Senate Approves Congressional Gold Medal Bill for Filipino World War II Veterans

Washington, D.C. The U.S. Senate today approved by unanimous consent S. 1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Act of 2015, a measure that would grant national recognition to the more than 260,000 Filipino and American soldiers who served under the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

Introduced in June last year by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), with U.S. Senator Dean Heller (D-NV) as lead co-sponsor, the bill gained bipartisan co-sponsorship of 72 U.S. Senators – a super majority that demonstrates the support needed to merit moving the bill in an expedited manner. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) also played key roles in moving S. 1555 this far.

“Our veterans and their families have been waiting for this awesome news,” says Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret), chair of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP). “They will be very pleased and proud to know that the U.S. has not forgotten their wartime service to this country. We call on the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and finally make this long-awaited recognition a reality for our soldiers who performed their duty with honor and uncommon valor.”

To date, the House companion bill, HR 2737, which was also introduced in June last year by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2), with U.S. Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV-3) as lead co-sponsors, currently has 168 co-sponsors. It is expected, however, that today’s Senate’s action will help build momentum to gather more bipartisan support in the House.

“We are extremely grateful to Sen. Hirono and Sen. Heller for their personal commitment and determination to push this bill through,” says Marie Blanco, FilVetREP Vice Chair. “They championed this very important legislation because they appreciate the urgency of getting it passed this year.”

Blanco also thanked the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over CGM legislation, for “giving the green light to pass this bill by unanimous consent. We are appreciative as well of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), U.S, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) for their leadership in promptly facilitating the approval process.”

Informed of this Senate action, 85-year-old Rudy Panaglima, a Filipino World War II veteran of Arlington, Va. welcomed the news with a sense of joy and relief. “My comrades and I have been waiting for more than 70 years, so I am delighted that we will finally be recognized,” he said. “I can only say ‘God bless America’ for doing the right thing.”

Panaglima is among 15,000 surviving veterans residing in the U.S. and the Philippines. Most of them are in their mid 90’s. They served in the USAFFE as Philippine Scouts, members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Recognized Guerillas.

The Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) is the highest award bestowed by U.S. Congress to an individual or group who performed a significant achievement that has impact in American history and culture.

Learn more about the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project here.

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USCIS to Implement Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

News release from USCIS, May 9, 2016.

WASHINGTON—Beginning June 8, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will allow certain Filipino World War II veteran family members who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole on a case-by-case basis, so that they may come to the United States as they wait for their immigrant visa to become available.    

This parole policy was announced in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century,issued in July 2015. An estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans are living in the United States today. Among other things, this policy will enable many eligible individuals to provide support and care to their aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

“The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program honors the thousands of Filipinos who bravely enlisted to fight for the United States during World War II,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez said. “This policy will allow certain Filipino-American family members awaiting immigrant-visa issuance to come to the United States and be with their loved ones. For many, it will also allow them to provide support and care for elderly veterans or their surviving spouses.”

With the exception of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the number of family-sponsored immigrant visas available by country of origin in any given year is limited by statute. These limits result in long waiting periods before family members may join petitioning U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the United States and become permanent residents themselves. For some Filipino-American families, this wait can exceed 20 years.

Under the policy, certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans may be eligible to receive a discretionary grant of parole to come to the United States before their visa becomes available. In limited cases, certain eligible relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf when their Filipino World War II veteran and his or her spouse are both deceased.

Under the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, USCIS will review each case individually to determine whether authorizing parole is appropriate.  When each individual arrives at a U.S. port of entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will also review each case to determine whether to parole the individual.  

Legal authority for this parole policy comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to parole into the United States certain individuals, on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Additional information about the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program—including guidance on eligibility, the application process and where to file—is available in the revised Form I-131 instructions and the Federal Register notice published today. We will not accept applications under this policy until June 8, 2016.  USCIS strongly encourages eligible individuals interested in requesting parole under the FWVP Program do so within 5 years from June 8, 2016.

For more information about USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov.

Immigrant organizations key to carrying out Obama’s executive action

1121immigrationPlan

Last Thursday, the president laid out his long-anticipated executive action on immigration, which grants reprieve from deportation to an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants, individuals who have lived here for at least five years and have no criminal record. Now, many people will be able to work legally without fearing deportation and separation from their families and communities.

The executive action also expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to include young immigrants—DREAMers—who have aged out; provide visas for foreign nationals who invest in the US economy and those who pursue science, technology, engineering, and math degrees in US universities; and add security personnel and resources at the border. The executive action, however, does not include farm workers or the undocumented parents of DREAMers. Moreover, none of the beneficiaries will receive public subsidies under the Affordable Care Act or will be eligible for public benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid.

Undocumented immigrants who want to request this reprieve will have to submit an application for deferred action, a process that can be demanding and does not guarantee automatic approval. An individual will have to provide documents proving she meets eligibility requirements, complete multiple government forms, pay taxes and fees, pass a criminal background check, submit her biometrics, and then wait to hear whether her application has been approved. The process can be daunting.

A majority of undocumented individuals are low income and will encounter challenges with the requisite paperwork, application forms, and fees. They will have few resources, if any, to secure the services of immigration attorneys. Some will fall prey to notarios, others will hire expensive lawyers they cannot afford, and many will turn to immigrant-serving nonprofits that provide free legal assistance and other social services. These community-based organizations are best suited to help immigrants with the legalization process and, in the long run, with integration into the economic, political, and social mainstream.

An Urban Institute brief on immigrant legal-aid organizations reveals, however, that these nonprofits are few and far between and that capacity is a major issue. Analysis of National Center for Charitable Statistics data indicates that at least 684 nonprofits provide some form of legal aid to immigrants and are dispersed throughout the United States in traditional, emerging, and new immigrant gateways. But the ratio of legal-aid nonprofits to potential undocumented immigrants is alarming.

In the 10 states with the most undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants would have more people to serve than other nonprofits. For instance, in Texas, the ratio of immigrant legal-aid nonprofits to potential undocumented clients is 1 to 41,250. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,916.

Immigrants

As undocumented immigrants start applying for deportation reprieve, legal-aid and other immigrant-serving organizations will bear the brunt of helping these individuals. Aside from assisting in the deferred action application process, these groups will continue providing basic social services, as beneficiaries of the president’s executive action will not have access to free health care and other safety net programs available to US citizens and permanent residents. It is crucial to identify, map, and survey immigrant-serving organizations to determine their capacities and challenges in serving immigrant communities. This information will be invaluable in discovering where the gaps in resources and services are so that they may be filled and that more immigrants can join the mainstream.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends blog. Reposted on the Huffington Post.

Photo: President Barack Obama announces immigration executive action on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at the White House. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool) 

The Importance of Counting Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

Press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a new project aimed at improving health data collection for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The information will be collected through the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

As a way to increase the number of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander households included in the survey, the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander National Health Interview Survey uses the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which collects data on approximately 3 million households in the United States annually.

The Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders National Health Interview Survey will include a sample of approximately 4,000 households. Data collection for the survey begins in February 2014 and findings will be available in the summer of 2015. The data will help public health researchers to produce reports on a wide range of important health indicators for the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population.

“This project represents a significant milestone in our implementation of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities by enhancing the availability and quality of data collected and reported on racial and ethnic minority populations,” said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health. “This unprecedented survey, which further advances the goals of data collection as called for by the Affordable Care Act, will shed important light on the health status of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population.”

CDC’s National Health Interview Survey is the nation’s largest in-person, household health survey, providing information on an individual’s health status, access to and use of health services, health insurance coverage, immunizations, risk factors, and health-related behaviors. The data play a crucial role in monitoring and improving the health of the nation. For example, Healthy People 2020, the set of public health goals and objectives for the nation, uses information from the survey to track progress toward its targets.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders comprise just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, which makes it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys. The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and health care utilization. However, the available data for this population indicates that they experience significant health disparities when compared to other groups.

“CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics regards this project as a major step forward in providing much needed health data about the ethnically and culturally diverse U.S. population,” said Charles Rothwell, NCHS director.

For more information about the National Health Interview Survey visit www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm.

The unexamined element of immigration reform

Now that the government shutdown has ended and the debt limit lifted, President Obama has shifted his attention to immigration reform. He argues that it is imperative that the broken immigration system be fixed once and for all. Considering the bruising everyone just went through, it is hard to imagine lawmakers duking it out over another contentious issue.

Imagine that comprehensive immigration legislation does manage to clear Congress and the White House. Will systems be in place to handle the surge of immigrants who will be eligible for legalization? I cannot speak to the capacities of federal and state governments, but I can begin the conversation on the nonprofit infrastructure that helps immigrants integrate.

The U.S. Senate immigration reform bill that passed last June includes a path to citizenship for a vast majority of undocumented immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 8 million will be eligible and apply for regularization of their status. The process will be long, arduous, and costly. But before they embark on this path, individuals will need, first and foremost, legal assistance in understanding the process and submitting applications.

Unauthorized immigrants, who are mostly low-income, will have few resources, if any at all, to secure the services of immigration attorneys. Many will turn to immigrant-serving nonprofits providing free legal information and advice. A new Urban Institute brief provides an outline of these organizations.

An analysis of data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics indicates at least 684 nonprofits provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. These providers are dispersed throughout the United States and can be found where immigrant communities have settled.

Figure1

 It appears, however, that there aren’t enough of them. In the 10 states with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants would have more people to serve than other nonprofits. For instance, in Texas, there is one nonprofit providing legal aid to immigrants for every 41,250 undocumented clients. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,916.

Table3

In the top 10 states with the largest percentage change in undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants potentially have a larger population to serve compared to other nonprofits. For instance, in Maryland, the ratio of nonprofits that provide legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients in 1 to 27,500. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,182. Alabama is a stark case, where the two nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants could face an estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals.

Table4

This very high ratio of undocumented immigrants to potential sources of nonprofit legal aid should be a cause for concern. Adding thousands of new cases to existing caseloads without substantial infusion of resources—funding and staffing and volunteers—is not a realistic scenario.

The infrastructure for assisting undocumented immigrants with legal issues is very thin, compared to the projected needs. A concerted effort to assess capacity and plan for expansion is required. Further analysis will help identify where and how infrastructure and capacity can be built to prepare for comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime funders and other stakeholders can step up and support this research.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends.

Are Immigrant Aid Organizations Ready for Reform?

(Photo: Flickr/SEIU International)

(Photo: Flickr/SEIU International)

On Oct. 8, thousands rallied at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. then marched to the Capitol demanding that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform immediately. A reported 200 people got themselves arrested to underscore the urgency of the matter, among them union and community leaders and eight Democratic lawmakers including civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis.

When lawmakers finally do attend to immigration reform, a path to some form of legalization will be part of the equation. The Weekly Standard reports, “84 House Republicans have publicly voiced support for granting some type of legal status to the 11 million immigrants here in the country illegally, and 20 others have said they would be willing to consider it.” Legislation that regularizes the status of over 11 million undocumented individuals will be a long-awaited boon to immigrants and their families. But will they have the support they need to go through what will undoubtedly be a long and arduous process?

Immigrants without papers will be required to meet stringent requirements such as passing background checks, paying penalties and fines, and learning English, U.S. history, and civics. They will also have to deal with a complex application process that will require legal expertise and guidance.

Some people will have the wherewithal to hire private attorneys. Michelle Sardone, field support coordinator of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), said however that those without the means will either turn to community-based organizations (CBOs) for help or attempt to file applications themselves. But, are immigrant-serving nonprofits ready to help millions of undocumented individuals and their families through the legalization process?

Constantino Diaz-Duran, a New York-based journalist, wonders himself. He worked as a legal assistant for Hogar Immigrant Services in the mid-2000s, helping Central Americans extend their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Over 300,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans were eligible for TPS — a status offered by the U.S. to immigrants affected by natural disasters in the region — and many turned to CBOs for assistance. As part of a team of three full-time attorneys, a few legal assistants, and an army of volunteers, Diaz-Duran sat with immigrants, going through checklists and forms.

“I would be surprised if they are ready, there are so many people,” said Diaz-Duran. “I do think immigrant-aid organizations need to start thinking of organizing and training volunteers. There will be a huge influx of people. I’ve thought of volunteering myself.”

Diaz-Duran’s concerns are well-founded. An Urban Institute study I co-authored identifies less than 700 nonprofits nationwide that provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. Their limited capacity could not possibly meet the demand for services when immigration reform finally passes. In Maryland, for instance, the ratio of nonprofits providing legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients is 1 to 27,500. Alabama is a particularly stark case: two nonprofits provide legal services to the estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals in the state.

Sardone said CLINIC is preparing its 218 affiliates in 47 states for comprehensive immigration reform. The DC-based organization recently released a manual that offers recommendations from nonprofit immigration experts and “veterans” of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which facilitated the legalization of close to 3 million individuals. It also includes lessons learned from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Sardone and some practitioners view as a test run of immigration reform.

“We are preparing our network,” Sardone said. “We’re telling them to start putting together plans, consider what it would look like in their areas to implement [comprehensive immigration reform].” For some, this means getting recognized and accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to legally represent clients. For others, it means finalizing fundraising strategies or incorporating volunteers.

Other networks are also laying the groundwork. Marita Etcubanez, director of programs at the Asian American Justice Center, points to a convening earlier this year by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the Center for Community Change, which brought together immigration advocates from around the country to share experiences from past reform legislation, as well as to discuss ramping up organizational capacity to meet an anticipated surge in demand for assistance and legal representation.

“There is a great deal to do to prepare, and we will have to work with immigration legal service providers, legal aid groups, other advocacy groups and community-based organizations because we know people will be seeking assistance wherever they can,” said Etcubanez. “We will also have to do widespread outreach and education so that our communities are aware of the changes to the law, have good information about what is available and who is eligible, and know where they can find help.”

Jeanne M. Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, recalled her experience as a law intern working with immigrant communities after the passage of immigration reform in 1986. “Back then, there was a minimal number of agencies and limited technology,” she said. “We jumped in a minivan, drove to local community and health centers, wherever immigrants were, put up our sign, and provided information to people.”

It’s a different world now. There are a whole lot more CBOs working together to prepare for immigration reform. But in 1986, the number of undocumented immigrants was estimated at 3.2 million. Today there are more than 11 million.

Atkinson says nonprofits will face many hurdles. “The biggest issue is funding, they need the money to hire volunteer coordinators and other staff and to upgrade their technology.” She is nonetheless pleased with the preparation nonprofits, their networks and their community partners are taking. “We’re getting ready.”

Immigrant-serving groups better get ready. Comprehensive immigration reform will happen at some point and there will be millions who will turn to community-based nonprofits for help.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds and the Huffington Post.

Immigration Reform Stalls in the House

Immigration art

May 13, 2013; CBS News

One thing that’s certain after the House GOP meeting last Wednesday is that immigration reform isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Republican representatives convened to discuss how to proceed after the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes provisions for what Senator McCain described as “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” stringent law enforcement measures, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

House Republicans are well aware that their party mandarins want them to act in short order and produce immigration legislation, but they are not to be rushed. The priorities of national Republicans and representatives are simply different. Party leaders fear losing the Latino vote in 2016 and beyond, while House members fear losing the conservative White vote in upcoming primaries. (Very few House members have sizeable numbers of Latino voters to worry about. On average, only 10 percent of voters in Republican districts are Latino.)

Any steps taken will be after the August recess, and they will be small. The inclination is toward tackling immigration reform piecemeal, starting with border security, interior enforcement, visas for high-skilled workers, and an agricultural guest worker program. But a path to citizenship, a crucial component of any comprehensive immigration reform bill, is a non-starter for most House members, being tantamount to amnesty.

Some Republicans have suggested an alternative path that leads to “legalization,” not citizenship. But isn’t this just semantics? The Senate bill would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants and, after 13 years or so, allow them to naturalize. The House could pass a bill that “only” provides legal status, but under the current system, immigrants could eventually get green cards and in time, citizenship. The process might be tougher and longer, but it nonetheless ends the same…unless formerly undocumented immigrants are banned from ever becoming citizens.

In the meantime, others like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte are open to providing a path to citizenship for one group of unauthorized immigrants: those who were brought into the country as children. Cantor and Goodlatte are drafting their own version of the DREAM Act, which passed in the House but failed in the Senate in December of 2010.

Immigration reform might still happen. But not any time soon, and not in a fashion as comprehensive as some of us would like.

Originially posted on Nonprofit Quarterly’s NPQ Newswire.

Senate Immigration Bill Summary

The U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill which has been characterized as historic. No doubt passing bipartisan legislation is nowadays, but we really should hold the balloons, confetti and champagne for actual passage of reform through the obstructionist House. That being said, it’s worth going over what the hefty Senate bill holds and Politico provides an excellent summary. Here are the highlights:

  • Border security and enforcement has to be super-sized before undocumented immigrants can get green cards. Provisions include doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and completing 700 miles of fencing along the border we share with Mexico, as well as requiring all employers to verify workers’ legal status electronically.
  • In the meantime, however, some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can gain legal status or “registered provisional immigrant status” six months after enactment of the bill. The eligible ones are those who arrive prior to Dec. 31, 2011, and never left since then; do not have felony convictions or multiple misdemeanors; and pay hefty fines and back taxes. Individuals who were brought to the country as children would be able to get green cards sooner.
  • More visas would be made available for highly educated and skilled foreign workers. Immigrants with “extraordinary abilities” such as professors, researchers, multinational executives and athletes, would be exempted from existing green-card limits. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which randomly awards 55,000 visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S., would be eliminated.
  • Guest worker programs would be set-up for low-skilled workers in agriculture, construction, long-term care, hospitality and other industries. Farm workers already here illegally could qualify for green cards if they remain in the industry another five years.
  • The family reunification program would be upended. U.S. citizens will no longer be able to sponsor their siblings and adult children.

Should some form of this bill somehow survive the House and make it to the President’s desk, it will be far more conservative and limited than it is now.

Immigrant Integration Ignored in Reform Debate

Immigration

June 12, 2013; Forbes

Senators, advocates, and other stakeholders in immigration reform have been dueling over border enforcement, federal benefits and entitlements, the pathway to citizenship, and even gay bi-national couples. The sparring will continue through the House of Representatives soon enough. Howard Husock, vice president for policy research at the Manhattan Institute, correctly points out that missing from the debate has been the integration of millions of undocumented immigrants who will be eligible for legalization should reform pass.

Husock highlights a provision in the Senate Gang of Eight’s bill, which he argues is just as important as more controversial sections. He writes, “The proposed Office of New Americans, designed to encourage what used to be called assimilation (or, in the politically correct parlance of the bill, ‘integration’), will try to use a special commission, public foundation, and some federal assistance to help immigrants ‘join the mainstream of civic life’…there should be broad agreement in any bill that passes that we should seek an increase in the number of immigrants who speak English, and in the number who become citizens.”

Husock realizes that “there’s likely to be dispute about just what that means—and how much should be spent toward the goal,” but he believes that “finding effective ways to realize these goals are far from side issues. Helping to bring the latest—and, in sheer numbers, the largest ever—wave of immigrants into the cultural mainstream will be crucial in defusing what may be lingering anti-immigrant sentiment, even if reform legislation passes.” He contends, however, that government might not be the right agent for the job and that integration is best left to philanthropists and nonprofit organizations.

Indeed, an Urban Institute study of immigrant-serving community-based organizations documents why these nonprofits are best suited to help immigrants integrate into our economic, political, and social mainstream. They are embedded in immigrant communities, are founded and run by immigrants, and know the particular needs of their constituents along with the most effective way of reaching and assisting them.

But will foundations and philanthropists step up to the plate and give adequate funding to immigrant-serving nonprofits that will no doubt be inundated by individuals and families seeking legal and other support services? Adriana Kugler and Patrick Oakford, senior fellow and research assistant respectively, at the Center for American Progress, estimate about 85 percent of 10.6 million undocumented individuals will be eligible for legalization. Community-based organizations are already stretched to the limit as it is. The current version of the Senate bill does include a provision authorizing about $50 million in grants to nonprofits that assist eligible immigrants through the process, but this will most likely be stricken out as the debate continues.

Experts from all sides have made projections about how much immigration reform might cost, even though the details are in flux and passage of legislation is not guaranteed. Nonetheless, we need to factor in how much it would cost immigrant-serving nonprofits, and the philanthropic class had better be ready to loosen their purse strings.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly’s Newswire.

Breaking Down the Gang of Eight’s Immigration Bill

The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” released details of its immigration reform legislation last week, so the Urban Institute updated its earlier infographic comparing the White House’s immigration blueprint to the Senate bill.

The president and the senators are, for the most part, in sync. But differences over a few key provisions have advocates from all corners expressing concern for their constituencies, promising an intense debate moving forward. As could be expected from some quarters, immigration reform was insinuated into the Boston terror attack.

The President prioritizes an immediate path to citizenship, while the Senate focuses first on secure borders and successful enforcement. Under both plans, it will take eligible immigrants about the same amount of time — at least 13 years — to become U.S. citizens. The Senate bill cuts the number of family visas and repeals diversity visa programs, both of which are of grave concern to immigrant advocates. The president’s blueprint includes LGBT families, while the Senate’s bill purposely leaves them out.

The immigration bill is far from perfect and the House of Representatives should be offering their own legislation shortly. We can expect various groups lobbying hard to ensure that the final bill, should there be one, covers their interests. We can also expect the Gang of Eight to fight hard for what the president has characterized as a compromise effort. Sen. Rubio, in particular, has come out swinging. His presidential ambitions, after all, are at stake.
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Originally posted on the Huffington Post.