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Jun 222013
 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — As the Senate is poised to make a key vote on an immigration compromise Monday, President Obama pressed Congress Saturday to pass immigration reform.

“The United States Senate is debating a bipartisan, commonsense bill that would be an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.  “The bill isn’t perfect.  It’s a compromise.  Nobody is going to get everything they want – not Democrats, not Republicans, not me.  But it’s consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out for commonsense reform.”

The president said the bill would lead to “stronger enforcement.  A smarter legal immigration system.  A pathway to earned citizenship.  A more vibrant, growing economy that’s fairer on the middle class.  And a more stable fiscal future for our kids.”

“We can do this, because we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; a place enriched by the contributions of people from all over the world, and stronger for it.  That’s been the story of America from the start.  Let’s keep it going,” he said.

On Friday, a bipartisan immigration amendment on border security was filed in the Senate, setting up a major vote on immigration reform for Monday to determine whether they should proceed with the full bill.
The amendment enhances the border security provisions in the bi-partisan Gang of Eight plan by doubling the number of border patrol agents from its current size of 21,000 to 40,000 officers as well as completing a 700 mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The compromise, which was sponsored by two Republican senators – Bob Corker of Tenn. And John Hoeven of N.D. – could help solidify the votes needed for the plan to pass the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to pass the bill before the July 4 recess, but the plan has an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives as many members are calling for stricter border security measures.  House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this week that he would not take an immigration bill to the House floor unless it has support from a majority of House Republicans.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 012013
 

Photo by Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As an immigration reform bill heads to the floor of the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is staking out a position as the man who can help bargain for Republican votes.

The bipartisan legislation will likely only need a handful of GOP votes to gain passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the senators who drafted the bill want to pass it with a strong majority.

The reason: They think that will help its chances in the House, where Republicans have the majority and some, like Rep. Steve King, R- Iowa, will be scheming to kill it.

That’s where Rubio comes in.

Even though Rubio is one of the authors of the bill, he’s suggested changing it in recent weeks. That’s because he thinks certain parts to the legislation need to be altered if it’s going to pass, according to Alex Burgos, a spokesperson for the senator.

The bill will have to “earn the support of Democrat and Republican senators who do not support the bill as it stands today,” Burgos wrote in an email.

So far, Rubio has mostly been working to pick up Republican support. Take border security, for example.

As the legislation stands right how, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with coming up with a plan to secure the border. Rubio suggested recently that it might be better for Congress to spell out how the plan should work.

Rubio’s mission to make the bill more conservative might be necessary to help it’s long-term odds at passage. But it could also agitate liberal supporters of immigration reform.

It’s the price Rubio pays for sitting at the center (or center-right) of this coalition. He’s the glue holding the deal together, but that’s also made him a popular target for both sides.

Some immigrant rights groups are already going after Rubio for things like beefed up border security, including a protest on Friday at his Florida office.

And at the same time, he’s been weathering attacks from immigration restrictionists who are angry that he’s supporting citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Those seem to be growing in intensity, with one group reportedly taking out 30-second ads against the senator on Florida television.

What this means is that Rubio will likely be the politician to watch as the immigration debate moves forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 302013
 

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — If you’re growing old and depending on Medicare, you have someone to thank for keeping the system afloat: Immigrants, including those who entered the country illegally.

A Harvard Medical School study published on Wednesday found that immigrants generated a $13.8 billion surplus in the Medicare system in 2009. That’s means they put a lot more into the system than they took out. Meanwhile, people born in the U.S. accounted for a $30.9 billion deficit.

The biggest reason immigrants are able to keep the system alive is because they’re more likely to be of working age and part of the labor force. Of all immigrants in the U.S., 80 percent are between the ages of 18-64, versus 59 percent of the U.S.-born population, according to 2010 census data.

You generally have to be 65 years of age or older to receive Medicaid. There are a lot more native-born people than immigrants eligible for the federal healthcare program, so that means immigrants are less likely to be a drain.

Non-citizens specifically play an outsized role in paying our national Medicare bills.

Legal immigrants contribute to the system through payroll taxes, using valid Social Security numbers.

But undocumented immigrants also add to the coffers, some using other people’s socials. Since undocumented immigrants can’t receive Medicare, they could be paying for a service they’ll never use.

Even when immigrants do use Medicare, they tend to use fewer services than people born in the U.S., according to the report.

All of this is a pretty big deal. Medicare makes up a fifth of all annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S., and politicians are constantly warning that system might fail as our population continues to grow older.

An immigration reform bill that’s heading to the Senate floor in early June would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. If a bill like that passes, millions of people could become eligible to use Medicare who were previously barred.

Still, immigrants would probably continue to underwrite the Medicare system, the report found. Since immigrants tend to be younger, if the country keeps bringing in immigrant workers, they’ll likely keep adding more to that system.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 222013
 

(WASHINGTON) — Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., regrets his previous endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., disavowing the former ally because he has “flip-flopped” on immigration.

“Rand Paul began his speech in Spanish and it went downhill from there,” Tancredo wrote in an op-ed titled “Why I No Longer Stand with Rand Paul” in the Christian Post. “His speech was filled with virtually every single discredited pro-amnesty cliché you could imagine.”

On Tuesday, Paul gave a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington calling for comprehensive immigration reform, including allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, work legally, and eventually become citizens. Paul, however, never used the word “citizenship” or “pathway to citizenship” in his address.

Tancredo said he even regretted the contribution he gave to Paul’s campaign. He actually praised Mitt Romney’s “self-deport” stance, saying there are not just two options available: legalization or deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants.

“The problem is that not one congressman or major commentator has called for deporting all 12 million illegal immigrants,” Tancredo wrote. “Rather, we argue that strict enforcement of employer sanctions and allowing local police to cooperate in immigration enforcement will encourage most illegal to, in Mitt Romney’s words, ‘self-deport.’”

Tancredo, who has spent most of his career calling for stricter immigration enforcement, goes on to write that Paul is “softer” than President Barack Obama on immigration for his proposal.

“Both Obama and the Gang of 8 say that the illegal immigrants must pay a penalty for legal status, while Rand Paul told reporters after his speech he is not ‘not as big a stickler’ on these items, because the illegals would not be able to afford the fines,” Tancredo said.

Paul’s speech this week had a welcoming tone and he peppered his address with Spanish phrases as well as calling Hispanic voters “natural” Republicans, something the RNC also said this week in their “autopsy report,” which pledged to open up the party to more Hispanic voters and use more welcoming language. Tancredo doesn’t believe it.

“Rand Paul said that the only reason why the GOP is losing the Hispanic vote is because we have turned them off with ‘harsh rhetoric over immigration,’ Tancredo writes. “Paul doesn’t give a single example of what that ‘harsh rhetoric’ was. Presumably it could have included his pre-flip flop position on immigration.”

Tancredo goes on to call Paul a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and “just another politician” saying he doubts “the grassroots conservatives who elected Rand to Senate and whose support he expects if he runs for president in 2016 feel the same.”

“When I endorsed Rand Paul, I did not expect to agree with him on every issue,” Tancredo wrote. “I respect people with strongly held beliefs regardless of what they are. Most importantly, I felt that I could trust him to maintain his campaign promises. I was wrong. Oh how I long for a Republican leader who exhibits true courage and integrity. That’s the stuff leaders are made of.”

During his time in Congress, Tancredo tried to establish English as the official national language, as well as many other legislative efforts to try and restrict immigration. He left Congress in 2009 after making a failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, where he also focused on immigration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 132013
 

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but neither side garnered a majority between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side.  Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent.

See a PDF with full results here.

There also are sharp partisan and ideological differences in trust on immigration in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  Democrats and Republicans each prefer their side’s approach by an identical 66 percentage points; independents divide closely between Obama and the GOP, 41-36 percent.

Very conservative Americans favor the Republicans on immigration by 65 points and those who say they’re somewhat conservative do so by 33 points.  Moderates take Obama’s side by a 21-point margin, liberals by 61 points.

Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority, having beaten Mitt Romney in last year’s election by 61 percentage points among the growing proportion of nonwhites overall and by 44 points among Hispanics, while losing whites by 20 points.

In step with the president’s policy direction, majorities in recent ABC/Post polls have supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  His approval rating on the issue in February, while just 49 percent, was the highest of his presidency and up 11 points since the summer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio