Saturday, September 15, 2007

The NYT reports that some industries are now turning to the federal government for more mandatory regulations. This story speculates that these industries may hope to avoid harsher penalties in lawsuits from individual states by these national regulations and that they may be attempting to use these regulations as leverage against foreign manufacturers (who might not abide by voluntary US industry safety standards).

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Miami Herald has a summary of the debate about the proposed federal "DREAM Act." Interestingly, it says that Sen. Martinez (R-FL), who used to back the "DREAM Act" (and perhaps still does), does not support it as an amendment to the defense bill:
Pro-Dream Act groups are unlikely to have Martinez's support this time around. Durbin plans to offer it as an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill. A spokesman for Martinez said Friday that the senator doesn't support ''adding immigration-related amendments'' to the defense bill.
Sen. Sessions (R-AL) thinks that the "DREAM Act" could affect more than just students and could have further-reaching consequences (e.a.):

Among Sessions' complaints: it would eliminate a federal provision that discourages states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students.

The act, he says, would ``allow future illegal aliens to qualify for in-state tuition even when it is not offered to citizens and legal permanent resident students living just across state lines.''

And Sessions argues that the act ''is not just for children and young adults.'' It only requires that the immigrant's illegal entry occur before they were 16 years old and says nothing about their current age.

Kris Kobach casts a skeptical eye at the "DREAM Act" and points out some ways in which it could offer a relatively broad sweep of legalization (e.a.):

  • There is no upper age limit. Any illegal alien can walk into a U.S. Customs and Immigration Ser­vices office and declare that he is eligible. For example, a 45 year old can claim that he illegally entered the United States 30 years ago at the age of 15. There is no requirement that the alien prove that he entered the United States at the claimed time by providing particular documents. The DREAM Act's Section 4(a) merely requires him to "demonstrate" that he is eligible—which in practice could mean simply making a sworn statement to that effect. Thus, it is an invitation for just about every illegal alien to fraudulently claim the amnesty.

  • The alien then has six years to adjust his status from a conditional green card holder to a non-conditional one. To do so, he need only complete two years of study at an institution of higher edu­cation. If the alien has already completed two years of study, he can convert to non-conditional status immediately (and use his green card as a platform to bring in family members). As an alternative to two years of study, he can enlist in the U.S. military and spend two years there. This provision allows Senator Durbin to claim that the DREAM Act is somehow germane to a defense authorization bill.

  • An illegal alien who applies for the DREAM Act amnesty gets to count his years under "condi­tional" green card status toward the five years needed for citizenship. (Section 5(e)) On top of that, the illegal alien could claim "retroactive benefits" and start the clock running the day that the DREAM Act is enacted. (Section 6) In combi­nation, these two provisions put illegal aliens on a high-speed track to U.S. citizenship—moving from illegal alien to U.S. citizen in as little as five years. Lawfully present aliens, meanwhile, must follow a slower path to citizenship.

  • It would be absurdly easy for just about any ille­gal alien—even one who does not qualify for the amnesty—to evade the law. According to Section 4(f) of the DREAM Act, once an alien files an application—any application, no matter how ridiculous—the federal government is prohib­ited from deporting him. Moreover, with few exceptions, federal officers are prohibited from either using information from the application to deport the alien or sharing that information with another federal agency, under threat of up to $10,000 fine. Thus, an alien's admission that he has violated federal immigration law cannot be used against him—even if he never had any chance of qualifying for the DREAM Act amnesty in the first place.
  • To follow up on Kobach's claim about deportation--in Section 3304 of one draft of this Act:
    (f) Removal of Alien.--The Secretary of Homeland Security may not remove any alien who has a pending application for conditional status under this title.
    How long could an application be pending for?
    While some talk about a federal "Dream Act," the California legislature has passed this week its own "California Dream Act," which would allow "undocumented" students to achieve certain types of financial aid from the state:

    The California Dream Act, SB 1 (Cedillo) allows U.S. citizen and undocumented AB 540 students to apply for community college fee waivers and eligible for the Cal Grant which can be applied at

    California colleges and universities. However, SB 1 specifically excludes students from the Competative Cal Grant Program.
    An earlier "California Dream Act" was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger (R). Will he sign this newer version?
    Tony Snow reflects on the fight over the "grand bargain."
    Kaus wonders if there may be a "comprehensive" reason for Fred Thompson reportedly not meeting with "conservative theoretician" Jeff Bell:
    Was it maybe because Thompson has distinguished himself from the field by strongly opposing Bush's misguided illegal-immigrant semi-amnesty proposal, while Bell a) supported it; b) worked for La Raza, which helped draft it and c) erroneously (and self-servingly) declared to pro-legalization pundit Fred Barnes that the political tide had turned Bush's way? ...

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    K-Lo posts a CQ story on the attempt to bring back pieces of the "grand bargain":

    Senate Democrats plan to use the defense authorization bill next week to revive a provision from the failed immigration overhaul that would put some children of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is working to bring to the floor another provision from the immigration bill (S 1639) that would create a guest worker program for up to 1.5 million agricultural workers (S 340).


    Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., is expected to offer an amendment to the defense bill (HR 1585) that would attach legislation (S 774) to allow children of illegal immigrants who entered the United States before age 16 and lived here at least five years to gain conditional legal status and eventual citizenship if they attend college or join the military for at least two years.

    Durbin said Wednesday he is working on the amendment and contacting colleagues to gauge support.

    “The Department of Defense has endorsed this, and I think it would be of value,” he said in an interview.

    Durbin said Feinstein is searching for the right vehicle. One possibility could be the upcoming five-year farm bill, which is expected to reach the Senate floor next month.

    Sen. Sessions (R-AL) says that these measures could "put more than 4 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship." He also thinks Sen. Chambliss (R-GA) may be collaborating with Feinstein on AgJobs:

    The reason for Sessions’ alarm was a July 25 colloquy in which Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., assured Feinstein of a vote on the so-called AgJobs measure, which she introduced earlier this year as a freestanding bill (S 340). “I will do everything I can to make sure it is part of the farm bill,” Reid said.

    Sessions said Feinstein is negotiating a potential compromise with the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

    The WaPo reports on how Congressional Democratic leaders have now shifted to more "incremental" measures for proposed Iraq legislation in order to attract uncertain Republicans to their side. Some are hopeful of passing Webb's troop rotation amendment to the defense bill. Last time, it got 56 votes. Now that Sen. Johnson (D-SD) is back, supporters of the amendment are at 57. They need 3 more to break a filibuster. Webb says that he is in talks with Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH). If he can get them, he's at 59. Vote 60?
    An interesting NYT story on the details of the search for an agreement on oil laws in Iraq.
    Despite what has been characterized as a "warm" reception at a Senate hearing for Julie Myers, Bush's nominee for assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (she currently holds this position through an expiring recess appointment), Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) sounded very skeptical about Myers's (and the administration's) enforcement policies (or lack thereof):
    Sen. Claire McCaskill indicated she might vote against Myers. McCaskill, D-Mo., said the administration is not doing enough to crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers.

    McCaskill challenged Myers to say how many employers, under her tenure, have faced criminal or administrative penalties for hiring illegal employees.

    Myers did not provide a number and said law enforcement statistics do not break out records that way. She said businesses have paid $30 million in criminal fines and forfeitures this year, compared with just $600,000 in 2006.

    "I agree with you on targeting egregious employers and getting U.S. attorneys to take these cases," Myers said. "The bottom line is that we are looking to change behavior."

    But McCaskill said it was "outrageous" that Myers would appear at the hearing without having an answer.

    McCaskill says that she's been trying to get the statistics for employers "for months."

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    The Transportation bill (the one including the measure against the NAFTA Mexican trucking pilot program) has passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority: 88-7. It goes substantially (almost $6 billion) over the budget for the bill requested by President Bush.
    A lot of little bargains? From the Capitolist, a hint of the strategy to move some pieces of the failed "grand bargain" through Congress (e.a.):

    Senate Democrats plan to revive the contentious debate over immigration policy by cherry-picking pieces from a comprehensive bill that collapsed three months ago and offering them as amendments to other measures moving on the floor.

    The strategy for advancing selected provisions of the failed legislation on other bills is being crafted by Majority Whip Ricahrd J. Durbin.

    Durbin is likely to offer an amendment to the defense authorization bill when debate begins next week that would attach legislation allowing children of illegal immigrants who entered the United States before age 16 and lived here at least five years to gain conditional legal status and eventual citizenship if they attend college or join the military for at least two years.

    Which parts?
    Thirteen state governors have written a letter to Congress asking it to increase number of the H-1B worker visas:
    Besides Schwarzenegger [R-CA], the letter was signed by Govs. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.), Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), Bill Ritter (D-Colo.), Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyo.), Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.), Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.), Jim Doyle (D-Wis.), Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.), Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) and Rick Perry (R-Texas).
    Bouncing all over: A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll offers some numbers to show how unsettled the race for the GOP presidential nomination is; a lot of GOP voters in IA/NH/SC are not firmly committed to their preferred candidates. Of those Republican voters who support a GOP candidate, 72% might vote for someone else in Iowa, 50% in NH, and 64% in SC. A lot's still in play, it seems. The LAT has more analysis, too.
    The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union wants to stop ICE immigration raids on workplaces and is filing a lawsuit in federal court to request an injunction. The Union's press release about the matter is here:
    The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today, sought court intervention to protect the 4th Amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers including U.S. citizens and legal residents while at their workplace.

    The lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas—names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency as defendants. The suit calls for an injunction against the excessive, illegal and unnecessary worksite raids conducted by ICE agents.

    The text of the lawsuit is here.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Hot Air reports that the US Senate has voted 74-24 to put the brakes on a program that would have allowed Mexican truck companies the unrestricted ability to drive around within the US. This amendment was sponsored by Byron Dorgan (D-ND). A similar measure (H.AMDT.624, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio [D-OR]) passed the House on a voice vote in July. * Bush has threatened to veto the overall transportation bill. Some more details (e.a.):

    The 75-23 vote to bar the Department of Transportation from spending tax dollars on the project as part of a transportation funding bill increases the chances – but does not guarantee – that Congress will shut down the initiative.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last Thursday began the program, which allows up to 100 Mexican carriers to send trucks throughout the United States.

    While it appears likely the prohibition will survive in the final spending bill sent to President Bush, he has said he will veto the bill. That raises doubts about whether the effort to bar funding for the pilot program will succeed.

    The initiative paves the way for pre-approved Mexican trucks to make deliveries anywhere in the United States, something that has not been widely permitted since 1982. U.S. trucks also are allowed to travel in Mexico under the arrangement.

    The overall Transportation bill (H. R. 3074) passed the House 268-153. It is still being considered by the Senate.
    WaPo has more--and considers some of the NAFTA implications of this measure.

    *CORRECTION: I originally had details about a different amendment sponsored by Duncan Hunter. Apologies.

    UPDATE: Before voting to stop funding for this program, the House had also voted 411-3 to extend this pilot program and set more standards for it:
    In May, the House voted overwhelmingly, 411-3, to pass H.R. 1773, the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, legislation which would extend the pilot program to three years and ensure that DOT establishes a process to analyze the impact of allowing Mexican trucks on our nation's roadways, before the border is completely opened. Provisions were also included in the FY 2007 Iraq War Supplemental spending bill to impose strict measures to ensure that the pilot program adheres to safety and security guidelines and that its progress is assessed by an independent panel.
    Malkin has an update about the attempt to include the "DREAM Act" as an amendment to a defense bill.
    Human Events posts Boehner's letter to Pelosi on the investigation of August's "vote meltdown."
    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seems, according to this poll, to not have the strongest support from fellow SC Republicans:
    • One question about controversial U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Republicans if they would re-elect him: 36 percent said yes, 24 percent said they'd vote for someone else, while 37 percent said their votes would depend on who runs against him.
    Fellow "grand bargain" backer McCain also doesn't sound too popular in SC according to this poll.
    Fred Thompson's "bounced" in the polls recently: Rasmussen now has him leading Giuliani by 7 points (28-21) amongst likely Republican primary voters nationwide, and Survey USA now has him trailing Giuliani by 2 points (26-28) amongst California Republicans.
    Many opponents of a physical fence along the borders have criticized its cost and the difficulty of building it, but it seems as though the proposed "virtual fence" has problems of its own:
    The Bush administration's program for building a virtual fence along the nation's borders will be delayed at least another month because of problems with integrating technology, and Homeland Security Department officials are now threatening to go back to the drawing board.

    Homeland Security hired defense contracting giant Boeing Integrated Defense Systems to develop the so-called SBInet program, which is supposed to use technology, personnel and infrastructure to control the borders. Under the first phase of the contract, Boeing was supposed to develop an integrated system for 28 miles of border in Arizona by June.

    But the department has refused to accept Boeing's solution because of ongoing technical glitches.

    "I am not going to buy something with U.S. government money unless I'm satisfied it works in the real world," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told lawmakers during a hearing Wednesday. "And if it can't be made to work, I'm prepared to go and find something that will be made to work, although I'll obviously be disappointed."

    The Influence Peddler thinks about the time it might take to get this system to "work." (H/T Kaus, who's also wondering about what a teacher's anecdote might mean for enforcement patterns.)

    Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
    Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!
    Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me;
    Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
    Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
    Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
    Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
    Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house, or street, or public assembly!
    Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my nighest name!
    Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress!
    Play the old role, the role that is great or small, according as one makes it!
    --Walt Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    The Washington Post has a survey of some of the political moves in Congress over Iraq policy.
    A broadcaster files a lawsuit against the Voice of America, alleging that it attempts to avoid hiring qualified citizens and instead favors non-citizens.

    Sunday, September 9, 2007

    Boehner seems to be trying to turn up the pressure on Pelosi for the "vote meltdown" investigative panel--so the Hill reports (e.a.):
    In a letter to Pelosi Friday, Boehner asked for $1 million for professional investigative staff, consultants and other expenses. He also asked for an expansion of the probe to include “exceedingly controversial events in the House that occurred in close succession in early August,” such as the malfunction of the automatic voting system and alterations of the Congressional Record.

    Pelosi made clear to Boehner two days earlier that she was in no mood for swelling the investigation into mini Watergate hearings.

    “There is no reason for this review to become protracted as the committee’s charge is limited to a very small number of matters,” Pelosi wrote in a terse letter to Boehner Wednesday.

    Boehner, however, sees the matter differently.

    “Madame Speaker, our votes in the House are cast on behalf of the American people — and public confidence in the integrity of the legislative actions in the House can only be restored by fully and aggressively investigating the circumstances surrounding each of these deeply disturbing events,” wrote Boehner. “Simply put, the Select Committee must follow the evidence wherever it leads — and it must have all the tools necessary to complete that critically important task.

    If he is planning on pushing this matter--and trying for "mini Watergate" proportions--could his placing of LaTourette and Hulshof on the committee be an attempt to strengthen a sense of legitimacy for its investigations?

    UPDATE (9/10): Hulshof is definitely playing up his past support of ethics sanctions against Tom DeLay:
    Hulshof said the situation reminded him of his tenure on the ethics committee, during which he and his Republican colleagues chose to admonish former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

    “I will tell you personally, being in the majority, that was a very difficult and painful process, to have to look at one of your own and to call to task, but to call it as you saw it,” Hulshof said.
    Some news roundup for the Democratic presidential candidate Univision debate. Bill Richardson was upset that he couldn't answer questions in Spanish. An interesting WaPo paragraph:
    Nearly all the candidates committed to overhauling immigration laws in their first year in office, days after Republican candidates accused each other in a debate of supporting "amnesty."

    "We all know that this has become a contentious political issue," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said. "It is being demagogued, and I believe that it is being used to bash immigrants, and that must stop. The Republican candidates need to understand that they are doing a great disservice to our country."

    According to the NYT, there were some other criticisms raised about the Republican response to the "grand bargain":
    The three leading candidates, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, had especially sharp criticism for leaders of the Republican Party. They expressed concerns that Republicans were enabling anti-immigrant feelings and even racist attitudes, or at least not taking a tougher stand against them.


    Later, Mrs. Clinton added: “There are many in the political and frankly in the broadcast world today who take a particular aim at our Latino population. I think it’s very destructive.” A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton said after the debate that she was referring to the CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and the radio host Rush Limbaugh, among others.


    “That’s what’s been missing from presidential leadership — explaining to the American people from all walks of life that our separate struggles are one,” Mr. Obama said. “A president has to not only speak up forcefully against anti-immigrant sentiment and racist sentiment, but also make sure that all workers are being tended to.”

    Mr. Edwards put the blame on President Bush for divisive attitudes that can lead to anti-Hispanic sentiment, saying he “uses absolutely every tool available to him politically to divide the country.” Mr. Edwards added, “This needs to be brought to an end.”

    The NYT also reports that Dennis Kucinich was alone in openly advocating for Spanish as an official language for the United States.

    Meanwhile, Christina Bellantoni at the Washington Times reveals some of the technical difficulties faced by the press during this debate:

    But 90 seconds before the forum began tonight, the Media Room had no sound - not in Spanish, English or French. Nada.

    Spanish- and English-speaking reporters in the room erupted in a panic, sending University of Miami staff scrambling to try and fix the feed. What most reporters heard for the first 16 minutes of the debate was static - both from the closed television feed and from the translation device.

    Collin Peterson (D-MN), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, plans on holding some hearings (along with the House Judiciary Committee) and says he wants to implement a "guest worker" program.
    Some wonder if tonight's Univision debate for Democratic presidential primary contenders will lead to the candidates expanding their discussion of immigration-related matters.
    Stephen Dinan comments on some recent polls showing the importance of immigration for GOP primary voters in Iowa and South Carolina.
    New UK PM Gordon Brown plans to announce some immigration reforms. One will require skilled immigrants to learn English before they can enter the UK:

    Under the government's new "points" system, there are three main categories of immigrants coming to Britain from outside the European Union to work — highly skilled, skilled and low-skilled workers. The first two groups eventually can settle permanently in Britain; the third group cannot.

    Highly skilled migrants have been forced to learn English as a condition of entry since last December. However, Mr. Brown and Mrs. Smith will announce this week that the condition will be extended to all skilled migrants, who numbered 96,000 last year.