By John Stark
When President Barack Obama announced he would “defer” the deportation of some illegal immigrants and allow them to apply for temporary work permits, he was denounced for enacting “amnesty” without action from Congress. Now, Mitt Romney says he has no immediate plans to undo Obama’s action, if elected.
In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney said he plans to take no action against those who have already taken Obama up on his offer of a two-year work permit. To qualify, “those eligible must have arrived in America before they turned 16, be under the age of 30, have been living in the country for five or more years, and be either in the military, in school or graduated,” acording to The Post.
The Post story also quotes an Obama spokeswoman saying that Romney’s recent remarks to the Post have not clarified his position on immigration issues, and on whether he would enact the hard-line measures that some Republican factions would prefer.
UPDATE: Immigration attorney Margaret Stock notes that Romney misused the term “visa” in his remarks. The temporary work permits authorized by the Obama administration are not visas, Stock said.
UPDATE 2: Here’s the New York Times take on this episode, with expanded remarks from Margaret Stock.
UPDATE 3: Stock also suggested this link to a page on the State Department website, explaining exactly what a visa is.
Washington State Democrats have issued a press release accusing Republican 1st District Congressional candidate John Koster of hiding from immigration issues.
The Dems note that the GOP’s platform committee has staked out a hard-line position that opposes any kind of amnesty for those who are in the country illegally, including DREAM Act measures that would show some mercy to those who were brought into the country as children. The New York Times reports.
The accusation that Koster is dodging the issue is based on his campaign’s failure to return a phone call for this Seattle Times story noting that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and Senatorial candidate Mike Baumgartner have attempted to move away from their party’s hard-line immigration stance.
Here’s how the Dems’ press release characterizes this non-return of a phone call: “Koster refused to answer questions about his opinion of the extreme Republican positions …”
For what it’s worth, Koster did address the immigration issue in The Bellingham Herald’s Q&A to 1st District candidates before the August primary, although he also seemed to change the subject to excessive federal regulation of agriculture. Here is our question about immigration, along with Koster’s answer and the answer from Suzan DelBene, the Democrat who took second place in the primary and is facing Koster in the November general election:
Q: Agriculture is a $290 million a year business in Whatcom County. Local farmers say their very existence could be threatened if tightened immigration restrictions deprive them of undocumented laborers, without providing them with a legal way to obtain the labor force they need. What should Congress do to address the labor problem in agriculture?
John Koster: We are a nation of immigrants. The debate and problems we have today are not about legal immigration, but illegal immigration. The debate is also a matter of national security. We must secure our borders. We are a nation of laws; therefore, we first need to enforce our existing immigration laws. I will oppose efforts to provide amnesty for illegal aliens. That being said, American farmers are fully capable of feeding this nation. Excessive governmental regulation and micro-management threatens this capability. Farmers must be left free to innovate and produce without unnecessary and intrusive regulations. As a third-generation dairy farmer, I personally feel that we need to revamp and reinstitute our “guest worker program” that offers temporary visas for those wishing to come from other countries to work as seasonal workers. Washington’s farmers have a need for seasonal agriculture workers. However, any guest worker program should never provide a fraudulent cover for those seeking to flout our immigration laws.
Suzan DelBene: For too long, Congress had ignored taking meaningful action to address immigration and as a result we have a flawed system that isn’t working, for immigrants, their families or employers. I support comprehensive immigration reform. Reform should include an earned path to citizenship for those who are here and working. I’m not supportive of e-verify and don’t think it’s good for our farmers or workers. What’s more, we need a legal and safe way for migrant workers to be able meet the labor demands of our agricultural industry in a way that protects workers and helps our economy thrive. Comprehensive reform has to be more than an enforcement-only policy and we must treat immigrants and their families with respect and dignity, not as second-class citizens.
After Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a restrictive Arizona immigration law, reactions and interpretations from press and public officials were all over the map as both sides declared victory.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, for example, said the nation’s highest court had upheld the “heart” of her state’s law, as Politico and others reported. That heart is Section 2B, the so-called “show me your papers” provision.
The reality wasn’t that simple. Today, immigration attorney Margaret Stock weighs in on the SCOTUSblog, exploring the nuances of the court’s ruling. She concludes that Arizona law officers will have a tough time enforcing the “show me your papers” provision of the law that the court upheld. Stock notes that a majority of justices–including Chief Justice John Roberts–made it clear that they are prepared to give that provision additional constitutional scrutiny if it leads, in practice, to civil rights violations.
Stock thinks that is likely.
“The practical problem now is that Section 2B is difficult to apply in a way that does not violate someone’s rights,” Stock said. ” The Supreme Court suggested that the law could be applied constitutionally if Arizona law enforcement officers merely contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without detaining a person any longer than necessary to carry out a non-immigration-related reason for the stop, detention, or arrest. The Court suggested, however, that Arizona police would be acting unconstitutionally if they detained a motorist at a routine traffic stop longer than necessary to write a ticket.”
Stock is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Military Police and a former West Point instructor. She has lectured in Bellingham on several occasions. She is based in Anchorage and is affiliated with the Lane Powell law firm.
President Obama’s recent move to halt deportations of illegal immigrants brought to this country as children is proving surprisingly popular, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
The poll results, reported here by the Wall Street Journal, seem to provide some evidence that the outspoken, strident opponents of all things immigrant are a minority that is out of step with the majority of Americans.
“Nearly every segment of the population—whites, male voters, suburbanites, rural voters, even union members—supported the move to cease the deportations. But those identifying themselves as Republicans narrowly opposed the move, 48% to 47%. Nearly half of all Americans now think immigration helps the U.S. more than it hurts, while 39% said its hurts more than helps, down from 52% who held that view in 2007,” the Wall Street Journal report states.
Obama’s move is especially popular among Hispanic voters, the poll reports.
President Barack Obama made a recent splash with his decision to use his executive power to create a path to legal residency for undocumented young immigrants who were brought into the country as children. Now, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is prepared to offer his own proposals to ease immigration restrictions.
Political analysts see a political motive in the actions of both men: They want to cultivate Hispanic voters.
McClatchy News Service reports that Romney is scheduled to talk about immigration issues today (Thursday, June 21) in Florida, a key presidential battleground with a large Hispanic population.
The McClatchy reporter’s lead paragraph says Romney is offering “few new proposals.” That may be true, but to me it’s big news that the Republican nominee is proposing any kind of easing of restrictions on immigration. There is a slice of the GOP base that seems to favor a zero-tolerance, zero-clemency, ship-em-all-out approach.
Romney is proposing permanent residency and even eventual citizenship for young people who crossed the border illegally with their families, as kids. But there’s a big qualifier: military service.
Romney’s package of proposed immigration reforms also includes a business-friendly increase in existing immigration quotas for highly-skilled workers, as well as the raising of immigration quotas for individual countries that tend to drive skilled professionals from those countries into Canada, Australia and so forth.
Of special interest to Whatcom County, Romney also proposes improvements in temporary visas to allow growers to bring in seasonal farm labor.
He also pledges to complete a “high-tech fence” and take other measures to stop illegal border crossing.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants automatic citizenship to most babies born in this country. Amid the current wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, some are advocating doing away with what is called “birthright citizenship.”
Today, the National Foundation for American Policy has issued a report suggesting that ending birthright citizenship could cause more problems than it solves. The report is entitled “The Cost to Americans and America of Ending Birthright Citizenship.”
The report’s author is immigration attorney Margaret Stock, who has visited Bellingham in the past to lecture on immigration issues. She is a retired U.S. Army Reserve officer who has also written for the Cato Journal.
Among other things, Stock suggests that ending birthright citizenship would require establishment of a bureaucratic process to verify the citizenship of each baby’s parents, at a cost that could exceed $1,000 for each baby.
She also warns that ending birthright citizenship could create a new class of stateless persons.
With our military engagement in Iraq at an end, thousands of Iraqi citizens who helped U.S. forces are in grave danger–but few of them are likely to get refugee status here.
So says Kirk Johnson, a former U.S. construction coordinator in Iraq, writing in the New York Times.
As Johnson sees it, our fear of terrorism trumps any kind of generous immigration policy toward thousands of Iraqis who worked with U.S. military and civilian officials, and are already being targeted for reprisals.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has staked out a comparatively moderate position on illegal immigration, and that has made him a target for some of his rivals in a party where “amnesty” has become a dirty word for many.
In this account from the Los Angeles Times, Gingrich says a family values party should not advocate policies that would break up the families of immigrants who have violated immigration laws.
“I’m prepared to take the heat in saying: Let’s be humane in enforcing the law,” Gingrich said.
Michele Bachman and Mitt Romney wasted no time in making sure that everyone noticed what Gingrich was saying.
Has Gingrich doomed his candidacy by suggesting that he is NOT in favor of expelling every last illegal immigrant in the country?
Via the Whatcom Farm Friends Facebook page, here’s a report from NPR about the farm labor situation in Alabama, where Hispanic workers — legal and otherwise — are said to be leaving the state because of restrictive state laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
Farmers quoted in the NPR report are saying that other unemployed Alabama residents are not stepping forward in sufficient numbers to get crops planted and harvested.
Whatcom County farmers have said they are concerned about similar problems here if the federal government imposes eVerify requirements for farmworkers nationwide.
Here and elsewhere, farmers say they want a legal workforce, but measures that eliminate illegal workers without providing an alternative labor supply could be disastrous. That would likely mean some kind of guest worker program that would enable farmers to quickly mobilize legal immigrant laborers when they are needed.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a bill that he says would make it easier for U.S. farmers to bring immigrant workers into the country on temporary visas.
Among other things, his bill would transfer the agricultural labor permitting system to the Agriculture Department, away from the Labor Department.
According to this report from McClatchy, the bill would cover dairies as well as other farms, which apparently has not been the case under previous temporary worker plans. But some in agriculture say Smith’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.
On Aug. 29, 2011, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, was in Whatcom County meeting with local farmers. Afterwards, Larsen said he would oppose legislation that would force farmers to use E-Verify, a computerized federal system that checks validity of a worker’s identity documents, unless a way could be found to enable farmer to get access to legal labor to harvest their crops.
I just can’t bring myself to post links to any more stories about Rick Perry’s poll numbers or Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy or Barack Obama’s approval ratings.
Perhaps I just need a refreshing weekend to recover my enthusiasm for such stuff, as well as city and county election issues, environmental impact statements, etc.
One little item I am looking forward to next week: U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen will be in Whatcom County. Among other things, he will go to Lynden to talk to local farmers about labor and immigration issues. That discussion won’t be open to the likes of me, but Larsen’s staff says the Congressman and at least some local farmers will be available to discuss the issue afterwards. I plan to take them up on that.
A few weeks ago, Skagit County berry grower Steve Sakuma told reporter Rob Hotakainen that overly restrictive immigration laws run the risk of shutting down the berry industry.
The Skagit Valley Herald reports that Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris has blocked a liquor license for a proposed Mexican restaurant and tequila bar downtown–and some people see a connection between that action and the mayor’s earlier moves to remove the Spanish language from city signs and phone systems.
Among other things, Norris ordered the city library to replace a sign that had the word “biblioteca” on it, and the new sign apparently cost the city $5,000.
A Port Angeles-based U.S. Border Patrol agent who made national headlines for refusing overtime pay is now back on the job, according to this story from the Peninsula Daily News, via AP.
Among other things, Border Patrol agent Christian Sanchez says officers in the Olympic Peninsula community were routinely expected to work paid overtime even though they had little or nothing to do. Here’s a report from the Washington Post.
Via this link, the PDN also provides the complete text of Sanchhez’s remarks to the Congressional Transparency Caucus in Washington, D.C. It’s worth a read. He says 40 employees now do the work that was once handled by four, and the staffing is still increasing.
Federal immigration enforcement has been making some waves on the peninsula for many months. While there are those who welcome the increased immigration enforcement, including highway checkpoints, there are also those who resent the intrusion and the occasional disruption of labor-intensive forestry work. That kind of work, like agricultural work, attracts a significant amount of illegal immigrant labor.
John Koster, a Snohomish County Republican who came pretty close to unseating Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen in the last election, is already on the campaign trail for 2012, and he’s attacking Larsen over the prosecution of Whatcom County resident Wayne Groen.
Here’s a link to Koster’s press release on the topic.
Groen runs a manure-hauling business and is well-known in rural Whatcom County. In April 2011, he was convicted of a felony charge in U.S. District Court in Seattle based on his actions in shining a bright light on a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter hovering near his home in September 2010.
Groen’s prosecution brought discontent in the north county to a head, and there have been several community meetings and symbolic chaining up of farm roads because of unhappiness about the behavior of federal law enforcement offiicers in vehicles and aircraft.
Koster says he has brought the matter to the attention of Republican members of the state Congressional delegation.
Some questions for discussion:
- Should members of Congress intervene in federal prosecutions?
- Koster seems to be an advocate of strong enforcement of border security and existing immigration laws, and a strong opponent of anything that smacks of amnesty for immigration law violators. Can we expect federal officers to police our border around the clock and round up illegals with minimal disruption to life along the border?
- Is it possible to be wary of federal power but supportive of rigid enforcement of immigration laws at the same time?
In a 5-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have the power to revoke business licenses of employers who hire workers who are in the country illegally.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ACLU had joined forces to challenge an Arizona law on grounds that it infringed on federal authority. The Supreme Court disagreed.
The ruling does not cover a better-known Arizona law that gives state and local authorities more authority to question people suspected of illegal residency. That law is also the subject of a court challenge, but the court majority’s stance on the business license law seems to undermine the theory that states have no business getting involved in immigration issues.
The Los Angeles Times has a lengthy report on the court ruling.