and state interpreter associations.  The guidance does not affect CBP’s authority to respond to requests from law enforcement agencies for other types of assistance.

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