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April 2012 Volume 19 Number 2
President Obama mentioned the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in his 2012 State of the Union speech, urging Congress to approve proposals that would allow unauthorized foreigners brought into the US before age 16 to become probationary immigrants. Under the most recent version of DREAM, qualifying foreigners under 35 who completed high school and two years of college or two years of military service could become probationary and eventually regular immigrants.<< back
Obama urged "a national conversation on immigration reform that builds a bipartisan consensus to fix our broken immigration system so it works for America's 21st century economy." He called on Americans to hold roundtables to achieve consensus on the key elements of immigration reform. (www.whitehouse.gov/issues/fixing-immigration-system-america-s-21st-century-economy)
Apparent Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act if it were passed in his presidency, and to do more to reduce illegal migration. Romney said that the promise of legalization acts as a magnet for unauthorized foreigners.
Republicans including Senator Mario Rubio (R-FL) are reportedly prepared to introduce a new version of the DREAM Act if Romney wins the Republican nomination. Rubio suggested that unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children could have their status legalized but not be eligible for US citizenship. He said: "I do think there is another way to deal with this [DREAM]. And I think that one of the debates that we need to begin to have is a difference between citizenship and legalization." Romney has said that if they served in the military he could support legalization but not citizenship for those brought to the US as children.
Romney pledged to "complete the fence" on the Mexico-US border, hire more Border Patrol agents and require employers to use E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed SB 1070 making it a state crime to be an unauthorized foreigner in Arizona, endorsed Mitt Romney just before the Arizona primary on February 28, 2012, after Romney praised SB 1070 as a "model for the nation."
Romney's tough stance on illegal immigration is expected to cost him Hispanic votes in November 2012 elections. George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in November 2004, but John McCain won only 31 percent of the almost 10 million Hispanic votes cast in 2008. Some 12 million Hispanics are projected to vote in November 2012. Most polls suggest that Romney is likely to win less than a third of the Hispanic vote because of his tough-on-immigration stance as well as his opposition to the health-care law and more spending to stimulate the economy.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in March 2012 repeated his support for federal and state-level DREAM laws, saying "for young people that were brought here it's hard to argue they broke the law in any meaningful sense." He also repeated his support for skilled immigration, saying: "At a very minimum we should open up the borders to entrepreneurs and people that either get degrees here or have degrees overseas, and want to bring businesses here, scientists and all the STEM things that really create jobs. Those kinds of immigrants create jobs."
On guest workers, Bloomberg said: "We have to open the borders to seasonal workers that work on the farms,' the mayor said. This argument that Americans are going to do those jobs is just ridiculous. They won't. I don't know how many times we have to do that experiment. They will not. If you want the crops picked, you have to have a workforce that will do that, and why hurt ourselves by not letting people who want to come into this country to work?"
States. Mississippi is expected to enact an Alabama-style attrition-through-enforcement law in 2012 requiring employers to use E-Verify to check new hires and to make it a state crime to be in the state illegally (HB 488). Police are to determine the legal status of persons they arrest (rather than encounter during routine traffic stops) whom they "reasonably suspect" are illegally in the US.
Five states, beginning with Arizona in April 2010, have enacted state laws that crack down on illegal immigration. The US Supreme Court on April 25, 2012 will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070. California joined 10 other states in a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn SB 1070, arguing that it drives unauthorized foreigners out of Arizona and into California and other states.
The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard an appeal against federal district court injunctions that prevented some provisions of Alabama's HB 56 from going into effect. The Obama administration contends that state laws such as HB 56 are unconstitutional because they interfere with the federal government's power to regulate immigration by, for example, enabling states to change federal enforcement priorities.
Alabama countered that HB 56 reinforces federal laws against illegal migration by helping to detect unauthorized foreigners. A federal district court agreed, ruling that Congress has not prohibited state laws against illegal migration.
The Service Employees International Union filed a complaint against HB 56 in April 2012 with the International Labor Organization, arguing that HB 56 is harmful to the ability of unions to organize workers set out in ILO Conventions 87 and 98 (the US has not ratified these ILO Conventions). The SEIU is asking auto manufacturers Daimler, Honda and Hyundai to support repeal of HB 56. A previous AFL-CIO complaint about the US Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Hoffman Plastics that an unauthorized worker who was fired unlawfully for union activities and not entitled to back pay because of his unauthorized status brought the US government response that the executive branch cannot override the Supreme Court.
South Carolina's SB 20 has since January 1, 2012 required employers to use E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires, but exempts employers of seasonal farm workers, persons employed in private homes, and fishers with crews of 10 or less. When contacted in spring 2012, many of those who followed the progress of SB 20 through the legislature said they did not recall discussion of these employer exemptions from E-Verify.
New Mexico and Washington are the only states that issue driver's licenses to unauthorized foreigners (Utah issued 41,000 driving privilege cards as of 2012 at a cost of $25 a year; they allow driving but cannot be used as government identification). New Mexico's Republican Governor Susana Martinez is trying to repeal the driver's license law for the third time in 2012; previous efforts were blocked by Democrats who control the state legislature.
Los Angeles City Police Chief Charlie Beck and county sheriff Lee Baca in February 2012 urged California to issue some type of nonstandard driver's licenses to unauthorized foreigners, saying it would improve safety and reduce hit-and-run accidents. Beck wants to change impound policies for unlicensed drivers detected by police, allowing those with insurance and some form of government ID to avoid mandatory 30-day holds on their cars that include fines and fees of several thousand dollars. California approved driver's licenses for unauthorized foreigners in 2003, but repealed the law in 2004.
E-3. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), chair of the Senate immigration subcommittee, promoted the enactment of a bill that would allow up to 10,000 Irish nationals to enter the US with E-3 visas. The US now admits up to 10,500 E-3 visas to Australians with a least a bachelor's degree who receive job offers from US employers. In FY10, some 2,175 E-3 visas were issued to Australians with US job offers (there were additional accompanying family members).
The E-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa, but allows unlimited renewals, compared with the usual six-year maximum duration of H-1B visas. Spouses of E-3 visa holders may work in the US, while spouses of H-1B visa holders must qualify on their own for US work permits.
Laura Meckler, "GOP Tries to Woo Hispanics," Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2012. Dan Rosenblum, "Bloomberg still wants a New York 'Dream Act,' and more immigration reform than Washington is up for," Capital New York, March 27, 2012. Richard Fausset, "New round of immigration battles set in the South," Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2012.