This morning’s must read: @seungminkim’s Proxy fight–several GOP senators positioning themselves around an immigration fight

If the Senate GOP leadership permits Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to turn the Lynch Attorney General confirmation hearing into a proxy fight over the President’s authority to make the immigration system work better until Congress passes an overhaul of the dysfunctional law, it’ll be proof positive that the GOP has been gaming the country on immigration reform the whole time, that they never intended to do anything other than implement the nativists’ mean spirited call for “self deportation.”

Posted on Politico

By Seung Min Kim

11/10/14 11:24 PM EST

Updated 11/11/14 5:58 AM EST

Senate Republicans plan to turn the battle over attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch into a larger debate over immigration, using the confirmation hearings as a proxy war over presidential power rather than a debate over Lynch’s qualifications.

Lynch, who would be the first black female attorney general, is considered a strong nominee, with a long record as a federal prosecutor. That makes the political fight over Barack Obama and his executive powers a much better bet for Republicans who took control of the Senate riding the president’s unpopularity.
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The Republicans’ early strategy, according to comments from senators and several Republican aides close to the Judiciary Committee, centers on whether the president has the authority to bypass Congress on immigration — allowing Republicans to write their own narrative on the nomination.

“The president is increasingly on a smaller and smaller island if he goes forward with this action and the next item of business is the nomination of the attorney general,” one Senate Republican aide said Monday. “Don’t underestimate the capacity for that to become a major battle front.”

Several GOP senators are publicly positioning themselves around an immigration fight.
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have signaled that immigration will be a large part of their line of questioning against Lynch when her confirmation process begins, which they said should happen after the new Republican majority is seated in January.

“The nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law,” Cruz and Lee said in a joint statement. “Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the strategy.
But Hill Democrats say the Republican plan could backfire.
“I don’t think that issue should be central to Loretta Lynch’s confirmation,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Monday, adding that he said he wanted to see Lynch considered and confirmed “promptly.”

Since Attorney General Eric Holder said in September he planned to step down, a handful of other Senate Republicans have signaled the issue of executive action on immigration would be a central issue in confirming his successor. For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has, for weeks, been encouraging fellow senators to oppose any replacement for Holder who does not “firmly reject” Obama’s plan for executive action on immigration.

The chatter is preliminary — Congress is officially back in session Wednesday, and senators will have more time then to hash out a more formal strategy on Lynch’s nomination process. But key aides on Monday sketched out an initial strategy that centers on grilling Lynch — the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York — over Obama’s pending immigration action and whether she backs it.

A slew of other hot-button issues are sure to surface during Lynch’s confirmation hearings, such as the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal, the contentious debate over voter ID laws and executive overreach, Republican aides added.

“Decisions and actions by President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made the proper bounds of executive power a critically important issue for this confirmation process,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday, signaling that will be a priority in deciding whether to confirm Lynch.

But the dominant issue will be immigration — and President Barack Obama’s looming executive action that could potentially halt deportations for millions of immigrants here without legal status. Obama has promised to keep his pledge to Latino and immigration advocates to act on deportations by the end of the year.

Senate Democrats don’t think the strategy will work.

“With Republicans on these issues, they always run the risk of overreach,” added a Senate Democratic leadership aide. “She’s not tied to the administration, she hasn’t had a tie to any of these past executive actions. … Efforts to tie her down to that stuff would come across as overly political.”

No decisions have been made on when the Senate will take up Lynch’s nomination to be the nation’s chief law enforcement official, officials said Monday. But one Democratic leadership aide said senators were leaning toward installing Lynch in the new Congress, when the GOP will be in control of the chamber.

Senate Democrats are banking on the view that the twice-confirmed Lynch, who would be the nation’s first black female attorney general with the Senate’s blessing, would be qualified enough to be confirmed under a Democratic- or GOP-led chamber.

“She should have no difficulty whatsoever on the merits,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Monday. “There is not a scintilla of factual basis to challenge her.”
The lame-duck session leaves an already truncated timeline to handle a high-profile nomination such as attorney general, and Congress is already buried under other must-do legislative priorities. The process to confirm Lynch has barely started on Capitol Hill — the Judiciary Committee has yet to receive Lynch’s paperwork, an aide said — and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has made National Security Agency reform his top priority in the lame-duck session.

Republicans prefer to leave the task of confirming Lynch to the new Congress. Presumptive incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that Lynch should be “considered in the new Congress through regular order.”

Incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has pledged a “very fair, but thorough” vetting, noting that U.S. attorneys are “rarely” promoted straight to the attorney general spot.
“So I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress and how she proposes to lead the department,” he said.

In theory, the Senate could begin the nomination process in the lame-duck session under Leahy and continue in the new Congress under Grassley, Democratic aides said. When the Senate considered the nomination of John Ashcroft for attorney general in 2001, a handful of the hearings were held under Leahy and later under Hatch, who assumed the Judiciary chairmanship in late January 2001.

But that option doesn’t appear to be under serious consideration for now, and Republicans are sure to gain seats on the Judiciary Committee in the new Congress. If the process begin during the current Congress and continues into the next, new Republican members may not get the opportunity to question Lynch.

Still, other Senate Democrats want to clear her nomination quickly. In an interview Monday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said confirming Holder’s successor should be done as soon as possible, pointing to the continuing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, as one area that awaits the incoming attorney general.

“I believe we have an obligation to confirm the attorney general as quickly as we can,” McCaskill said. “I think we need to do our work, unless there’s a problem with this woman’s background.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

In #Immigration Reform, “Citizenship Matters”

Reblogged from Congress Blog

As Congress reconvenes this week perhaps the thorniest question–in an immigration policy debate full of thorny questions–is whether the House, like the Senate, should include a special path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants as part of an immigration reform package.  Or, given the political realities of the GOP-dominated House, is a special path to citizenship worth conceding if it leads to some form of lawful status for undocumented immigrants who qualify?

Some, including even some supporters of immigration reform, argue that access to U.S. citizenship isn’t important.  Undocumented immigrants, they say, just want to live, work, and raise their children without fear of deportation.  If they had to choose, so the argument goes, most would opt for legal immigrant status over citizenship.

There may be some truth to that. But the choice between legal status and citizenship is a false one.

A homeless person asked to choose between regular food and shelter or the opportunity to eventually own a home is likely to opt for the warm meal and a place to sleep every night.  His choice of temporary shelter doesn’t mean he will not dream of one day owning his own home.  To the contrary, once he’s warm and satiated he (and society as a whole) will be better off if he begins to pursue opportunities that lead to home ownership.

Similarly, an unauthorized immigrant, living in constant fear of arrest, detention, deportation and banishment from his family, may long for a secure, lawful immigration status in the U.S., not necessarily U.S. citizenship.  But once he is permitted to come out of the shadows the contributions he will be able to make will increase as he will likely increase his income through legal work, participate openly in his children’s activities, and pay additional taxes on top of those he is currently paying.  Once he is able to do all of those things free from fear, when his immediate needs have been fulfilled, he may then want to become a U.S. citizen, taking on the responsibilities (like jury duty) along with the honor and privileges.

Nor is a path to citizenship just about what’s good for the immigrant.  It’s important to the Nation.  The naturalization process includes background checks and other examinations of an immigrant’s record in the U.S. Immigrants who choose to apply for citizenship must prove they have good moral character, demonstrate knowledge of civics and history, show English Language proficiency, establish attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and swear an oath of allegiance to the U.S.

Suppose immigration reform passes with no special path to earned citizenship?  What happens in 10, 20, or 30 years when millions of noncitizens living lawfully in the U.S. are ineligible for U.S. citizenship, not able to swear loyalty to a nation they call home?  Even the Supreme Court has long recognized the tenuous nature of legal residence without citizenship:

“Under our law, the alien in several respects stands on an equal footing with citizens, but in others has never been conceded legal parity with the citizen. Most importantly, to protract this ambiguous status within the country is not his right but is a matter of permission and tolerance. The Government’s power to terminate its hospitality has been asserted and sustained by this Court since the question first arose.”  Harisiades  v.  Shaughnessy, 342 U.S. 580 (1952)

Make no mistake, citizenship is much more than a legal status.  It’s an immigrant’s admission to the American family.  Naturalization ceremonies across the U.S. include a beautiful mosaic of people from different cultures, customs, backgrounds and experiences.  What binds these diverse individuals is a common belief in the promise of America and faithfulness to the principles upon which our country was founded.

In overhauling the immigration law, Congress should include a path to citizenship for those who choose to pursue it.  The Senate’s road will take 13 years for most immigrants; that is a huge investment of time and energy into the America we love.  Failure to do so risks creation of a subclass of people lawfully in the country but unable to reach the heart of the American Dream.

Allowing immigrants to become Americans is one aspect of immigration policy that we have gotten right, and it has served us well (in contrast to other countries that limit citizenship based on country of birth).

Immigration reform should build on what we have done well, not undermine it.

Leopold is former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Mr. Speaker, Please Don’t Let The ‘#Immigration Grinch’ Steal Christmas

Originally posted on Huffington Post

It’s almost Christmas, the House has left town for the holidays, and many American families are wondering whether they’ll get a visit from Santa Claus or the dreaded Grinch — that nasty old creature with a heart two sizes too small.

Every day the Grinch wreaks havoc on thousands of American families. Disguised as an unforgiving and inflexible immigration law, he thinks nothing of ruining lives, sometimes banging on the door of a home in the wee hours of the morning to take away a father, mother, sister, brother or grandparent who doesn’t have proper immigration documents or is unlucky enough to be at the wrong end of a deportation order. And he does so at the astounding rate of 1,120 deportations a day. In fact, if the Grinch is not stopped soon, he will have removed 2 million people by Christmas — many of whom came to America to build a better life for themselves and their children, like so many immigrants before them.

Sadly, before the House went home this week, there was someone who missed an opportunity to stop the Grinch this year. That man is Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House of Representatives. With the snap of his fingers, Mr. Boehner could have calmed the fears of millions of American families by allowing the House to vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill — one which was sure to have passed.

But Speaker Boehner refused to act, bowing to the will of extremists in his party — “the Grinches in the House” — who themselves offer no positive immigration solutions but are quick to obstruct any proposal that provides a safe, orderly, and fair immigration system for the nation.

Of course, the GOP leadership talked a good game as they turned out the lights at the Capitol to head home for the holidays. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said that immigration reform should be a priority for 2014. But the House GOP’s slow walking has contributed to nearly 200,000 deportations since the Senate passed its bipartisan immigration bill in June. This is unacceptable in a country that President Reagan once imagined would welcome “anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Happily, there is still time for Speaker Boehner to show real leadership, even before Congress returns next year. He can take immediate action to help ensure that millions of American families remain safe and together during the holidays while the nation waits for the House to pass immigration reform. As a show of good faith, Speaker Boehner should ask the administration to give a temporary deportation reprieve to all undocumented immigrants who would qualify for provisional immigration status under the House and Senate bills.

Everyone agrees that the immigration system is broken and must be fixed. It’s unfair to continue destroying families just because the House hasn’t finished its job. And until it does, America’s leaders — in Congress and the White House — should work together to stop removing people who may not have the right papers but contribute to our nation’s social, economic and cultural fabric.

I’m willing to bet that if Speaker Boehner allows himself to feel the injustice and pain caused by America’s broken immigration system, then his heart, like the mean old Grinch’s, just might grow three full sizes. Maybe then he’ll do what’s in his power to make sure that Christmas is not once again stolen from the most vulnerable among us.

#Immigration Headlines for March 27, 2013

Huffington Post: Immigration Reform Advocates Struggle With Obama ‘Love-Hate’ Relationship

By Elise Foley

March 27, 2013


Feet in 2 Worlds: Undocumented, Paying Taxes, Hoping for Immigration Reform

By Aurora Almendral

March 21, 2013


San Diego Union-Tribune: What did immigrant advocates learn from LGBT?

By Elizabeth Aguilera

March 26, 2013




Associated Press: McCain, 3 other senators to tour US-Mexico border ahead of immigration reform debate

March 27, 2013


ABC News: ‘Gang of Eight’ to Tour Arizona-Mexico Border

By Jim Avila and Serena Marshall

March 27, 2013


The Hill: Gang of Eight to tour border in rush to finish immigration bill

By Daniel Strauss

March 26, 2013


The State: South Carolina becomes Republican’s immigration reform ‘test market’

By Noelle Phillips

March 27, 2013


Denver Post: Faith leaders petition Sen. Michael Bennet on behalf of immigrants

By Collen O’Connor

March 26, 2013


Arizona Republic: McCain has tense exchange with ‘dreamer’

By Dan Nowicki

March 26, 2013


New York Daily News: Schumer to ICE: Limit Solitary Confinement or Congress Will

By Joseph Straw

March 26, 2013


Talking Points Memo: Napolitano: Border Security Trigger ‘Not The Way To Go’ In Immigration Reform

By Brian Beulter

March 26, 2013


Bloomberg: Electoral Demographics Open Door on Immigration, Napolitano Says

By Phil Mattingly

March 26, 2013


Huffington Post: Janet Napolitano: Solitary Confinement To Be Reviewed

By Elise Foley

March 26, 2013


The Hill: Napolitano coy on White House bid

By Jordy Yager

March 26, 2013


National Journal: Why Immigration Reform Is So Hard

By Niraj Choksi

March 26, 2013


The Hill: White House mum on plan to link citizenship path to border security

By Justin Sink

March 26, 2013


The Hill: Obama to sit for immigration interview with Telemundo

By Justin Sink

March 26, 2013


Politico: Obama to talk immigration with Telemundo, Univision

By Jennifer Epstein

March 26, 2013


The Atlantic: How Obama Could (but Probably Won’t) Stop Deporting Illegal Immigrants Today

By Keegan Hamilton

March 26, 2013


Roll Call: Leahy Warns Sessions to Play Nice on Immigration

By Humberto Sanchez

March 26, 2013


Politico: Dean Heller’s extreme makeover

By Steve Friess

March 26, 2013


The Hill: GOP confidence in Senate takeover grows as challenges mount for Dems

By Cameron Joseph

March 27, 2013


National Journal: Big Labor and Big Business Have One Big Issue: Immigration Reform

By Fawn Johnson

March 26, 2013


Washington Post (Wonkblog): The AFL-CIO wants foreign workers paid more than native-born ones. Why?

By Suzy Khimm

March 26, 2013


NBC News: SEIU launches first TV ad on immigration push

By Carrie Dann

March 26, 2013


The Hill: SEIU launches ad campaign urging immigration reform

By Justin Sink

March 26, 2013


Washington Post (Blog): Why immigration reform may not help the GOP

By Jamelle Bouie

March 26, 2013


The Hill (Opinion): Own immigration reform

By Dick Morris

March 26, 2013


Fox News Latino (Opinion): Immigration Reform as an Opportunity for the Republican Party

By Rosario Marin

March 26, 2013


Bloomberg (Opinion): Will Cheap Labor Kill Immigration Reform?

By Margaret Carlson

March 26, 2013


McClatchy Newspapers (Opinion): Reforming immigration is vital for both national security and economic growth

By Greg Brown

March 26, 2013


Arizona Republic (Opinion): A myth about low-skilled workers

By Robert Robb

March 26, 2013


Politico (Opinion): Bipartisan coalition bolsters U.S. STEM

By John Sununu and Maria Cardona

March 26, 2013


LOCAL (Alabama): Rep. Mo Brooks repeats concern about illegal aliens, says amnesty ignores immigration laws

By Paul Gattis

March 26, 2013


Associated Press (Maryland): Md. House Committee to considers driver’s license measure for illegal immigrants

March 27. 2013


NBC Chicago: Children Rally for Immigration Reform

By Natalie Martinez

March 26, 2013


Salt Lake Tribune: Utahn honored for work on Utah Compact immigration reform

By Emily Andrews

March 26, 2013

Cowardice or Courage? The Republicans’ Choice on #Immigration

Originally posted on Huffington Post

There are two types of Republicans on Capitol Hill; those who are willing to forge a consensus on immigration reform for the good of the country, and those who are not. Both were on full display this week.

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday Republican lawmakers grilled San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D-TX) with questions calculated to suggest that the Democrats’ support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is tantamount to opening up the nation’s borders to anyone who wants to come here. “Do you believe there should be a limit to the people brought into the United States?” Representative Steve King (R-IA) sarcastically asked Castro. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chair of the committee, went so far as to characterize a “pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States” as an extremist position. And it got uglier. “Whatever else we disagree on” declared Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), “I think we can agree that that’s a more toxic and contentious issue — ramming [through] full amnesty.”

Never mind that a recently released Gallup poll found that Americans widely support a broad overhaul of the dysfunctional immigration system, including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the U.S. without lawful status.

Worse than the GOP grandstanding were the witnesses called to back up the Republicans’ rhetoric, including Chris Crane, president of the ICE agents’ union. Despite his union’s affiliation with the AFL-CIO which supports immigration reform, Crane has been a vocal opponent of President Obama’s use of prosecutorial discretion to prioritize the deportation of immigrants who pose a threat to American citizens. In his testimony Crane made the outrageous claim that the administration has ordered ICE agents not to enforce the immigration law. Perhaps Crane should tell that to the 1.5 million people who have been deported since Mr. Obama took office, including hard working fathers and mothers of U.S. citizens whose only crime was to dream of a better life for their children. It’s a good thing for Mr. Crane that he did not testify under oath.

Elsewhere in Washington, another House Republican offered a very different message. In a speech before at the American Enterprise Institute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told his audience that he supported a pathway to citizenship for DREAMERs, a guest worker program, increased employer verification, and more visas for science, technology, engineering and math graduates. Like other Republicans who have re-calibrated their views since the November elections, Cantor spoke of fixing the broken immigration system without peppering his speech with incendiary terms like “illegal alien” or “amnesty”.

Unlike his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Cantor had the guts not to fall back on what Greg Sargent of the Washington Post termed “rhetorical gimmickry,” which, simply put, amounts to cynically conflating complex issues to scare the public into opposing immigration reform. Cantor struck a tone similar to other Republicans, such as Senators Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham and John McCain who have recognized that the American people deserve better than a mean spirited debate chock-full of racially charged phrases like “illegal immigrant” and limited to inhumane policy proposals like “self-deportation”. Cantor, who has never before supported giving DREAMERs a shot at citizenship, appears to understand that it will take political courage on both sides of the aisle to construct an immigration policy designed to keep America’s borders secure, its families safe and together, and its businesses globally competitive.

The good news is that Cantor is not alone. Others in the House GOP are evolving on immigration reform. While he has not yet followed Cantor’s lead and endorsed the DREAM Act, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has recognized that the busted immigration system must be fixed. Other Republicans in Congress have joined a bipartisan group quietly working to forge an immigration reform plan.

Hopefully the GOP antagonism on display during Tuesday’s House Judiciary hearing represents an increasingly rare breed of Republican on Capitol Hill. Immigration reform advocates may not agree with everything Republicans like Cantor, Rubio, Graham or McCain propose. But they should applaud them for having the sense to contribute to the national conversation on immigration reform.

The nation is presented with an historic opportunity to finally build an immigration policy worthy of America’s proud history as a nation of immigrants. And the Republicans in Washington have a choice. They can continue to cower in the dark corner of the restrictionist fringe, eschewing any positive policy proposal as an unacceptable “amnesty” and parroting the same old racially charged nativist talking points. Or they can follow leaders like Eric Cantor and others who are now thinking about what is best for their party and, more importantly, for the country.

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Deporting Piers Morgan in Defense of the Right to Bear Military Style Assault Weapons and High Capacity Clips

Originally posted on Huffington Post

Piers Morgan won’t have to pack his bags after all.Last week the White House, speaking through Press Secretary Jay Carney, politely, yet firmly, dismissed the petition calling for Piers Morgan’s deportation posted on its “We The People” page. The ridiculous petition was signed by 100,000 seemingly outraged supporters of the right to bear arms — like the assault rifle used last month to murder small children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

It wasn’t exactly a nail-biting drama.

The petition was little more than a cheap publicity stunt spearheaded by radio talk show host Alex Jones. Fortunately, as the White House reminded the petitioners, the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, does not trump the First, which protects freedom of speech. It’s ironic that those who claim to be offended by the CNN host’s “attack” on the Second Amendment show no respect for the First.

To be sure, Morgan was never in danger of deportation. Yet, as ridiculous as the petition was, the very notion that any American would demand his deportation for expressing his views on an issue of public concern is disturbing.

America’s strength has always been its openness, its ability to attract the best and the brightest from all over the world and harness their creative energy for the common good. From our country’s inception immigrants have flocked to our shores to build a better life for themselves and their children. They have fought and died for its ideals, strengthened its democracy, and enriched its culture. What kind of country would America be if it summarily deported people for speaking their minds? Let’s not forget that our Constitutional rights, including the right to speak freely and the right to bear arms, have been purchased with the blood of citizens and noncitizens alike, many of whom have paid the ultimate price in defense of the freedoms we hold dear.

So why would those who disagree with Piers Morgan call for his banishment from our midst rather than challenge the merits of his argument? What are they afraid of? Did he make too much sense by suggesting that military assault weapons and high capacity clips should be banned? Are they really so threatened by his words? Could not his detractors have come up with a better response than to send him home like some unruly schoolboy?

Piers Morgan — U.S. citizen or not — has the right to freedom of speech under our Constitution. What’s truly offensive is not what he said or how he said it, but that there are Americans who buy in to the twisted notion that, when it comes to immigrants, banishment and exile should replace reasoned debate.

Ironically, the folks who petitioned for Morgan’s deportation owe him a debt of gratitude. By sparking a robust debate about gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, Morgan, perhaps unwittingly, has underscored the importance of jealously protecting our fundamental constitutional rights, including, among others, the right to bear arms.

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