See, I told you the bill wasn't dead.
I received a number of skeptical emails when I predicted after the cloture vote that the bill would be back in just a few days. But here we go. Senators McConnell and Reid issued a joint press statement that they have agreed on which amendments to the immigration bill can be offered (22) and the time frame for completion (before the Fourth of July recess).
June 14, 2007
In a surprise move, the State Department has listed all employment-based green card categories (except unskilled workers) as current in the latest Visa Bulletin.
The good news is that it will be possible to file adjustment of status applications before the fee increase takes effect on July 30th.
A few important points to remember. First, retrogression is a problem until July 1st. If you file a case before then, it will be rejected if the priority date is not current for the June bulletin. Second, retrogression could return on August 1st so be sure to file your case in July if possible. And try to get the application to USCIS before July 29th to take advantage of current fees which are much lower than the new fees.
[UPDATE: News agencies are reporting that Bush has endorsed the plan and will support plans to speed money for border enforcement]
Now this is interesting and it's good news. Several Senators who are leading opponents of immigration reform legislation have told President Bush that if the President takes the initiative in getting a supplemental appropriations bill through providing for more funding for border enforcement, they would be inclined to support immigration reform.
According to Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), as reported in Congressional Quarterly, the money would go to
• A fence along the southern border as authorized in last year's fence bill.
• 43,000 detention beds, 10,000 full-time border patrol agents and 4,000 full-time customs enforcement investigators as authorized in an intelligence overhaul law.
• An employer verification system and surveillance technology (as provided in Title III of the Senate bill
Senator Reid spoke at a breakfast this morning, according to a source that was at the event, and said the bill could be on the Senate floor as early as next Wednesday assuming Republicans come to agreement on amendments (which appears to have happened). According to my source, Reid told the audience that it's the House's nightmare to actually get a bill from the Senate. But my sources are telling me that many in the House are eager to get going on marking up a bill.
June 12, 2007
Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the chief Republican negotiator on the immigration reform bill, told CNN this morning that the Republican Senators had settled on 10 to 12 amendments as the number they wished to offer and that they would pick the specific amendments today. The announcement coincides with President Bush visiting the GOP Senators on Capitol Hill today, the first such visit in five years. Bush is expected to push the Senators to get the bill moving again.
Kyl stated yesterday his goal of getting the bill done by the Fourth of July. He got a boost when Democrats were unable to stop a filibuster on a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Gonzales. That means that the Senate will need to immediately move on to the next item on their agenda - an energy bill. That will probably take one to two weeks and it is possible that three or so days can be set aside after that to get the immigration bill finished before the Fourth of July recess.
June 11, 2007
I've received a number of emails saying I'm irrationally optimistic when it comes to the chances for immigration reform passing the Senate and that I need to face the reality that the bill is dead. But one major publication is saying that some others in high places seem to share my view. Bloomberg News Service is reporting that Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, one of the White House's chief negotiators, thinks a bill could be done within days and Bloomberg is also reporting that Senator Kyl is predicting a bill by the Fourth of July.
June 10, 2007
The front page of this morning's NY Times has two stories that show the serious bind facing Republicans. In one story entitled "As Immigration Plan Folded, Grass Roots Roared," Times writer Julia Preston describes how anti-immigrant groups effectively mobilized mostly Republican, mostly white, mostly suburban individuals to shout their opinions to Congress. It is far from clear how big this group is or whether they can influence elections. But they certainly project strength and it is clear they have had an effect on many politicians, particularly Republicans.
Next to this story is one by Raymond Hernandez entitled "Hispanic Voters Enjoy New Clout With Democrats." According to the story,
The debate over immigration has spurred Hispanic leaders and voters to mobilize like few issues in recent memory have. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials has joined with the Hispanic television network Univision on a national campaign to help Hispanic residents fill out citizenship applications and to help those who are already citizens register to vote.
Stephanie Pillersdorf, a spokeswoman for Univision, said the number of Hispanic residents who had applied for citizenship in Los Angeles County alone had gone up 146 percent since the campaign started several months ago.
The story goes on to point out that in the 2006 midterm elections, Hispanic support for Republicans dropped from 44% in 2004 to only 26%. The combination of an expanding Hispanic electorate and a major drop in support proved fatal for many Republican candidates and some are crediting the loss of both Houses in Congress to this factor and not, as conventional wisdom holds, the war in Iraq.
The choice for Republicans will not be easy. While some find it easy to play the anti-immigrant card, many are philosophically in favor of immigration and opposing immigration reform is not easy. This is particularly true for Republicans of the libertarian wing of the party. These pro-business Republicans are suspicious of government interference in commerce and have great difficulty making decisions they know are killing the business community and making America less competitive. I'd put Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani in that category. They were previously very pro-immigration politicians who have suddenly backtracked on this issue because the same voters described in the Preston article are the ones likely to vote in Republican primaries. But winning a primary will be small consolation when facing a Democrat who has a strong Hispanic wind at his or her back. And couple this with the fact that most polls show a substantial majority of Americans are with the Hispanic community on immigration.
Some are speculating the Senate Democrats have made the calculated decision that they don't need to take a bad deal on immigration because the Republicans are digging their own grave on the issue. A lot more Republican seats are up in 2008 than 2006 and the party is looking at further major losses. It could very well be the case that Democrats have the 60 votes they need to overcome a filibuster without the need to swallow onerous provisions pushed by the GOP.
This is not to say that I think a deal this year is dead. Far from it. The White House understands all too well the political dilemma the Times describes. And so do many of the Senate's GOP leaders. They know that they are going to be the ones blamed for the bill's defeat, not the Democrats, and they will likely not pick up a single election victory as a result of that position, but are likely to lose many instead. So I am still putting my money on a deal being worked out and soon.
June 07, 2007
For those of you who don't know what the term means, it's a vote to end debate and get to a final vote on a bill. If you want to kill a bill, you can defeat a cloture motion with just 40 votes. That's the so-called filibuster, though they don't do it with the marathon debates like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart.
Anyway, Senator Reid tried to invoke cloture this morning and was soundly defeated. And he tried again this evening and was just defeated 45-50. Reid has just announced that he is pulling the bill from the Senate floor. He indicated that the bill could still be done in the next few weeks.
My quick take - there's a deal being negotiated behind the scenes similar to what we saw a few weeks ago. I have good reason to believe this is happening, though it's hard to say how long it will take. But it will involve some very important changes to the bill. I would expect that the bill will be back in a week or two. And there will be a negotiation on the number of amendment votes.
By the way, if this sounds familiar, a similar drama played out last year on the amendments issue. And a deal was reached then. It will be this time as well, in my opinion.
He's done the head count and amendments will continue to be accepted and debated. So the bill will likely continue through next week. He indicated that the picture will become more clear by the afternoon.
Trent Lott is giving a really frank speech right now. He's calling the anti-immigrants on the card and saying that the Senate has to get the job done or they should pack up, go home and wait for the next legislation. He indicated that the cloture motion would be defeated and that more amendments will be considered, but in a few days it had to end and then he's likely to support the bill. A major piece of good news on the big picture front, though many were hoping the cloture vote would happen and the bill would move to the House where improvements can be made.
June 06, 2007
Two amendments that would very possibly have derailed the immigration bill pending in the Senate were defeated this afternoon. Senator Cornyn introduced an amendment that would have made it harder for felons to participate in the Z visa legalization program. While that sounds like a worthwhile goal, included in that were people who had reentered the US after being deported (a felony) as well as people who failed to leave after being deported (also a felony). These immigration violations would have knocked a ton of people out of contention. Senator Kennedy introduced an alternative amendment that would have kept most of Cornyn's amendment EXCEPT the immigration related felonies noted above. Kennedy's amendment passed and Cornyn's failed.
Another amendment that failed was the DeMint provision to require Z visa applicants to have health insurance. That one went down largely on party lines.
And a GOOD amendment - the Bingaman provision to get rid of the Y guestworker one year home residency periods - was defeated mainly because it was perceived as being one that threatened the passage of the whole bill.
Several more amendments are expected to be voted on later today.
Greg Siskind, Esq. is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.