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Press conference speech Feb. 21st. 2013
My name is Billy Lawless. Chairman Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform.
I am an Irish immigrant and a business owner and I am here to tell you today that immigration is good for business and good for our economy.
I would like to commend the Senate Gang of 8 and the President for recognizing the value of immigrants to our economy and for their call for comprehensive immigration reform.
Immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in this country would generate $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Compare that to the cost of mass deportations which would cost us $2.6 trillion!!
Deporting all undocumented immigrants in Illinois would cost $11.4 billion in economic output, and nearly 120,000 jobs!
Immigration reform means a reliable legal workforce and an even playing field: Legalizing immigrant workers would protect honest employers from being undercut by unscrupulous competitors seeking to drive down wages by hiring undocumented workers. Immigration reform would also assure employers that our workers are legally authorized, and would not be subject to raids or enforcement actions.
Senator Durbin has long led the fight for Immigrant injustice, 12 years since he first introduced the Dream Act. I now call on his colleagues in Congress and in particular the Senate Gang of 8 to make sure that as many of the 11 million undocumented as possible are included in any immigration reform bill but of course excluding those with serious criminal backgrounds. We need to bring workers out of the shadows, not create another sub class by legalizing some and not others.
30% of the undocumented in this country are non hispanic and that figure includes thousands of Irish who are here paying taxes, starting businesses and raising families. I ask our legislators to please include everyone in this reform bill and do not exclude men and women who want a fair shot at contributing to the life of this country. The Irish were very active in the recent Drivers license bill which was recently passed into law in Illinois.
Look at this tie I am wearing of President Lincoln. I went to see the film "Lincoln" last week. All about the abolition of slavery. President Lincoln stood his ground against the terrible abomination of the Black slavery and introduced the 13th amendment.
He righted a terrible wrong to a down trodden people.
Today our Congress needs to stand up and finally fix our broken immigration system.
Don't forget at one stage we were all Immigrants.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signs historic drivers' licenses bill into law
Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn presided over a packed room in a south side Chicago immigrant center on Sunday January 27, when he signed into law a much vaunted bill that will provide temporary drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants in his state. An impressive who’s who of Illinois politicians joined him on stage in support of the move and to express solidarity with the immigrant population, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Senate President Cullerton, Asst. Majority leader Acevedo ,Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Latino Caucus Co-Chairs Tony Munoz and Toni Berrios and Representative Lisa Hernandez.
Governor Quinn lauded those who worked on the bill and welcomed its arrival on his desk stating that Illinois was a leader in immigrant rights and a model for other states to follow. Illinois also passed the DREAM Act in 2010, which makes it possible for young people, brought here illegally by their parents when they were children, to secure a work permit. The Governor added that the President should be proud of his home state’s record on immigrant rights as he prepares to tackle comprehensive immigration reform in Washington DC this year.
Mayor Rahm Emmanuel also took to the stage to thank all those involved in bringing the bill past the finish line and spoke of his own immigrant grandfather coming to Chicago to escape anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe at the turn of the last century. He spoke of America being a nation of dreamers, a nod to the term used to describe the high school children eligible for the DREAM Act, and added that all of those who came to these shores did so with the dream that their children would better off than they. “Only in America are these things possible” he retorted. He also reaffirmed his own commitment to keeping Chicago one of the most immigrant friendly cities in America and acknowledged the city’s open door policy to immigrants whether they hail from Ireland or Mexico.
The Irish were represented in the front row by Billy Lawless Chairman of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform; he was accompanied by fellow Celts board members Cyril Regan and Breandán Magee. The Chicago Celts played a pivotal role in the bill’s passage and joined forces with other immigrant groups to form a strong and formidable coalition that garnered bipartisan support in the legislature. Regan and Magee spent the final two days before the vote in the House of Representatives in Springfield pressing legislators to support the historic piece of legislation. The vote count was tight up until the final hour and in a last ditch effort from all involved, including the Celts, key legislators swayed from hard no’s to the yes camp. The bill, which had earlier passed the Senate, cleared the House by 65 to 46 votes.
Asked about the Irish voice in the debate Celts Chairman Billy Lawless poignantly noted “The Irish have once again played an instrumental role in a key piece of legislation, which will directly benefit the 5000 Irish undocumented living in Illinois who up to now could not get a driver’s license.” He went on to add “the key to our success in Illinois was strength in unity with our immigrant cousins from other countries…we made key alliances and spoke with one voice and in the end we prevailed. Illinois is once again a model for the nation and other states on how to move things forward.”
The bill allows any immigrant in Illinois to secure a temporary visitors’ driver’s license (TVDL) if he or she can provide proof of residency in Illinois for the last year, a valid passport or consular ID and pass all road tests. The license will cost $30 but will appear somewhat different to the regular IL driver’s license; they will be colored purple as opposed to the red of regular licenses. The TVDL already exists for foreign nationals who are here on student visas or temporary work visas. It will not be valid for proof of identity to board a plane or enter a federal building and will be marked “not valid for identification”. It can however be used as a bond card in the event that the holder is pulled over by a police officer and given that it is the same TVDL available to foreign students and visa holders law enforcement cannot assume that the holder is undocumented. The licenses will prevent drivers from being incarcerated for not having a license if pulled over, which will in turn reduce the number of families torn apart by deportation. They will be made available October 1, 2013.
The Secretary of State estimates that the new licenses move will cost $800,000 in its first year but even if only 30,000 of the estimated 250,000 undocumented drivers in Illinois apply and pay the $30 fee, the initiative will be revenue neutral and may even turn a profit. This was a key provision for many lawmakers concerned about the dire fiscal problems faced by the state of Illinois.
Proponents of the bill see its passage as a precursor to immigration reform at the national level, which is picking up steam as we speak. Today, Monday January 28 a group of eight Democratic and Republican senators unveiled their plans for comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the shadows. While a drop in the ocean such moves would also affect the 50,000 Irish men and women who find themselves in immigration limbo.
President Obama, buoyed by his recent electoral success and ready to expend some of his political capital, will announce his own plans for immigration reform in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He promised such moves in his first term but was unable to deliver, however the stage is now set for real progress on the issue. Both parties recognize the growing importance of changing demographics and the Latino vote, but none more so than the Republicans who lost the Latino vote by 70 to 30 in the recent presidential run-off. They understand only too well that the White House may evade them again if they do not appeal more to Latinos who currently find the GOP a cold house for their interests.
As the debate moves to Washington DC the Irish and the Chicago Celts have their sights firmly set on immigration reform but with an added element: namely the E3 visa. The hope is to add the E3 bill, modeled after a similar E3 visa for Australia, to any immigration reform bill. The E3 visa for the Irish would be a reciprocal visa that would allow up to 10,000 Irish nationals the chance to come to the USA to work for up to two years. The visa would be renewable after two years and would include a three-tiered educational requirement for applicants. The visa would be available to those with a high school diploma, a vocational qualification or a third level degree. The Irish government has firmly stood behind the E3 and the bill has strong support on the Hill among friends of Ireland. There has never been a better time to push forward with comprehensive immigration reform and the Irish are poised to once again punch above their weight in this debate.
Bipartisan group of Illinois business heavyweights launches
the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) at event co-hosted by Mayor
Rahm Emanuel and Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
Bipartisan group announces plan to
recruit 1,000 small businesses and 300 CEOs to support immigration reform
that rebuilds economy, meets business needs, and provides path to legal status
Chicago, Illinois — Over 200 Illinois business
and civic leaders came together on April 1, 2013 to launch the Illinois
Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC), a group of bipartisan business leaders,
business groups, trade associations, and immigrant rights groups to reach both parties in Congress to promote the passage of common sense immigration reform. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Doug Oberhelman,Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. co-hosted the event at the Ann &
Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
IBIC will use its influence to promote immigration reform that
will provide Illinois companies with
both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent that they need, and promote the integration
of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs with a
path to legal status and full citizenship.
Caterpillar Inc., a Fortune 50® company headquartered in Illinois, is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives.
“People are really the only competitive advantage we have, whether it is a city, country or a company,” said Mr.Oberhelman, who is a member of the IBIC Steering Committee and Chairman of the National Manufacturers’ Association.
“Today, we have gaps in our workforce. We have trouble filling highly-skilled positions like engineers and scientists.
also have trouble filling many lower-skilled positions. We need common-sense
immigration reform and we need it now. We want the best and brightest working
for us—that’s how we compete, how we can strengthen our communities and our
“It’s time to put partisanship aside
and focus on the economic contributions that
immigrants have made throughout our history. We all agree that immigration
doesn’t just promote our values; it creates value for our businesses, our
residents and our communities and I want to thank the Illinois Business
Immigration Coalition for demonstrating that what is ethically right for
Chicago’s families is also economically smart for our businesses and residents,”
said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Lurie CEO Pat Magoon, also a member of the IBIC
Steering Committee, noted that hospitals are perfect examples of businesses
that depend on both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants. "All children
deserve equal access to quality healthcare,” said Mr. Magoon, “regardless of
their race, ethnicity, or immigration status. We need to work together to
enhance access while creating opportunities to develop a workforce that matches
the diverse populations we serve."
According to a study released by the
Immigration Policy Center and Center for American Progress, comprehensive
immigration reform will stimulate the U.S. economy in the following ways:
The benefits of additional GDP growth would be
spread broadly throughout the U.S. economy, but immigrant-heavy sectors such as
textiles, electronic equipment, and construction would see particularly large
The higher earning power of newly legalized
workers would mean increased tax revenues of $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in
the first three years.
Higher personal income would also generate
increased consumer spending—enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs in the
Experience shows that legalized workers open
bank accounts, buy homes, and start businesses, further stimulating the U.S.
IBIC Co-Chair and Former President, Chairman
and CEO of Corn Products International Sam Scott said, “In business, we don’t
always do something just because it’s the right thing to do – we do it because
it is the economically sound thing to do. Common sense immigration reform
happens to be both the economically sound and the right thing to do.”
Mark Segal, CEO of The Habitat Company, Chair
of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee and IBIC
Steering Committee member, said, “By coming to the United States, immigrants
create not only opportunities for themselves, but for those already here.”
According to a 2013 Fiscal Policy Institute
report that looked at 25 metropolitan areas in the U.S., immigrants are
responsible for 20% of economic output and make up 20% of the population in
those areas combined.
“Immigration reform is no longer an option,
it’s a necessity for our local economies to once again prosper,” said Raul
Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project and Co-Chair of IBIC. “We need to
stop destroying the social fabric that has made this country great and build on
its legacy as a nation of immigrants. This has never just been a moral or
social justice issue, it has always had economic implications as well. IBIC is
a unique alliance of businesses and immigrant advocacy groups that will pave
the way for legislators to finally make immigration reform a reality.”
John Rowe, Chairman Emeritus of Exelon
Corporation, and Dave Bender, Executive Director of the American Council of
Engineering Companies of Illinois, are also Co-Chairs of IBIC.
The IBIC Steering Committee also includes trade
associations such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, the Chicagoland
Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois
Restaurant Association, the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, the
Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC), and the Illinois Hospital
Association; corporate leaders including Greg Brown, Chairman and CEO of
Motorola Solutions, Norm Bobins of Norman Bobins Consulting LLC, and Martin
Cabrera of Cabrera Capital Markets; and university leaders including Chris
Kennedy (Chairman of the Board of Trustees) and Robert Easter (President) of
the University of Illinois, Father Dennis Holtschneider, President of DePaul
University; Donna Carroll, President of Dominican University, John Anderson
(President) and Alan Cramb (Provost) of IIT; and Ellen Rudnick, Executive
Director of the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at The University
of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Congressman Gutierrez backs the Irish
By Breandán G. Magee
Congressman Luis Gutierrez added his voice again to a growing number of bi partisan politicians who support comprehensive immigration reform. Gutierrez met with Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform Chairman Billy Lawless at a rally on Sunday for immigration reform and also reiterated his support for the Irish in any future bill. Illinois senators Durbin (D) and Kirk (R) have already signed on to a bipartisan senate bill that lays out the framework for the Irish E3 visa. The E3 is a reciprocal two-year, renewable work visa between Ireland and the USA that is modeled after a similar Australian visa. The Chicago rally organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights kick started the Illinois campaign for immigration reform at the federal level.
Lawless speaking after the meeting with the lawmaker added, ”Congressman Gutierrez is one of the leading members of the Hispanic caucus in the House and one of the biggest proponents of immigration reform nationally … and he fully supports the Irish in our push for a comprehensive deal.”
Immigration reform is center stage again politically after marauding in the wilderness for the last few years. In the post election regrouping of both parties talk of earned citizenship is no longer taboo but a real possibility touted by both parties. The ominous-sounding, bipartisan ‘gang of 8’ senators lead by
Senators Durbin and Mc Cain have put forward a plan for immigration reform that will put up to 11 million people including 50,000 Irish men and women on a path to citizenship.
The plan mimics a proposal put forward by the President that calls for fines, payment of back taxes, learning English and passing a background check prior to legalization. The two proposals also call for tougher security along the border and penalties for employers who willingly hire unauthorized workers.
As the fight for immigration reform heats up the Chicago Celts will head to the Senate hearings in Washington DC this week to meet with key legislators to champion the Irish voice in this debate and to ensure the 50,000 Irish undocumented are included in any reform deal.
Overhauling Immigration Law: A Brief History and Basic Principles of Reform
By Mary Giovagnoli
For more than a decade, efforts to systematically overhaul the United States immigration system have been overshadowed by other events—from foreign wars and national security concerns to the financial crisis that threatened to bring down the world economy. In addition to this ever-changing list of national crises, years of partisan political fighting and the resurgence of a volatile restrictionist movement that thrives on angry rhetoric have made opportunities for advancing genuine reform few and far between. As a result, many in both parties opted for a political strategy that emphasized immigration enforcement over immigration reform, holding to the argument that efficiently deporting non-citizens would reduce illegal immigration and pave the way for more sensible outcomes in the future. Instead, the unprecedented spending on immigration enforcement, the extraordinary rise in deportations, the passage of state anti-immigrant laws, and the almost daily anecdotes of separated families and discrimination finally took their toll. Voters signaled in the 2012 federal elections that they were tired of enforcement-only immigration policies and the senseless pain they caused. Now more than ever, the opportunity to craft immigration laws that reflect American values and needs is a distinct possibility. The White House, Members of Congress, and countless organizations have issued new ideas and principles for making the system work. These proposals vary and will likely change even more as proposals translate into legislation, but there are a number of common themes that exist. This paper lays out an overview of the underlying legal system, the most basic principles of reform, the reasons behind them, and how they are likely to be reflected in coming legislation.
The Immigration and Nationality Act in a Nutshell
Although Americans routinely acknowledge that the United States is a nation of immigrants, the system of laws that govern who can immigrate, who can visit, who can stay, and under what conditions is largely unknown to most people. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952 is a complex and often confusing collection of laws that does everything from setting forth qualifications for naturalization to regulating foreign students to managing temporary workers to authorizing humanitarian protections such as asylum and refugee admissions. The INA also contains quotas or limits on the number of legal immigrants who may come to the country each year, numbers which were last adjusted in 1990. In addition, the INA has authorized “relief” from deportation over the years. Providing relief through various laws allowed an individual to make the case that he or she should be permitted to enter or remain in the United States, despite being in violation of immigration laws, based on family unity, contributions to the community, or other humanitarian concerns. Similarly, the INA has been amended numerous times both to expand access to the United States (based on characteristics of immigrants such as country of origin, occupation, and humanitarian factors) and to restrict access (based on criminal convictions, occupations, or political affiliations). Critics of these amendments routinely argue that we are either too generous or too restrictive in whom we allow to enter and remain in the United States, setting the stage for political arguments that have little to do with immigration itself and far more to do with issues of race, economics, culture, and identity.
What kinds of events prompt changes in immigration law?
Immigration reform is often fueled by other aspects of social change when the American public realizes that immigration law lags behind other social reforms. For instance, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, the 1965 amendments to the INA eliminated biases in the law that favored European immigrants over all others. Following the refugee crises brought on by the Vietnam War, Congress enacted refugee and asylum provisions in 1980 that brought the United States into compliance with international standards of refugee protection. In 1986, driven by increased unauthorized immigration and few means to control it, Congress created a trade-off—legalization of approximately three million unauthorized immigrants in exchange for requiring all workers to establish their eligibility for employment in the United States.
By 1996, when unauthorized immigration was still not in check, many in Congress blamed the more generous provisions of the INA for the problem. As a result, lawmakers, led by then-House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), enacted a harsh new immigration removal scheme that eliminated or restricted many forms of relief, required mandatory detention and removal for many immigration violations, and authorized extensive or permanent bars on admission following a deportation. In subsequent years, the severity of these measures and the hardships experienced by many unauthorized immigrants who had fled civil wars and violence in Central America, Haiti, and the former Soviet Union led Congress to pass some small legalization programs, but nothing on the scale of the 1986 law.
On September 10, 2001, President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox were making plans for a new temporary worker program and other immigration reforms, brought about by a booming economy, efforts to build a stronger partnership with Mexico, and a rise in unauthorized immigration. Of course, that initiative and many others fell by the wayside on September 11, to be replaced with enhanced national security and anti-terrorism laws, many of which attempted to regulate possible threats to the country through restrictions on immigration.
Nonetheless, bipartisan efforts to achieve a comprehensive immigration reform package began again in earnest by 2004, led by Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) and Cong. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). At the same time, continued immigration restriction sentiments in Congress, particularly in the House, led to passage of a House bill in 2006 that would have made simply being in the country unlawfully a crime. The Senate responded by passing a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the two immigration bills were never taken up by the other chamber. In 2007, a second bipartisan effort came to the Senate floor twice, but could not obtain enough votes to overcome procedural hurdles.
Why is comprehensive immigration reform back in the news?
There is little doubt that the results of the November election, particularly the impact of Latino, Asian, and New American voters, jump-started the conversation on immigration reform, but the political momentum has increased each year since 2007. In fact, some might argue that the legislative push in 2013 can be traced back to the extremely punitive 1996 law. After almost 20 years, the supposed reforms of 1996 have led to years of troubled enforcement policies, further undermined a system that could not respond quickly to changes in the economy, and often ignored the important contributions made by immigrants to this country.
The persistent legacy of the 1996 law, which enhanced immigration penalties but eliminated many forms of relief, has been a series of ever-expanding efforts to deter illegal immigration through higher penalties and fewer options. The law also expanded mandatory detention and expanded immigration enforcement—including mass worksite raids and greater federal/state/local law-enforcement cooperation through programs like Secure Communities—which has ratcheted up the numbers of non-violent, non-criminal immigrants arrested for immigration violations. Despite the fact that many of the unauthorized have lived in the country for a decade or more and have U.S.-citizen and lawful permanent resident (LPR) family members, deportation has been almost inevitable because there is little relief available under the INA. The damage that millions of deportations have inflicted on U.S. families and communities is well-documented.
The long-standing inadequacy of existing channels for legal immigration has also served as a motivation for change. That inadequacy, coupled with more than a decade of strong economic growth prior to the 2008 recession, created a jobs magnet in the United States, while also decreasing the likelihood that unauthorized immigrants would return to their home countries. Since the recession, unauthorized immigration has slowed to a trickle given the contraction of the U.S. labor market and improving economic conditions in Mexico.Yet 11 million unauthorized immigrants still call the United States home.
Emerging from the recession, however, was also a growing consensus that the contributions of immigrants in speeding an economic recovery were critical.This was reflected in the growing number of arguments in favor of expanding both temporary and permanent access to high-skilled labor, as well as major reports on the role of immigrants as entrepreneurs and innovators. Many business leaders became more sensitive to the issue following state-led efforts to restrict immigration, and numerous reports assessing the value of immigrant contributions to the economy have poured out over the last few years.
This mindset helped to foster greater openness to the idea that immigrant contributions far exceed the perceived problems of immigration. Demographic changes have further helped to solidify that point of view. Similarly, the activism of young unauthorized immigrants around the DREAM Act further expanded a general understanding of the shortcomings of the current immigration system, while at the same time lifting up the enormous contributions that these young people hoped to make to their country.
Further, notwithstanding the decline in unauthorized immigration in recent years, the economic, demographic, and political strength of immigrants and their children is growing.Meanwhile, evidence mounts that anti-immigrant measures such as Arizona’s SB 1070 result in discrimination, racial profiling, and hate crimes against people of color. All of these factors have contributed to the growing awareness that an immigration crisis exists in the United States. Political polling following the 2012 elections further clarified that many voters, particularly those of Latino and Asian descent, think that a politician’s negative views on immigration reflected a bias against them, regardless of their place of birth.Thus, the current efforts to reform immigration laws are the culmination of years of effort, but also of the political realities of America in 2013.
Is it necessary to try to fix all the immigration laws at once?
For years there has been debate over whether immigration reform should be “comprehensive,” “piecemeal,” or “incremental.” As a practical matter, immigration law should be something that is updated and revised constantly to reflect current economic and political conditions, to reflect changes in social issues, and to respond to foreign policy and humanitarian concerns. Congressional gridlock, and the particular paralysis that has stalled immigration reform, has meant that issues which should have been addressed periodically, such as adjustments to overall legal immigration admission numbers, don’t happen in a timely way. That makes it even more difficult to address more dramatic challenges, such as the plight of 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Even as the President and Congress contemplate systematic overhaul of the immigration system, Members of Congress are introducing individual, more targeted bills. Both are necessary and can play a role in improving the system. The key, however, is coordinating the various proposals so that the overall effect is a more cohesive set of laws that acknowledge the biggest issues of immigration reform today: the need for an improved legal immigration system that is generous enough to discourage unauthorized immigration and provide a solution for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, allowing them to transition from an underground existence to lawful permanent residence and, ultimately, U.S. citizenship. For a variety of reasons, these two components are critical and should be considered simultaneously, regardless of how many individual bills are initially introduced to put the issues on the table.
What other reforms are likely to be under consideration?
There is a humanitarian and political imperative to resolve the legal status of the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, and this has been a central component of virtually every immigration overhaul proposal offered since 2004. Other critical components to a systemic approach include creating a fair, but realistic system to regulate future immigration needs, securing our borders through efficient application of smart enforcement strategies and technologies, ensuring that our immigration system welcomes new immigrants, and ensuring that all immigration laws respect the principles of due process on which this country is based.
What are the basics of reform?
1. Creating a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants that is fair but feasible.
Today, the vast majority of Americans support some form of legalization for unauthorized immigrants. While the details of that process may vary, polls show that the public wants a system put in place that permits legal status and ultimately citizenship, if the immigrant establishes commitment to the United States. Routinely, that commitment is demonstrated through some form of initial registration, a willingness to learn English, and full payment of any outstanding taxes. Many of the fiercest debates—behind the scenes, in committee, and on the House and Senate floor—will likely turn on other requirements or conditions placed on individuals. For instance, the amount of fees and fines may determine who can actually apply for the program and who will be unable to afford it.
The scope of the program—whether you can apply for legalization based on presence on the date of enactment, at the time the bill was initially introduced, or sometime further back—will expand or narrow the number of people who can participate. While persons with major criminal convictions will clearly be excluded from the process, Congress will have to decide whether all criminal convictions—including misdemeanors or crimes committed long ago—will also bar someone from eligibility. For example, will convictions for immigration violations, such as entry after deportation, be held against an applicant?
Congress will also have to decide how many years an applicant must wait to transition from some form of provisional legal status to becoming an LPR. The amount of time could depend on whether or not LPR status is contingent on first clearing out the backlog of applicants in legal immigration visa categories, whether someone qualifies under special categories like DREAM Act or AgJobs, or whether someone is applying independently or as the derivative of a spouse’s or parent’s application. Each of these questions has implications for thousands, if not millions, of people, and that will make the final legalization package a series of compromises with clear winners and losers.
2. Ensuring that immigration policy supports families and American values.
While the economics of unauthorized immigration is frequently the focus of the immigration debate, the breakdown of the family immigration system is equally destabilizing and also spurs a significant amount of unauthorized immigration. Current backlogs in family-based immigration lead to delays of up to 20 years for the legal migration of family members.Moreover, recent attempts to undermine family-based immigration have ignored the significant role family support plays in the success of immigrants, and thus of the American dream. The long delays and outdated procedures have generated several policy proposals that could form the basis for reforming family-based immigration.Among the issues likely to be debated include increasing the overall number of visas available in order to reduce current backlogs, whether those increases will be temporary or permanent, and whether increases in family-based immigration can be made while simultaneously increasing employment-based immigration.
Critics of the current family-based visa categories may argue that only nuclear-family members should have access to family-based immigration. They say siblings of U.S. citizens should compete for visas under a merit or employment-based system. Such arguments are often justified by claiming that family immigration leads to “chain migration” or a constant flow of more and more immigrants as each new immigrant brings in additional family members, but the actual number of people who immigrate based on any relationship to a U.S. citizen is quite low.There have also been proposals that would tie elimination of family backlogs to the ability of unauthorized immigrants to become LPRs, on the theory that it is unfair to make family-based immigrants wait longer for their visas than unauthorized immigrants would. Proposals like these, however, often fail to explain that the family-based backlogs are of Congress’s own making and can be fixed by raising current limits.
Other issues likely to arise, in either an initial package or as a bill moves through Congress, include expanding the eligibility of same-sex partners to petition for spouses and children, allowing the spouses and children of LPRs to be treated as immediate relatives (eliminating waits of several years for LPR families to reunite), and providing broader discretion to grant waivers for persons with an immigration violation to remain in the country based on family or other humanitarian needs.
Another proposal that may be brought into the discussion is the introduction of a point-based immigration system. In a point system, immigrants are admitted based upon a list of characteristics that a country finds valuable, such as education, occupation, work experience, language ability, or age. While the 2007 Senate immigration bill contained a point system, it was a hurriedly produced experiment that was driven by political compromise rather than evidence that a point system would work. In order to be consistent with both American tradition and the country’s varied economic needs, any effort to experiment with a point system would have to be a supplement to—and not a substitute for—the existing systems of family-based, work-based, and humanitarian immigration.
3. Ensuring that immigration enforcement enhances national security and community safety without undermining due-process protections.
Most experts and analysts, including those in law enforcement, think legalization is one of the key elements to ensuring our country’s safety because it would allow the federal government to focus on genuine threats posed by those seeking to do the country harm, rather than individuals who lack status but have committed no other crimes.Recent reports have also emphasized that many of the markers and targets proposed for enforcement, especially border enforcement, have been met in recent years.Other studies have suggested that a decade of increased spending for immigration enforcement has produced diminishing returns with respect to ending unauthorized immigration, and that the economy, rather than enforcement measures, is a better predictor of unauthorized immigration.Despite these developments, enforcement measures will continue to appear in overhaul bills. These could include additional proposals to strengthen the border and ports of entry, as well as some increased penalties for existing immigration violations. Immigration reform advocates may also push for limits on immigration detention and reduced use of state and local law-enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws.
Shifts in public support away from immigration enforcement may limit additional immigration control measures. However, one area that appears likely to be expanded is the mandatory electronic employment-verification system, E-Verify.While E-Verify continues to have many critics, the debate over its further implementation is likely to turn far more on the level of employer and employee protections embedded in the system, the amount of time it will take to fully implement a mandatory program, what type of exemptions may exist for individual employers, and how businesses protect themselves from liability for hiring unauthorized workers.
4. Ensuring that the legal immigration system is sufficiently robust to meet the needs of the American economy, does not put native-born workers at a disadvantage, and does not encourage new waves of illegal immigration when job demand is high.
One of the major criticisms of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which legalized nearly three million unauthorized immigrants in the late 1980s, was the failure to include provisions for dealing with future workforce needs.The authors assumed employer sanctions would deter future unauthorized immigration, but they did not account for an increased need for immigrant workers. Because overall immigration numbers were not adjusted to meet demand (and have remained essentially stagnant since 1990), the growing economy, widely available jobs, and inefficient enforcement fueled continued unauthorized immigration. Consequently, regulating the flow of immigration so that it reflects constantly shifting employment needs is critical to a systematic overhaul of the immigration system. It may also be one of the most difficult pieces of the puzzle to negotiate. Some issues, such as increasing the number of visas available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, or encouraging foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the United States, have widespread support among Republicans and Democrats.
Other components of “future immigration flow,” particularly regulating the temporary workforce, are more controversial because they raise difficult questions about the dynamic between the native-born workforce and immigrants. The concerns range from unfair competitive advantages to defining labor shortages to ensuring adequate worker protections. Some argue for the necessity of a short-term and dependable supply of foreign labor, while others argue that businesses should be able to find and recruit needed workers wherever they may be. And other critics maintain that relying primarily on temporary workers, whether professional or day laborers, to meet job demand depresses wages and discourages American workers from obtaining the skills and training they need to succeed. Congress likely will piece together a series of bills that address different aspects of these issues, and may attempt to solve the problem of anticipating future need through various market-driven schemes. That could be through some form of an independent commission tasked with regulating immigration numbers, through lifting some caps on employment categories, by creating new visa categories, or some combination of these ideas. Congress may also choose to put some temporary increases in places with enhanced labor protections and defer the larger fight to another day. Regardless of whatever compromise is reached on this topic, the future-flow issue promises to be one of the most carefully watched and controversial aspects of reform.
5. Long-term commitment to citizenship
Although it frequently receives less attention, continued support of integration and naturalization for immigrants remains a goal of systematic immigration reform. A truly successful legalization program, for instance, should include support for teaching English as a second language and civics education in order to ensure that new immigrants are fully prepared to participate in American life. The high cost of becoming a citizen is a frequent critique of the U.S. immigration system, yet Congress has routinely cut support for the Office of Citizenship in the last few years. Viewing citizenship as an investment in the future should be a given in any major reform package, but it remains to be seen whether Congress will be willing to invest funds in citizenship education during a period of fiscal austerity.
Conclusion—But There’s More
This is only a brief analysis of what we are likely to see in the coming months. A host of issues will likely be raised at some point in the debate: the restoration of many due-process protections for immigrants in court, reform of the immigration court system itself, access to counsel for minors and persons with disabilities, expansion of the protections for battered spouses and children under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), eliminating barriers to asylum such as the one-year filing deadline. Some of these issues may proceed under other pieces of legislation, such as VAWA reauthorization. Some of them may be debated but left for another day. The breadth and scope of these issues—both those that we know must be considered and those that we know should be considered—underscore why the time for a genuine debate over immigration reform is not only much anticipated, but long overdue.
The Executive Director of Chicago Irish Immigrant Support, Breandán Magee, has welcomed US President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform
Story by John O'Riordan from WorldIrish.com
President Obama was speaking in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon and although brief mention was given to the 'Irish who left behind a land of famine' in the past, there couldn't have been more significance in the carefully chosen setting of his speech: the Del Sol High School, a majority-Hispanic school.
However, Mr Magee dismissed any notion that the undocumented Irish would be left behind by any new legislation, pointing out that it was a victory for 'a broad coalition' of advocates.
'It's not a win-lose scenario,' he told WorldIrish when contacted not long after the president's speech had ended. 'We all win together. We have Koreans, eastern Europeans, people from Africa and Southeast Asia, we're a broad coalition.
'It was a powerful speech. We were waiting on the president to take a lead on this and he has come out strong. For the Irish undocumented and Irish students who would like to remain in the country after completing their studies, it is a good development. And also for the future flow of immigration of the Irish. There is not much detail yet on the E3 Immigrant Visas but I'm sure once the negotiations continue, that will become clearer.'
When asked for his opinion on how much time it would take to progress through the notoriously slow-moving DC legislative prices, Magee expressed optimism that the president's endorsement and the changing dynamic of US society would leave politicians with no choice but to reach an outcome soon.
'It would be prudent for Congress to get this organized before August and before the debate begins to become contentious. Because then you're heading into the mid-term elections so it's in their best interest to prevent any backlash at the polls.
'Momentum has been building toads this for a while. Here in Illinois we have successfully pushed for legislation with Governor Pat Quinn to acquire driving licenses for the undocumented and that was finalised on Sunday - we're the fourth state to achieve that.'
Obama, himself a former Senator of Illinois had pledged as part of his inaugural address to make good on his push for immigration reform and the speech was seen as a challenge to Congress to act swiftly to put 11 million illegal immigrants on a clear path to citizenship.
He praised a bipartisan group of senators who proposed their own immigration overhaul on Monday, saying their plan was very much in line with his own proposals.
'The good news is that for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together,' he said.
'Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from some place else, somebody brought you,' he added during the impassioned conclusion.
'The Irish who left behind a land of famine; the Germans who fled persecution; the Scandinavians who arrived eager to pioneer out west; the Polish, the Russians, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the West Indians -- the huddled masses who came through Ellis Island on one coast and Angel Island on the other.
'All those folks before they were us, they were them. And when each new wave of immigrants arrived, they faced resistance from those who were already here. They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule. But over time, they went about their daily lives. They earned a living as they raised a family, as they built a community, as their kids went to school here.
'They did their part to build the nation.'
JANUARY 2013 IMMIGRATION NEWS
Illinois makes history and passes drivers licenses law for the undocumented
by Breandan G. Magee
The Illinois House of Representatives made history Tuesday, January 8th as it voted 65 to 46 to approve a temporary visitors driver's license (TVDL) SB 957 for the undocumented. The Senate had
voted last month to approve the bill by 41 to 14, with one abstention. Illinois is the 5th state in the nation after Tennessee, New
Mexico, Washington and Utah to approve such a measure but the only one in
recent times to make such a bold move.
The bill's passage has been hailed by immigrant advocates as a milestone for Illinois and a measure of things to come for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington D.C. Other states may take Illinois' lead and follow.
Chicago Irish Immigrant Support (CIIS) Executive Director Breandan Magee was in the chamber for the count and had this to say, " This vote is historic in its reach and is a bell weather for
national sentiment on immigration reform and immigrants' rights. The tide is turning and Americans of all political persuasions see this as a fight for human rights. I am very hopeful looking forward
to immigration reform at the national level but today Illinois just made its roads safer and offers the 250,000 undocumented immigrants driving on our
roads the chance to get a license and become insured".
The bipartisan bill's passage was the result of a long campaign that kicked off in the summer, led by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). ICIRR is an umbrella group of over 130 agencies in Illinois that advocate for immigrants' rights; it counts CIIS and the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform as long standing members. The Irish voice was a loud one in this debate with CIIS and Billy Lawless of the Chicago Celts fielding members for days of action in Springfield and participating in mass call ins to press legislators to back the measure. CIIS Board President Cyril Regan and Executive Director Breandan Magee spent the last 2 days before the vote in Springfield with a contingent of grassroots supporters from ICIRR to advocate to lawmakers that the bill was good for Illinois and for road safety in general.
The vote however was still undecided just before the House convened, with key legislators still unsure as to how they would cast their vote. Representative Fred Crespo was one such lawmaker who
was a definite no before the crucial vote. Regan and Magee accompanied Fr. Brendan Curran of St. Pius Parish Chicago to the representative's office with only five minutes to sway him before he rushed
off to the final session of the 97th
Congress. It turned out that Crespo, the son of a Puerto Rican Korean War veteran had been born, baptized and confirmed in St Pius's and he graciously listened to the an Irish-American priest plead the case
for the bill. The bill's passage would have direct impact on the over 5000 undocumented Irish men and women in Chicagoland and has stringent controls in place to avoid document fraud.
From the floor of the House an emotive Crespo acknowledged the visit of Fr. Curran and the Irish and thanked them for their passion on the issue. In the end he voted with his conscience and voted yes.
Another representative that the trio visited in the eleventh hour was Emily McAsey who had been a no on this issue and had voted consistently against pro immigrant measures in previous votes. She also listened intently and had questions answered. She had been visibly emotional in previous meetings in her district when undocumented immigrants told their stories of parents deported after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Representative McAsey also voted yes.
In total 65 lawmakers voted yes after listening to the impassioned debate on the House floor from those opposed and those in favor of the initiative. Over 400,000 immigrants are deported annually and many such removals are triggered by a routine traffic stop. Anyone apprehended while driving without a license may be booked and brought back to the station where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can put a hold on him/her and begin the deportation process. Families are torn apart and as one advocate put it " we are creating orphans with parents" as US citizen children remain here while one or more of their parents are sent back to their country of origin.
Back in the chamber a gasp of disbelief and elation rang out from the packed public galleries as the final vote flashed up on the electronic screen. Everyone in the chamber knew that history had just been made and the tears followed amid the beaming smiles. It was a highly charged crescendo to a long fought campaign for the bill's ardent supporters.
Immigrant advocates in Illinois had been fighting for this measure for over 13 years; the last time that this proposal came up for a vote in 2007 it was defeated by a handful of votes in the House. This time around a strong campaign led by ICIRR and key Irish community leaders built a coalition of supporters who persuaded many legislators to vote in favor.
Key proponents of the bill included Senate President John Cullerton, Representative Eddie Acevedo, Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, the Latino Caucus, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Pat Quinn, Former Governor Jim Edgar, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. This formidable coalition was strengthened by the support of the teachers unions, hospital associations, the labor unions, chambers of commerce, the state police association and the 130 member agencies of ICIRR.
The bill allows any immigrant in Illinois to secure a temporary visitors' driver's license if he or she can provide proof of residency in Illinois for the last year, a valid passport or consular ID and pass all road tests. The license will cost $30 but will appear somewhat different to the regular IL driver's license; they will be colored purple as opposed to the red of regular licenses. The TVDL already exists for foreign nationals who are here on student visas or temporary work visas. It will not be valid for proof of identity to board a plane or enter a federal building and will be marked "not valid for identification". It can however be used as a bond card in the event that the holder is pulled over by a police officer and given that it is the same TVDL available to foreign students and visa holders law enforcement cannot assume that the holder is undocumented.
The Secretary of State estimates that the new licenses move will cost $800,000 in its first year but even if only 30,000 of the estimated 250,000 undocumented drivers apply and pay the $30 fee, the initiative will be revenue neutral and may even turn a profit. This was a key provision for many lawmakers concerned about the dire fiscal problems faced by the state of Illinois.
Supporters of this bill took a moment to savor its passage but in true form those committed to immigration reform met just two days after the vote to chart the course ahead for a federal bill to legalize the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in our country. CIIS Board Chairman and Executive Director Breandan Magee were again among those present to declare 2013 as the year that Congress acts. Magee said, " Be prepared in this session of Congress to see the same momentum build as in 2007 with large marches here in Chicago and in Washington DC. The President has stated that immigration reform will be his top priority after the fiscal cliff and we are ready to mobilize and support him in that endeavor."
The stage has now been set with Illinois' historic passage of SB 957 and with Republicans in the US Congress mouthing words of compromise on immigration reform, after an unprecedented Latino voter turn-out in favor of Democrats and their pro immigrant platform, signs are good. The Irish have been center stage in this debate as it has raged throughout the years and they will continue to punch above their weight to do, as Organizer Rebecca Shi of ICIRR said," whatever it takes".
That fighting Irish spirit and Celtic tenacity has brought generations of Irish immigrants to these shores in search of a better life and today's generation deserve no less a chance at the American dream. Today Irish proponents of immigration reform stand shoulder to shoulder with all immigrants in the melting pot spirit that defines what it means to be American. Times and politics may change but that exceptional-ism of America and her ideals never does and SB 957 goes a long way to proving it.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel Attends Mass at S. Pius to Support Immigrants
Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emmanuel spoke at a Mass celebrated by Rev. Brendan Curran on Sunday January 6th at St Pius Church. CIIS Executive Director Breandán Magee and Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform Chairman Billy Lawless were in attendance to hear the Mayor speak in support of SB 957, the Illinois Senate Bill that authorized temporary drivers' licenses for the undocumented. The bill passed the House on Tuesday January 8th by 65 to 46 after a concerted campaign to convince lawmakers of the need for the legislation from a road safety stand point.
The Mayor spoke of his own grandfather's immigrant story as a young Jewish man who came to this country in the 1920's to escape persecution in Eastern Europe. The Mayor has a long standing position in favor of immigrant rights and trumpets Chicago as one of the most immigrant friendly cities in America.