After a long wait, Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with several new protections that are of relevance to immigrant clients and practitioners. President Obama is expected to sign the bill this afternoon. But first, what is VAWA? In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA I), the first comprehensive federal legislation to address specifically the issue of violence against women. VAWA I improved greatly the availability of overall support and resources for domestic violence survivors through the creation of new criminal enforcement authority and enhanced penalties to combat domestic violence in federal courts, and provided grants to fund programs to fight violence against women.
It took only three years longer than promised—and a leak that may or may not have been intentional—but the White House has finally produced a legislative proposal to fix the immigration system. Dubbed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2013, the bill would create a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million removable noncitizens in the country, mandate the eventual use of E-Verify for most employers, and dull many of the draconian provisions enacted in the 1996 immigration bill.
The week before last, we surveyed President Obama’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, we will look at a similar plan put forward by a bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight.” (Its members are Democrats Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, and Michael Bennet, and Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Flake.) Like President Obama, the Senators want to modernize the legal immigration system, create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, and require mandatory employment verification for new workers.
It has been a tough week for the ICE bureaucrats who have sought to undermine the political leadership of this country to pursue their own restrictivist and nativist agenda. Regular readers of this blog (my wife and my mother), will know that we have sought to document the efforts of bureaucrats within ICE to stymie intelligent immigration enforcement through insubordination, lawsuits, leaks, and more generic tactics like refusal to complete trainings and sick-outs.
There is a single line in the President’s immigration proposal that has escaped a lot of attention. As the idiotic “back of the line” concept and the path to citizenship dominate the headlines, the language of the proposal indicates that the administration would like to eliminate one of the most onerous obstacles to asylum for thousands of applicants- the notorious one year rule. If this became law, the President will preside over a vast improvement in U.S.
What a week it has been. There has been more positive discussion of immigration reform in the last week than in the past decade and while none of it is perfect, it is a huge improvement over Mitt Romney endorsing self-deportation and SB 1070. Hard to believe that that was just six months ago. In the past week, there has been two major comprehensive overhaul plans, word of a third, and the introduction of independent bills that would make discrete but needed improvements to the system.
This morning, we had a chance to review the five page blueprint for immigration reform produced by a bipartisan group of eight Senators. There is a lot to discuss on the blueprint, but one thing specifically jumped out at me: “Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency.
As most of us in Washington returned to work on January 2, 2013, we noticed that many of our fellow Washingtonians were bleary-eyed and slow-moving. Unfortunately, their lethargy stemmed not from all night and day new year’s electro-funk raves, but from hours of C-SPAN, watching the country go over the fiscal cliff, then climb back up the cliff, and then just hang out somewhere in the middle.
Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was named the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, a committee that will presumably have a lead role in developing any new immigration law in the coming Congress. Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced today that Rep Gowdy would be chair in the new Congress and stated “Rep. Gowdy will play a leading role on immigration reform which is a top priority of the House Judiciary Committee in the new Congress.” Congressman Gowdy will take over for Congressman Elton Gallegly, who ran the Subcommittee in the last Congress.
Last week, we brought you news of the plans of certain Republican Senators to introduce an alternative to the DREAM Act. Today, Senators Hutchinson (R-TX), Kyl (R-AZ) and McCain (R-AZ) introduced the ACHIEVE Act. The Senators held a press announcement to describe their new bill. They described it as the product of a year of work. Mercifully, there appears to have been some pressure to end their work and put forward a bill as, if they had continued to work, the bill and the process they propose would have become even more cumbersome than the three step process they have outlined.