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President Obama Leads Immigration Reform Debate

By Tatiana - Posted on 25 June 2009

June 25, 2009

Washington, D.C. - Today the President, Vice President, and key cabinet members met with a bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders representing the spectrum of opinion on immigration. The White House characterized the meeting as the "launch" of a policy conversation and "an honest discussion about the issues...identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year."

The President's remarks after the meeting indicate not only his full commitment to moving immigration reform forward in the coming year, but also his desire to shift the debate from inflammatory rhetoric to genuine dialogue. "But what I'm encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now," said President Obama.

As with other major initiatives, the President announced the formation of an immigration working group led by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Secretary Napolitano will work with members of Congress to reach solid, practical solutions.

"Today President Obama moved the ball forward on comprehensive immigration reform and changed the nature of the debate - shifting politicians from finger-pointing to problem-solving," said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. "The President and key leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Senator John McCain, are ready to roll up their sleeves and work on practical legislation that solves our immigration crisis. There will be challenges, as there are in any legislative process, but the public should be reassured that we are finally moving forward in a genuine, bipartisan fashion, on a reasoned and reasonable debate on comprehensive immigration reform."

Obama supports a path for citizenship for undocumented in the U.S.

By Tatiana - Posted on 19 June 2009

June 19, 2009

President Obama this morning backed immigration reform. Speaking before Latino leaders at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference in Washington, Obama said he remained committed to changing the current immigration policies to include a path for citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Statement by Marshall Fitz, Director, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Advocacy

By Tatiana - Posted on 10 June 2009

June 9, 2009

Within a week of each other, the leaders of both chambers (Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid) characterized Congress’s legislative priorities as health care, energy, and immigration.
Of course, the naysayers continue their creative ways. They are nothing if not persistent. First it was the economy: “we can’t dream of doing immigration reform in this economic crisis.” Well that didn’t fly because the American public overwhelmingly believes that our economy is better off requiring the undocumented population to register, get legal, and become full-fledged taxpayers than it would be requiring them to leave. Americans see immigration reform as part of, not a distraction to, our economic recovery.
Next they complained about a lack of commitment: “oh, the President is saying some things to appease the Latino community but he isn’t serious about taking up immigration reform this year – he has too many other challenges.” Well, next week the President is holding a closed-door, bicameral, bipartisan meeting with Members of Congress. His purpose? To hear the skeptics out and convince them as only he can that he is deeply committed to enacting immigration reform and prepared to expend the political capital needed to achieve that goal.
Now the argument is one of bandwidth: “the legislative calendar is too crowded and immigration reform too big a lift.” Well, the party might be crowded, but immigration has just been put on the VIP invite list by the party’s hosts… It’s up to us to be on time and ready to roll once the doors open.

Marshall Fitz
Director, AILA Advocacy

Momentum for Immigration Reform Continues to Build

By Tatiana - Posted on 21 May 2009

Momentum for Immigration Reform Continues to Build
"AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09052030 (posted May. 20, 2009)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sens. Menendez, Gillibrand, Kennedy and Schumer introduce "The Reuniting Families Act" in the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee holds its second Hearing "Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done" The Police Foundation releases a report titled "The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties"
The National Foundation for American Policy releases two studies today: "Common Sense and Common Interests" and "A Commission to Regulate Immigration? A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Not Come" White House announces meeting on immigration reform with Congressional leaders for June 8.

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomes several developments today that signal that immigration reform is gaining momentum!

AILA commends US Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) for introducing legislation today that seeks to restore America's commitment to family unity. The Reuniting Families Act would help legal immigrants reunite with their families and end decade-long waiting times for legal immigrant visas. "This is momentous day for all Americans who understand the dire need for immigration," said Charles H. Kuck, president of AILA. "This important legislation promotes timely reunification of families by recapturing unused visas and eliminating the tragically long family immigration backlogs."

The legislation would reinforce our commitment to families and reduce current wait times in the family immigration system by:

Helping an estimated 322,000 spouses and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents who are waiting in line to reunite with their families by reclassifying them as immediate relatives
Addressing the decades-long backlogs for certain countries by raising the per-country immigration limits from 7 percent to 10 percent of total admissions
Protecting widows, widowers and orphans by allowing them to continue to wait in line for a visa after the death of the sponsoring relative.
Recapturing an estimated 400,000 family-sponsored and employment-based visas that went unused between 1992 and 2007.
Respecting the contribution of Filipino World War II veterans by reducing their children's waiting times for an immigrant visa.
Promoting family unity by allowing more people who are already eligible for an immigrant visa to efficiently use our legal family immigration system.
Providing equal treatment for stepchildren and biological children by allowing stepchildren under the age of 21 to immigrate upon their parents' marriage (current age limit is 18).

In addition to this important legislation, the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee today launched an aggressive effort to press for passage of comprehensive immigration legislation, with Subcommittee Chairman Charles Schumer, D-NY, saying conditions are ripe for Congressional action. Schumer also announced an agenda of hearings for the coming months and said he is "cautiously optimistic that we can pass strong, fair, practical and effective immigration reform this year."

Further, a report released today by the nonpartisan Police Foundation criticized efforts to have local law enforcement agencies enforce federal immigration laws. The group said the report "finds that immigration enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities already distrustful of police."

Also, the National Foundation of American Policy released two studies earlier today. One study titled, "Common Sense, Common Interests," recommends combining fully portable work permits - not tied to a specific employer - with bilateral administrative agreements. The second study, "A Commission to Regulate Immigration? A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Not Come," concludes that creating a commission to establish the annual level of temporary visas and green cards for high and low-skilled workers would result in unaccountable officials with the enormous power to change the law based on little more than their personal preference.

And finally, the White House today announced that it will hold a high-level meeting with Congressional leaders on June 8th to discuss plans for immigration reform.

These important developments all keep the momentum building towards an immigration overhaul that is desperately needed by our country. AILA pledges itself to working closely with Congress and the Administration to make sure that immigration reform moves forward to a successful conclusion in the months ahead!

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

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Obama Administration in Sync on Immigration Dollars and Sense

By Tatiana - Posted on 06 May 2009

For Immediate Release

Obama Administration in Sync on Immigration Dollars and Sense
Administration Laying the Foundation for Immigration Reform

May 6, 2009

Washington D.C. - The Obama Administration is clearly in sync on immigration today, announcing initiatives that pave the way for immigration reform. In a Senate oversight hearing this morning, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, testified about her plans to protect our borders and enforce our immigration laws in smarter and more effective ways. Meanwhile, President Obama unveiled a $27 billion plan for border and transportation security - part of the 2010 budget he plans to present to Congress tomorrow - that will enable the Secretary to do just that.

Secretary Napolitano discussed her plans to use agency resources to round up the most dangerous criminals in this country, as well as work to improve employment-verification systems that are currently being piloted. The President's new budget request supports those plans by enabling Napolitano to hire additional agents and enhance security at air and seaports, expand screening for dangerous criminals in jails, and implement badly needed improvements to the E-Verify system. Secretary Napolitano also notably recognized the human issues at stake in enforcement strategies and signaled her support for the DREAM Act when asked by Senator Richard Durbin to give her thoughts on the legislation.

The President's budget goes beyond smart enforcement strategies to recognize the importance of investing in immigrants. Among the priorities of the 2010 budget is increased funding to reduce exorbitant application fees and improve processing of immigration applications. The budget will also allow for the creation of an immigrant-integration office at U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and provide grants to community groups that help immigrants prepare for citizenship tests and learn English. Additional funding will create jobs for 28 new immigration judges, an important first step in dealing with the long neglected backlog of pending immigration cases.

"We are heartened to see the Administration's emphasis on smart enforcement that targets the worst offenders and most pressing dangers. This is something that has taken a back seat to previous immigration-enforcement strategies that focused on sound bites and symbolic gestures," said Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Law Foundation. "The President's budget will also make critically needed investments in infrastructure that move us closer to an agency that operates in real time, rather than one that is bogged down in bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies. The budget also includes much-needed resources for integration and citizenship programs, as well as immigration courts, where due process and fundamental principles of fairness must be affirmed."

While these initiatives begin the process of fixing our broken immigration system, they must be conducted in tandem with legislative efforts to further reform the system. Until we squarely address the concerns of the millions of immigrants who have no means to legalize their status, reunite with families, and fully integrate into our country, we will fall short of true progress.

All Signs Point to Immigration Reform this Year

By Tatiana - Posted on 04 May 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is encouraged by events of the past 24 hours as President Barak Obama renewed his Administration’s pledge to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) announced its intention to recalibrate its worksite enforcement actions to focus more on criminal prosecutions of employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship led by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), commenced hearings to examine common sense solutions to fixing America’s broken immigration system.

AILA commends Chairman Schumer for sounding the starting gun with an outstanding first hearing. Two expert-laden panels of witnesses made a highly compelling case – covering the moral, economic, business, labor, security and law enforcement angles - for the need to advance immigration reform legislation this year. “The stars seem to be aligning for a major push toward comprehensive immigration reform this year,” said Charles H. Kuck, president of AILA. “Momentum continues to build as more and more of our elected leaders understand that tackling and solving our current immigration crisis will only help strengthen America’s economy and security. The events over the past two days signal that this Administration and Congress get it and will not let this opportunity to finally bring the nation’s legal immigration system into the 21st century pass them by.”

AILA is pleased that DHS is taking steps to restore balance and rationality in its enforcement priorities. Mr. Kuck expressed hopes that the new DHS statement of policy addresses pivotal due process concerns, saying “a retooling of enforcement activities must, first and foremost, ensure the right to counsel of any employees caught up in these actions, and limit or eliminate the abusive practice of transferring detainees away from their communities, families and attorneys. These are indispensable elements of a fair and just system.”

AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09043010 (posted Apr. 30, 2009)