FAIR Legislative Update November 12, 2012
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he is willing to take up "comprehensive" immigration reform when Congress returns in 2013. "[Immigration reform is] an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with. This issue has been around far too long... While I believe it's important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all," he said. (ABC News, Nov. 10, 2012)
Through these statements, Speaker Boehner appeared to be conceding to demands made by Democrats the day before that amnesty legislation be on the agenda of the 113th Congress. After the elections, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared that amnesty legislation will be a top priority for Senate Democrats. The issue is "very, very high on my list," Sen. Reid said. "The only thing we need to get immigration reform done [is] a few Republican votes," he said, soliciting a response from Republican leaders. (Id.)
Interestingly, Rep. Boehner modified his own comments the following day, issuing a statement of clarification with a different spin. "I'm not talking about a 3,000-page bill," he said. "What I'm talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system." (Associated Press, Nov. 9, 2012) Rep. Boehner also called on President Obama to lead the charge on amnesty legislation. "[O]n an issue this big," he said, "the president has to lead." (Id.)
Top Democrats lauded the Speaker's new-found commitment to "comprehensive" immigration reform. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, called Boehner's comments a "breakthrough." (The Hill, Nov. 8, 2012) "Democrats in the Senate look forward to working with him to come up with a bipartisan solution," Schumer said in a statement. (Id.)
But, some Republicans were not pleased with the Speaker's comments. "I'm concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a 'comprehensive approach' to immigration taken care of 'once and for all,'" said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA). "There's been zero discussion of this issue within the conference, and I'm urging the Speaker to talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news. The Speaker needs to pull back on this issue and stop negotiating in public." (Rep. Fleming press release, Nov. 8, 2012)
On Meet the Press yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) are resuming negotiations on "comprehensive" immigration reform legislation. (See The Hill, Nov. 11, 2012 for video from Meet the Press) "Sen. Graham and I have talked and we are resuming the talks that were broken off two years ago," said Schumer.
Speaking to NBC host David Gregory, Sen. Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, seemed convinced that Republicans are now willing to work with Democrats to pass an amnesty for illegal aliens. He also said he anticipates his "blueprint" to be the framework for it. "Graham and I are talking to our colleagues about this right now and I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year," said Schumer. "The Republican Party has learned that being anti-illegal and anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically and they know it." (Id.)
Meanwhile, Senator Lindsay Graham made a similar pitch for "comprehensive" immigration reform on the CBS show Face the Nation. (Face the Nation video, Nov. 11, 2012) Using recent election results as the reason, Graham attempted to justify renewed amnesty negotiations. "This is an odd formula for a party to adopt," said Graham, "the fastest-growing demographic in the country, and we're losing votes every election cycle. And it has to stop. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun." (Id.) While Senator Graham stated that an immigration bill would have to take a "backseat" to addressing the impending "fiscal cliff," he nevertheless signaled his commitment to moving forward amnesty legislation. "I intend to tear this wall down and pass an immigration reform bill that's an American solution to an American problem." (Id.)
The Schumer-Graham outline for amnesty legislation includes the basic components of all "comprehensive" immigration reform legislation to-date: amnesty, some border security provisions, mandatory E-Verify, and a massive increase in guest workers (despite the 7.9 unemployment rate!). Different from previous amnesty bills, however, the outline also includes that all aliens receive a biometric identification card to help establish their identity. (See Summary of Reid-Schumer-Menendez Amnesty proposal, Apr. 30, 2010; see also 2007 FAIR side-by-side comparison of amnesty legislation)
Once the Schumer-Graham outline is turned into actual legislation, it's unclear how quickly the Senate will move on it. Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid (R-NV) has promised that amnesty legislation will be high on the agenda of Senate Democrats. But it remains to be seen how much Democrats intend to consult the rank-and-file of their own party, and whether the Senate Republicans will offer any resistance to undermining the rule of law and granting amnesty and work authorization to nearly 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S.
After a hard-fought battle, true immigration reformers in Maryland lost their fight to prevent illegal aliens from receiving tuition breaks at State colleges and universities. Maryland Legislators passed the law in the spring of 2011, which provides in-state tuition to illegal aliens who attend a Maryland high school for at least three years and whose parents have paid income taxes during that time. (The Baltimore Sun, April 11, 2011; SB 167 Sec. 1(B)(4))
True immigration reformer activists in the State were able to qualify language on the 2012 ballot that would reverse the law. (See Maryland State Board of Elections, Question #4, Nov. 10, 2012) However, Marylanders voted to uphold the law in Tuesday's election by more than 58 percent. (Baltimore Sun, Nov. 9, 2012)
The amnesty lobby hinted that their victory Tuesday in Maryland is only the beginning. "I do think we're going to start to see this spread to more and more states as a result of elections, as a result of the growing sympathy for young people who just want to get an education to contribute to the country that they call home," remarked Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-amnesty group America's Voice. (Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2012) State Delegate Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, chairman of the organization that petitioned to put the Dream Act on the ballot in the first place, commented that getting the issue on the ballot in and of itself was a "big victory." (Gazette.Net, Nov. 7, 2012)
The DREAM Act is now scheduled to take effect Dec. 6, 2012. (Baltimore Sun, Nov. 9, 2012)
It is predicted to cost the State $3.5 million annually. (Id.)
To the dismay of true immigration reformers, the 2012 elections brought little change to Washington, D.C. Preserving the status quo, President Obama was reelected, Democrats maintained control of the Senate, and Republicans kept their advantage in the House of Representatives.
President Obama and the Democrats largely credit their reelection to the growing Hispanic electorate, of which over 70 percent voted for President Obama. (Associated Press, Nov. 7, 2012) In particular, amnesty advocates claim it was the candidates' support for amnesty legislation that secured their victory. However, several opinion polls conducted before the election reveal that the economy and healthcare — not immigration — were the dominant issues on the minds of Hispanics who voted in the 2012 election. In fact, multiple polling firms reported that likely and registered Hispanic voters listed immigration as only the fifth most important issue to them.
While immigration was an often discussed topic, jobs and the economy were by far the number one issue on the minds of voters this election cycle. According to an Associated Press exit poll, 59 percent of voters identified the economy as their top issue (Associated Press, Nov. 7, 2012) Moreover, exit polling focused on the immigration issue found that Americans still prefer immigration enforcement over amnesty. For example, a Breitbart News/Judicial Watch Election Night poll found 61 percent of voters favored Arizona-style immigration laws. (Breitbart News, Nov. 8, 2012) Although 58 percent of Hispanics surveyed said they opposed the law, forty percent stated they approve of it.
For the most part, candidates limited their discussion of the immigration issue to their Party's standard talking points on amnesty and border security. For example, candidates either appeared adamantly opposed to amnesty, or supported what they denied was an amnesty, but claimed was rather a path to legal status by getting to the end of the line and paying a fine.
To see the immigration positions candidates took and the impact that immigration had on the 2012 elections, read FAIR's election report here.