Obamacare or immigration? Recess will test GOP priorities

BY BYRON YORK | AUGUST 5, 2013 AT 5:45 PM

Immigration reform is the most important policy question facing Republican lawmakers as they begin their August break. But it’s not the hottest topic in the GOP political world, not the one that dominates talk radio and the daily debate. That is the move to defund Obamacare.

With immigration, Republicans have the power to determine the outcome of reform legislation that has passed the Senate but still must make its way along a difficult path in the GOP-controlled House. Obamacare, on the other hand, is already law, and Republicans, without control of the Senate or White House, can’t do much to stop the flow of health care subsidies set to begin January 1, 2014.

So the question is, when GOP lawmakers are home in August, will they devote more attention to the issue they can control, or the one they can’t?

For the moment, it appears the answer is the one they can’t.

It’s an oddly topsy-turvy moment in GOP politics. Many Republicans appear to think immigration reform is nearly dead, even though it could well become law if things go as its advocates hope. At the same time, they see Obamacare as something they can still change, even though it is heading inexorably into implementation in the next few months.

“There’s definitely more interest right now in Obamacare than immigration, partly because folks believe immigration has been stopped or slowed,” says conservative radio host Bill Bennett of the calls he receives from listeners. “The passion against Obamacare never subsides.”

There are good reasons for continuing Republican anger about Obamacare. The law was passed over unanimous GOP opposition during a brief window in 2009 in which Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. If even a few Republicans had supported the legislation, the fight today would be different.

But Democrats did it entirely on their own, and some are realizing that the way they passed Obamacare contributes to continuing opposition. “With the battle over health care still raging,” the New York Times’ Robert Pear reported last week, “some lawmakers say they now understand what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said, in 1808, that ‘great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities,’ or enacted without broad support.”

In addition to that perhaps permanent Republican resentment, each day also brings news of some serious problem with Obamacare, lending credence to Democrats who have said they fear its implementation will be a “train wreck.” And adding even more to Republican anger in the states is the hypocrisy of lawmakers who passed Obamacare but don’t want to be subjected to its provisions.

Until last week, for example, it appeared that members of Congress and their staff, who today have generous coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, would be subject to the same treatment as millions of Americans who will seek coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. That was a future Democrats simply could not accept; when they met with President Obama last week, the first thing they did was to ask him to exempt them from their own law. He did, and now members and staff will keep their generous coverage. Everybody else will have to hope for the best.

It’s entirely reasonable for Republicans to be angry about things like that. But GOP activists should also keep in mind what they can change and what they can’t. And at the moment, the thing they can change is not Obamacare but immigration reform.

If August goes quietly on the immigration front, some Republican lawmakers may return to Washington with the sense that voters back home don’t really mind that immigration reform goes forward. And then it will. If, on the other hand, lawmakers hear expressions of serious opposition at town meetings, their conclusion will be just the opposite. And reform will likely go down to defeat.

So Democrats don’t really mind if Republicans use up all their grass-roots energy railing about Obamacare. It’s already the law. What would be a problem for Democrats, and for some pro-reform Republicans, is if the GOP grassroots concentrated its fire on immigration reform. That could well mean the end of President Obama’s top legislative priority for his second term.

Immigration reform won’t be taken up by the House until this fall. But its future will be determined in August, in town halls around America, where Republicans will either voice real opposition to the current proposals, or signal that they will go along. The next month will tell the story.

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Border security faults may be result of poor analysis Homeland Security ignores data it collects on illegal crossings, critics say

By Bob Ortega The Republic | azcentral.com Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:17 PM

AGUA PRIETA, Sonora – Three times in the past month, Paloma Flores Lopez has been caught by the Border Patrol crossing into the U.S. illegally. She’s spent $8,000 on “coyotes,” or guides, to take her across. Now Flores, 26, has to decide: Will she try again?

She knows the dangers. But she says she sees a chance for a better life in the United States that she doesn’t see in Michoacan, where she’s from, or in Tijuana, where she lived briefly before trying to cross in Agua Prieta, where an 18-foot-tall steel fence looms between Mexico and Douglas, Ariz.

So, said Flores, flipping her pony tail, “I have to try.”

As Congress weighs whether to pin immigration reform on reaching a threshold of border security, the measure most often cited would call on the Department of Homeland Security to stop 90 percent of illegal border crossings. Doing that means figuring out how to persuade people like Flores not to try again and stopping others headed for el norte from slipping over the border.

That, in turn, hinges on solid answers to such questions as: How many people actually get through? Where do they get across? When they’re caught, do they give up or keep trying until they make it?

Homeland Security officials don’t fully know the answers to those questions. And the reason, say leading migration researchers, is that DHS officials don’t want to know, and don’t want the public to know, either.

“There is zero interest in that kind of analysis among DHS’ leadership,” said economist Bryan Roberts, who served as the agency’s assistant director of the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation until 2010. “There was no interest when I was there, and there still isn’t any.”

Among the kinds of findings outside researchers are seeing that they say the DHS ought to be examining are:

Three-quarters or more of migrants who set out to cross make it. Even when they’re caught, detained for days or weeks, or deported hundreds of miles from where they crossed, most simply keep trying until they succeed.

Tough “consequence” programs, imposing more and tougher criminal penalties on crossers, are very expensive and don’t seem to be an effective deterrent.
The billions of dollars spent on fences, thousands more agents, and high-tech surveillance have pushed migrants into more remote regions, driving up the number who die each year. But when it comes to stopping migrants or getting them not to try, the fences and agents pale compared with factors such as how the U.S. economy is doing, or how scared migrants are of the drug cartels in northern Mexico.

Over the past four years, more undocumented migrants have left the United States than have entered.

Roberts and several other researchers said that the DHS doesn’t have the answers because it doesn’t jointly analyze data from the Border Patrol, which works between ports of entry; Customs and Border Protection, which works at ports of entry; and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which works across the interior of the country.

Not looking at the big picture makes it harder for the DHS to figure out whether, say, to build more fences or focus on interior enforcement, the researchers said. And there’s little pressure on the DHS to work with outside experts or better analyze its data to figure out what has worked and what hasn’t.

In response to written queries from The Republic, DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard issued a statement last week that “DHS measures success utilizing many metrics, each of which paints a different portion of the overall border security picture and each of which informs tactical decision making.”

Boogaard noted that the Obama administration has made “significant investments in border security” and that “dozens of metrics we use every day clearly demonstrate significant progress and improved quality of life at the border.” Boogaard would not address any specific questions.

Controversial findings

It is clear that the past seven years have seen an unprecedented investment in border security, topping $106 billion. There’s also no dispute that apprehensions, often seen as a rough proxy for crossings, have fallen by 66 percent since 2006. And the Border Patrol, its parent agency Customs and Border Protection and the department they’re part of, Homeland Security, gather reams of data on migrants they apprehend or spot. But researchers say that the DHS and its agencies seem to take a don’t-ask, don’t-tell approach to data that might lead to politically troublesome conclusions.

The immigration bill passed last month by the Senate, now languishing as the House weighs its own measures, would evaluate border security using an “effectiveness rate” based on data that the DHS and its agencies won’t release to the public. The bill would provide more than $46 billion and nearly double the size of the Border Patrol by adding 19,200 agents along the Mexico border over the next eight years, to help the agency reach a 90 percent effectiveness rate.

That rate is meant to show how effectively the Border Patrol prevents illegal crossings. To estimate the number of illegal crossings, the Border Patrol adds up three figures: apprehensions; “turn-backs” (people spotted starting to cross who turned back to avoid getting caught); and “got-aways” (people detected by agents or surveillance equipment but not caught). A 90 percent effectiveness rate means nine apprehensions and turn-backs for each got-away.

The Border Patrol doesn’t release information on turn-backs or got-aways to the public, just apprehensions; and it admits that the effectiveness rate is a flawed yardstick. Among other gaps, it can’t account for crossers whom agents don’t see. And because the Border Patrol works between ports of entry, its rate doesn’t include those who cross illegally at ports of entry, either hidden in vehicles or using false documents.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report last December, published previously unreleased data showing that the Border Patrol’s effectiveness rate for fiscal 2011 was 84 percent. By that yardstick, getting to 90 percent isn’t a huge stretch, noted former DHS official Roberts.

The Border Patrol hasn’t released turn-back or got-away data for fiscal 2012, and hadn’t responded by deadline to The Republic’s request for that information.

Outside researchers say efforts to come up with a better approach to accounting for undocumented migration run smack into Homeland Security’s unwillingness to let academics analyze its data.

Last year, for example, a panel of leading statisticians, economists and demographers at the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study on illegal immigration at the request of Homeland Security. But the DHS refused to provide the panel key apprehension data, such as coded fingerprint figures that would identify precise numbers of repeat crossers. The DHS had demanded that researchers promise not to disclose that data to the public. Panel members said keeping the information classified would impair the quality of their work; they declined, and didn’t get the data.

That study, which included data from Mexican governmental sources and previous U.S. academic studies, suggested that about three-quarters of those who decide to cross keep trying until they make it. Other outside studies have found 85 or even 90 percent make it.

“Almost everybody who really tries eventually gets in,” said Jeffrey Passel, a member of the panel and a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., that studies the U.S. Hispanic population.

The National Academy of Sciences study essentially was ignored in presentations that the DHS gave to the Senate earlier this year during the immigration-reform debate, said the study’s panel members.

They said the DHS was not eager to draw attention to the study’s findings even though it paid for the report. “In a sense, it throws a monkey wrench into the discussions on immigration. I’m totally for immigration reform, but this report would make Republicans giddy and Democrats go, ‘Oh, crap,’ ” said Alicia Carriquiry, a professor of statistics at Iowa State University and a co-author of the study.

The massive buildup in border security may make some difference in reducing illegal immigration, the researchers said. For example, independent research suggests that many migrants who might have tried to cross in the past now look at the dangers and don’t set out in the first place. Those people don’t show up in Border Patrol or DHS data.

But Carriquiry and several other researchers said they’re frustrated that enormous decisions about future spending on border security are being made with little or no reference to research.

“The effectiveness rate is pretty deceptive,” Carriquiry said. “There is a lot of data one could use to get a much better idea of the probability of successful crossing, and those data are being held very close to the vest by DHS.”

Seemingly ignored

Researchers say similar data was ignored in the last go-round on immigration reform, in 2006 and 2007, when a bill passed the Senate but failed in the House. Instead, lawmakers ramped up border security: building fences, hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents, and acquiring billions of dollars in new technology.

At that time, CBP asked the Homeland Security Institute, a federally funded research center, to study border-crossing recidivism and the likelihood of apprehending crossers. The study found that, from 2001 to 2005, when border security and the consequences imposed on crossers were both relatively slight, the likelihood of being apprehended on any crossing attempt was about 35 percent, according to sources familiar with the study. But to this day, that study, completed in 2007, remains classified as “law-enforcement sensitive.”

“The department doesn’t want to release it, and they have the final say,” said Joe Chang, the author of the report and a corporate fellow at what is now called the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. Chang said he worked almost continuously on expanding and updating that study year after year; but all of that work remains classified, too.

It isn’t clear what impact, if any, that study had on the DHS’ border-security strategy during the buildup, which created 652 miles of fencing and pushed migrants into more remote and dangerous areas.

More than two years ago, the DHS promised Congress that it would create a new Border Conditions Index to measure more accurately the impact of the additional agents, fences and other infrastructure on a range of border-security issues. But in March, as the immigration-reform debate got under way, officials told Congress that they couldn’t report any progress on the index. At the time, DHS spokesman Boogaard said that declining apprehension numbers showed that “we’re heading in the right direction.”

Apprehensions have dropped dramatically in recent years, from more than 1 million in 2006 to fewer than 365,000 last year.

Meanwhile, since about 2008, at least as many undocumented immigrants have gone back to Mexico as have come north, said Passel, the demographer, for a net flow of zero.

Other researchers see a stronger flow south. Roberts estimates that, based on apprehension data and surveys of migrants in Mexico, between 250,000 and 270,000 undocumented migrants likely entered the United States last year. By comparison, Customs and Border Protection deported just under 410,000 people last fiscal year.

That balance likely will change, say some researchers, as the U.S. economy slowly recovers. So far this year, the Border Patrol has reported a 13 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal border crossers compared with a year ago, though numbers remain near historic lows. And that rise doesn’t necessarily mean overall crossings are up to a similar degree — because many apprehensions are repeats, the same person is being caught several times.

Out of 365,000 Border Patrol apprehensions last fiscal year, barely half, 183,000, were of people being apprehended for the first time, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the non-profit news organization Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, Calif. The rest were people caught at least for the second time, and 21,000 had been caught six or more times, the center said.

To discourage crossers, the Border Patrol uses what it calls consequence programs. These include more criminal prosecutions, tougher penalties, and moves to make it harder to come right back, by transporting those caught hundreds of miles either to another part of the border or back south to their hometowns in Mexico.

But the programs have proven expensive, and the prosecutions have clogged federal courts. Last year, immigration cases made up more than 40 percent of all federal prosecutions nationwide, according to the Department of Justice. In high-traffic border sectors such as Tucson, prosecutors have had to limit immigration prosecutions to no more than 70 a day.

As a result, many migrants don’t get hit with these penalties. Paloma Flores Lopez, for example, said she and her sister were held 24 hours, then sent right back across to Agua Prieta all three times they were caught trying to cross last month.

That’s common. One recent morning, at the modest Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, less than 100 feet from the border fence, volunteers passed out homemade burritos and cups of coffee to eight migrants, sweating and fanning themselves in a room that has no air-conditioning. One woman hadn’t crossed yet. Five of the other seven had been caught trying to cross at least twice in prior weeks.

“My husband wants me to try again; I haven’t seen him for eight years, since he went north,” said Lilia Garcia, from the Mexican state of Guerrero.

She’d been caught two times in eight days, she said. Both times, she walked at night with a group several hours out of Agua Prieta, crossed the fence, and then headed to Douglas. “I think two times is enough. My husband wants me to keep trying, but I want to go back home,” she said.

Keep trying to cross

Garcia’s inclination to give up is unusual, say researchers.

David FitzGerald, a sociologist at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California-San Diego, is part of a project that since 2005 regularly surveys three towns in central and southern Mexico that send large numbers of undocumented migrants north.

“Consistently, the vast majority keep trying until they get across,” often paying for door-to-door service from coyotes, FitzGerald said. “In our most recent survey, in January 2013, about 85 percent of those who try to cross are getting across.”

At the same time, he says, the surveys show evidence of what he calls “remote deterrence,” people deciding not to set out. The top two issues people cite, he said, are a belief the U.S. economy is still bad (making it harder to find work), and fear of running afoul of the drug cartels that control northern Mexico.

“People aren’t afraid of being caught by the Border Patrol; they’re afraid of physical harm and death,” FitzGerald said. “Fear of crime along the border is the most important fear. The terrible things that have happened are very well publicized even in the smallest villages.”

And people fear dying of exposure or thirst in the desert.

“To the extent that U.S. policy has any effect, it’s based on the fact that our current policy is channeling migrants into remote areas where they’re dying at the rate of more than one a day,” he said.

Their research also suggests that the Border Patrol “consequences” programs make little difference. Even the long bans imposed on migrants who sign voluntary-departure orders, barring them from legally entering the United States for five or 10 years or longer, have little effect, said Wayne Cornelius, founder of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and a political-science professor at UC-San Diego. He has researched Mexican migration for 38 years.

“Factors like family reunification trump fears of incarceration or prosecution. If you have children or spouses in the U.S., that’s going to trump everything else. If you have a desperate economic situation in Mexico, and you can’t feed your family, that’s going to trump any fears of enhanced consequences,” Cornelius said.

“U.S. policy has consistently underestimated the sheer determination, the sheer tenacity of Mexicans once they have made that decision. They will find a way to rationalize the costs and the risks and to borrow the money to make the trip, and to persist until they succeed.”

Where researchers find a deterrent effect, there are significant trade-offs.

Pia Orrenius, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has studied Operation Streamline, a controversial policy calling for criminally prosecuting nearly all undocumented crossers. First-time crossers receive sentences of up to six months; second-time crossers are subject to felony prosecutions and much longer sentences before being deported. That program began in 2005 on part of the Texas border, and the next year in Arizona’s Yuma Sector, but has since been extended to most of the border.

As the policy was rolled out across more and more of the border, the deterrence effect vanished.

“Once most of the sectors implemented the policy, there was no overall negative effect on apprehensions,” said Orrenius. She said that having to serve jail sentences does seem to matter, “but it’s also the most costly for the U.S. government.”

Last fiscal year, the U.S. spent about $2 billion detaining undocumented immigrants, at an average cost of $164 per day per person, according to the DHS.

A study published in May by the Congressional Research Service detailed how aggressively the U.S. government has pursued its consequence programs: In fiscal 2005, more than three-fourths of those apprehended were granted voluntary returns, which allows them to avoid criminal charges. Last fiscal year, fewer than one in seven was granted a voluntary return — with seven out of eight getting some combination of criminal prosecution, formal removal or being transported hundreds of miles from their original crossing point.

Even as apprehensions along the border fell by 58 percent from 2007 to 2012, the absolute total number of criminal prosecutions and other enforcement actions taken against migrants climbed by 60 percent, to nearly 453,000. (Some people were subject to more than one type of enforcement action.)

But researchers continue debating the impact of these programs, with many suggesting that, in the end, they are not proving particularly effective at discouraging crossers.

“Look at it this way,” says Bryan Roberts, the economist. “Imagine if you could triple your salary by emigrating illegally to Canada. … We have a wage gap of at least three to one with Mexico. It’s very hard to fight against that.”

One can hear echoes of that notion in conversations with would-be crossers at the Migrant Resource Center in Douglas.

“It’s hard because one comes to escape from Mexico. There’s a lot of poverty, corruption, narco traffic,” says Ivan Pacheco, 28, from Teotihuacan, in central Mexico, puffing on a cigarette outside the shelter. “I want to get ahead honestly, not by getting on with the mafia. But I don’t see a way to get ahead here.”

Pacheco says he’d like to join his brother in Utah. He crossed nine years ago, in Tijuana, without any problems. Pacheco has been apprehended twice by the Border Patrol trying to cross in recent days. The first time he signed a five-year voluntary deportation. The second time he says he had to sign a 20-year ban. He’d never been in any trouble with the law before, he said. But he sees little choice but to try again.

“I’ve been without work eight months,” he says, with a shrug. “Before that I worked in a paper factory. I earned 700 pesos a week ($55), working six days a week. You’re working to eat, nothing more.”

http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20130715border-security-poor-analysis.html

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A Backdoor Path to Amnesty?

Rob Bluey

July 23, 2013 at 7:00 am

Members of Congress have debated various versions of the DREAM Act more than 30 times over the past dozen years. They’ll do so again today, possibly setting the stage for a backdoor path to amnesty in the U.S. House.
Although no bill text is available — and might not be until after the August recess — a Judiciary Committee panel will hold a hearing this afternoon addressing the immigration status of an estimated 2.8 million illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.
>>> DREAM Act Hearings: 5 Questions for Congress
President Obama, as he’s done often, decided to sidestep Congress last year to implement aspects of the DREAM Act using executive action. The administration deferred, for two years, the removal of certain illegal immigrants.
The issue resurfaced earlier this year in the Senate’s Gang of Eight amnesty bill. And now it appears the House is preparing to introduce its own legislation as part of its piece-by-piece approach to immigration reform.
The House proposal, tentatively called the Kids Act, is the work of two Virginia Republicans: Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Last week, Heritage called on the lawmakers to make text of the legislation available so the public can examine it in the context of other immigration proposals. They said it wasn’t written yet.
>>> DREAM Act: Heritage Foundation Recommendations
Even without legislative language, conservatives know enough about previous proposals to be skeptical. Over the past decade, both Democrats and Republicans have rejected numerous bills mirroring the DREAM Act.
Heritage’s Jessica Zuckerman warned that “Any DREAM Act legislation put on the table this time around is not likely to be different from these very proposals that Congress has tried and rejected in the past.”
To help members of Congress understand what’s at stake, Heritage compiled recommendations and Zuckerman pinpointed five questions that must be addressed at today’s committee hearing. They include:
Would this endanger the lives of children by encouraging greater trafficking across the increasingly dangerous U.S.-Mexico border?
Is the proposal fair to the estimated 4.4 million people who are waiting to come to the U.S. legally?
Would it promote greater family chain migration, resulting in double or triple the number of illegal aliens ultimately receiving amnesty?
What is to prevent DREAM Act legislation from becoming a vehicle for an amnesty like the Senate bill?
What would make this different from the past proposals that have been repeatedly rejected by Congress?
Conservatives should be aware that any legislation passed by the House could become a vehicle for backroom deal-making that ultimately moves the Senate’s amnesty bill to Obama’s desk. That includes a version of the DREAM Act being debated today.

Posted in Local news headlines, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gang of Eight huddles with industry, religious groups on immigration

By Jennifer Martinez – 07/16/13 07:13 PM ET

Members of the Gang of Eight encouraged a group of industry lobbyists and representatives from religious groups during a Tuesday meeting in the Capitol to keep putting pressure on the House to act on immigration reform, according to people familiar with the meeting.

During the roughly one-hour huddle held in the Capitol’s Mansfield room, the senators voiced concern about the uncertain path forward on immigration legislation in the House and opposition against immigration reform efforts voiced by some House Republicans based in conservative districts.

The senators encouraged the industry representatives and other immigration supporters to make sure House Republicans hear positive messaging in favor of passing immigration legislation when they’re back in their home districts during August recess, people familiar with the meeting said.

The meeting attendees included lobbyists from the tech, travel and hotel industries, as well as representatives from religious groups. Lobbyists for Intel and Microsoft were in attendance, as well as Rob Jesmer, the campaign manager for FWD.us, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new advocacy group.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, a supporter of immigration reform, was also in attendance.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was not present at the meeting.

The Senate passed the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration bill last month, but so far House GOP leadership has yet to decide on how it plans to tackle the issue.

Source:
http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/311517-gang-of-eight-huddles-with-industry-religious-groups-on-immigration

Posted in Protect American Jobs, Secure the Borders | Leave a comment

Sen. Sessions to YRC: Immigration Reform ‘Sure Doesn’t Sound Like a Policy a Smart Party Would Advocate’

By Charles C. W. Cooke
Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions, who has been among the most vocal critics of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill put together by the Senate’s Gang of Eight (which Sessions sardonically refers to as the “the magnificent Eight”) addressed attendees at the 2013 Young Republican Convention this evening, telling them that he wanted to share his ideas for “what the Republican party needs.” Speaking in an aircraft hanger adjacent to the decommissioned USS Alabama, Sessions drew a clear and damning line between the increased importation of low-skilled workers that the Senate bill would effect, and stagnating wages and high unemployment for current Americans. “The media and corporations have decided what we should do,” he said. “In the course of this debate, we’ve heard from voices that to survive Republicans must forget the idea of lawfulness.” But, he countered, that ”sure doesn’t sound like a policy a smart party would advocate…No political party has as its aim to lower wages.”
This was a key theme of his speech. For Sessions, the question is not how the House should modify the Senate’s bill but with how much force it should kill it. Although open to moderate changes to the status quo – starting with a genuinely secure border – the senator rejected outright the claim that Republicans must acquiesce to the Senate’s desired reform package in order to stay electorally viable. On the contrary, Sessions argued, Republicans should fight for the working class that the Democrats have abandoned. That is the way back to power. Sessions recently told NR that:
If Republicans do the right thing, they will not only turn the immigration debate on its head but will begin the essential drive to regain the trust of working Americans.
Those Americans, Sessions argued, have seen their wages drop constantly since 1999. 4.3 million more of them are out of work, and 20 million more are on food stamps. And, “if you seek to improve the lives of lower wage Americans,” Sessions suggested, “you’re looking at Hispanics and African-Americans.” And “someone needs to start listening and responding to the middle class.”
How can we vote for a bill, he asked, “that our CBO says will reduce average wages in America for twelve years, and reduce GNP growth — on a per capita basis — over 25 years?” Instead, “we must craft an immigration policy that serves the people of the United States,” not “the special interests.” The White House has built an entire campaign around the idea that they care more, Sessions noted, before asking how this bill could be squared with that idea of “compassion.” In response, the senator proposed that the Republican platform should include a line promising that, “We will promote an immigration policy that serves the American worker and the American taxpayer.”
Millions of people “including immigrants” are “rightly worried” about the status quo, he concluded. “We need wages to go up” so that “benefits can go away.” The influx of cheap labor will make that impossible, and also prevent the GOP from convincing low-income Americans that it cares about them, rather than “Wall Street.” In making his case, Sessions cited NR’s Rich Lowry, Thomas Sowell, Peter Kirsanow, and Victor David Hanson.
So, what sort of bill does Sessions want? “We are a nation of immigrants,” he accepted. We need a system that is “good, compassionate, lawful and serves our national interest…We need an immigration policy that serves our workers, and the rule of law.” This will require “discussion with [the Republican] coalition,” Sessions conceded, dryly.

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Rep. Tom Cotton: The new anti-amnesty leader in the House

BY CONN CARROLL | JULY 12, 2013 AT 11:15 AM

It is not every day that an op-ed against giving citizenship to illegal immigrants appears in The Wall Street Journal. But that is exactly what happened Thursday when Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., published a piece in The Journal titled, “It’s the House Bill or Nothing on Immigration.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan veteran also gave a presentation to the House Republican Conference Wednesday, and he has reportedly been working behind the scenes to educate his conservative colleagues on the issue for some time.

Last Winter, Cotton authored a separate op-ed for The Journal on former-Sen. Chuck Hagel’s, R-Iowa, Defense Secretary nomination, and the paper’s opinion page editor’s apparently reached out to him for his thoughts on the Senate immigration bill. The Washington Examiner interviewed Cotton Thursday in his office. A partial transcript is below:

WE: How did your presentation go at the conference meeting yesterday?
Cotton: I thought it went well. I think there is consensus in our conference that it is not just the Senate bill that is the problem, but the Senate approach that is the problem. Legalization first, enforcement later, maybe, probably never.
I was making the case not just against the Senate bill but also against the approach. As long as Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid insist on the approach, we are not going to have an immigration bill.
So why are we going to conference?
We passed a Keystone pipeline bill three or four weeks ago, if they pass a bill saying the Keystone Pipeline will not be built why would we go to conference on that?
I felt that the room was largely supportive.

WE: So what do you think will happen next?
Cotton: I don’t know. We’ve passed five bills in committee, four Judiciary Committee bills and one Department of Homeland Security bill, which on its own terms I think has a lot of merit. But again, if we pass those bills then they could be used as a Trojan Horse to go to conference where we are going to have the approach of the Senate, I’m not sure I could even support those bills, either on the merits or procedurally.

WE: If you were quarterbacking the House Republican caucus, what would you do next. What should House Republicans do next?
Cotton: I would say we are not going to go to conference with these bills unless the Senate agrees to drop its legalization first approach. We will take these meritorious bills we’ve passed through committee and we will send them to the Senate, just like we sent the Keystone Pipeline bill to the Senate. And if they want to abandon that fatally, irrevocably flawed legalization first structure, and take up bills that will actually give the American people confidence that we are going to secure our border, and enforce our immigration laws, they can take these bills up. And we’ll consider any amendments they have. Otherwise, Check Schumer and the Democrats have killed immigration reform.

WE: What if they did put security first, would you be open to legalization?
Cotton: There has to be security in place and actually effective. We have to see a fence in place actually stopping illegal immigration.

WE: What if they wrote a bill that said, ‘In three years, we will have new fence in these places, and E-Verify will be up and running, and if those to things are met, then legalization.’ Could you support that?
Cotton: Not in that bill. There has to be enforcement in place, working, so the American people can see it working, and its like physical objective enforcement. Not programs, or milestones, or strategy or anything else. Enforcement in place. And then once it is in place, and it has been demonstrated to be effective, then at that point.

WE: Sounds like that would have to be a separate bill?
Cotton: Yes. Separate vote in a separate conference.

WE: How is this playing in Arkansas?
Cotton: We’ve had 1800 contacts to the office via email, phone, letters, and only 12 of them have supported the Senate approach. Arkansans, like I think most Americans who don’t live inside the elite Washington DC bubble, don’t trust their government to enforce immigration laws. And they don’t think that we should reward lawbreakers while our border is still open and we’re not enforcing our immigration laws. Because they know we will have exactly what happened in 1986. Chuck Schumer will defund the law in the next Congress, the ACLU will tie it up in court like they did with the 86 bill, the administration will use its hundreds of waivers and exception authorities, or Barack Obama will just not enforce it, just like he didn’t even enforce his own namesake legislation.

WE: Have you down any town halls and does this issue come up at all?
Cotton: Not specifically on the issue. Last week, on July 3, yeah the day before the 4th of July, I was in Hot Springs, we probably had about 100 people, and I think 25 people brought it up, all opposed. I had two takeaways from that fact: 1) not many people brought it up, because not that many people view it as a priority. They worry about economic growth and job creation, because we still have tens of millions of Americans unemployed. 2) for those who do view it as a priority, they are staunchly opposed to the Senate approach.

WE: Given how Arkansans feel about it, how do you think Sen. Mark Pryor’s, D-Ark. vote will play in the state? Do you think that is going to hurt him in 2014?
Cotton: I won’t make an assessment of the political fallout for 2014, I will just say that all the contacts we’ve received, virtually all, over 99 percent, are against the Senate approach. The Republican Senator from Arkansas, John Boozman, voted against it. He voted against its consideration at the outset and I think he is right where most Arkansans are.

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Boehner: Border Security First

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:43 p.m. July 8
Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters Monday that border security will come before legalization.

“The American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system,” the Ohio Republican said.

Conservatives have complained that the Senate’s immigration bill would effectively legalize the 11 million people estimated to be in the United States illegally before new border security measures are implemented.

But Boehner also said the House will act on immigration, and noted he will talk with the Republican Conference to chart a path forward.

“We’re going to have a conversation with our members Wednesday on how we would move ahead. We have a broken immigration system. We have undocumented workers here in record numbers. We just can’t turn a blind eye to this problem and think it’s going to go away. It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.”

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