Friday, September 21, 2007

Gov. Spitzer (D) of New York has issued a new policy so that "undocumented immigrants" will be able to receive driver's licenses. The NYT gives some details on how the governor got to make this decision:

State law requires license applicants to prove their identity, date of birth, and fitness to drive, and to provide a Social Security number. The last requirement was added in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents who were not paying child support. In 2002, a state regulation was adopted to allow applicants who are ineligible for a Social Security number to also apply for driver’s licenses.

But at that point, Gov. George E. Pataki, Mr. Spitzer’s predecessor, issued a policy that stipulated that the only way to define “ineligibility” would be through obtaining a formal letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a letter that is only obtainable by individuals who have legal immigration status. That step made it effectively impossible for illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Gov. Spitzer has changed this policy. Now, applicants for driver's licenses can use "foreign passports, previous state driver’s licenses and 'other valid and verifiable documents' to prove their identity." Some debate the security implications of this new policy. It seems there might be an attempt to overturn NY's new policy.

The Hill has some updates on the committee investigating a voting irregularity in the House in August. Though members of the House leadership may show a little uncertainty about even the title of the committee, members of the committee (3 D and 3 R) are hopeful about the prospect of cooperation. Committee members are trying to resolve funding disagreements (how much? who pays?) and hope that funding will come from both parties. Background here.
The Levin-Reed withdrawal amendment has failed 47-47. In June, a Levin-Reed amendment for withdrawal could not overcome a filibuster at 52-47. Who switched their votes? No senator switched from opposition to Levin-Reed to support. The following switched from support to opposition:
Dodd (D-CT)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AL)
Collins (R-ME)
Republicans Hagel (NE), Snowe (ME), and Smith (OR) backed this measure. Six senators did not vote: Bennett (R-UT), Domenici (R-NM), Lott (R-MS), Boxer (D-CA), Durbin (D-IL), and Sanders (I-VT). These 6 presumably break 3 in favor (the Democrats) and 3 against (the Republicans). Some had expected Levin-Reed to get more support for this vote. The latest draft of Levin-Reed required troop withdrawals to start within 90 days--rather than the 120 days of an earlier draft.
Dodd says he opposed this draft of Levin-Reed because it does not require a "complete redeployment."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The NYT reports on how some of the "undocumented" appear to be fleeing from the US to Canada.
DREAM Act Update: NumbersUSA thinks that a vote on the DREAM Act may occur sometime next week. It also posts a text of the latest version of the act (SA2919), which has a few changes: it sets the maximum age to gain a path to citizenship from this act to 30 and also does not include the former in-state tuition language. However, this 30-year age limit may only go so far:
[Section 3303 1](F) the alien is under 30 years of age on the date of the enactment of this Act.
(2) WAIVER.--Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the Secretary of Homeland Security
may waive the ground of ineligibility under section 212(a)(6)(E) of the Immigration and
Nationality Act and the ground of deportability under paragraph (1)(E) of section 237(a)
of that Act for humanitarian purposes or family unity or when it is otherwise in the public
So there can be exceptions to this measure it seems....

Also, Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) does not support this act being attached to the DoD bill--but that he wants to see the details before he offers a final decision (or so it seems).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Hill reports that some Democratic presidential candidates are promising to "reform" our immigration system early in a potential first term:
The campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) say their candidates will seek comprehensive reform, a phrase that sometimes implies a guest worker program, as soon as they get to the White House.

Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), speaking at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) political action conference Monday, said: “We’re going to ensure that every single person living in the United States of America has a completely achievable path to American citizenship so that they don’t live in the shadows.”
Members of Congress, however, are not as optimistic about passing "reform." Some activists are accusing these presidential candidates as posturing but unwilling to actually push for "reform."
The Webb amendment has failed 56-44. It failed last time 56-41. Johnson (D-SD) did not vote last time and voted in support of the amendment this time. Warner (R-VA) voted in favor of the amendment last time but switched to oppose it this time. Democrats supported the measure. Lieberman (I-CT) and most Republicans opposed it. The following Republicans supported it: Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), Hagel (NE), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), and Sununu (NH).
Polipundit posts a new NumbersUSA email that implies there may some divisions in the Democratic caucus over the attempt to attach the DREAM Act to the DoD bill:

It appears that many of the Democratic Senators are questioning Senate Democratic Leader Reid about the wisdom of allowing the Defense bill to get all tied up with immigration bickering.

There has been a lot of speculation over how/whether immigration divides the Republican party--could this be some evidence of possible divisions amongst Democrats over immigration as well?
CQ has an update on the behind-the-scenes debate over the Webb amendment:

Bush administration officials have been furiously lobbying moderate Republican senators to oppose the measure.

The Webb amendment would require military personnel to be given at least as much time at home as they spend deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. National Guard and reserve forces would have to be allowed three years at home for each one at war.

As the Senate debated the measure, the operations chiefs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army huddled with a small group of centrist Republicans in a Russell Senate Office Building room.

The group included Republicans John W. Warner of Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Afterwards, several sounded as if they had been won over.

“My goal is not to create a management nightmare for our commanders,” said Alexander.

Alexander, Murkowski, and Specter had been thought of as potential supporters of the Webb amendment. I've heard from a source that Webb and supporters are concerned that Warner's alternative proposal--which would be a non-binding "sense of the Congress"--would be used as "cover" for wavering senators to avoid supporting the (requirement-backed) Webb amendment.

Debate over this Webb amendment seems to be on two levels: its constitutionality and its worth as a policy measure. Many opponents of the amendment think that it is unconstitutional for Congress to decide troop movements and also claim that it could lead to a "backdoor" withdrawal from Iraq--in addition to raising fears of a"management nightmare." Backers of the amendment argue that soldiers need more time to recover between tours of duty--and often launch into wider critiques of the administration's Iraq policy. Debate over this measure seems often to be really a debate about Iraq and our capacity for success there.

UPDATE: It looks like there may be a vote on Webb at 5:15 EST (or that's what leaders are planning at the moment).
The Senate's currently debating the Webb (D-VA) amendment, which would mandate a certain troop rotation schedule. Warner (R-VA) has offered a competing amendment, which would offer a non-binding "sense of Congress" about extended troop deployments.
Some More DREAM Act Numbers: Let's try for a master list of DREAM Act potential votes at the moment. Numbers USA lists the following 18 senators as declared in opposition to this act:
Alabama: Sessions; Shelby
Kyl [UPDATE--Maybe not--see below]
Chambliss; Isakson
Bunning; McConnell
Missouri: Bond [UPDATE]
North Carolina: Burr; Dole
South Carolina: DeMint; Graham
Tennesee: Alexander; Corker
Wyoming: Enzi

Activist group has been contacting senators, and they say the following are confirmed against the measure (in bold are those not on the NumbersUSA list):

TN Alexander
WY Barasso
KY Bunning
NC Burr
GA Chambliss
OK Coburn
TN Corker
OK Inhofe
GA Isakson
AL Sessions
AL Shelby
LA Vitter
If both these counts are right, there are 20 declared opponents of the DREAM Act--and Martinez (R-FL) says he does not support adding immigration legislation to the DoD bill, so that number might be at 21.
These lists indicate that declared supporters of the DREAM Act might include Brown (D-OH), Bingaman (D-NM), and Bayh (D-IN). Obviously, Durbin (D-IL), a sponsor of this bill, is also a supporter.

UPDATE: Sources are telling me that Thune (R-SD) will also vote against the DREAM Act. So it could be 21 firmly against.
UPDATE: I see that NumbersUSA has dropped Kyl from their committed "No" list: 20 against.
UPDATE 5:35EST: NumbersUSA has added Bond (R-MO) to "No": 21 against.
Some members of the House are considering a new immigration proposal:

A group of House Republicans has introduced legislation designed to "send a loud and clear message" to a growing number of "sanctuary cities" across the country, saying those who offer safe harbor to illegal aliens will not be tolerated.

The bill, written by Rep Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, would make illegal immigration a felony and would clarify that state and local law enforcement has existing authority to investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain and transfer to federal authorities any illegal alien apprehended in the course of routine duties.

Known as the Accountability in Enforcing Immigration Laws Act of 2007, it also would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to take illegal aliens into custody or pay state and local governments the per-diem rate to detain them until they are removed.

DREAM Act Update: The Washington Times posits some possible divisions within the administration:
The Bush administration has not taken an official position, but Defense Department officials are quietly urging members to support the bill. Meanwhile, Homeland Security officials, alarmed by the prospect of massive fraud resulting from Mr. Durbin's proposal, have been opposing it.

John Hawkins has a post up on the progress of the act and an interesting IM conversation between himself and a Senate source:

Anonymous Senate Aide: Still need to get some more info, but it is certainly going to be offered this week on the DoD authorization bill. There is some question as to whether it will be adopted. I think we will find a way to require them to get 60 votes, at that threshold, we should win. If we lose, there is still some question as to whether DoD Auth will ever be signed into law anyway.

John: Why do you think it might not be signed into law?

Anonymous Senate Aide: Because I am pretty sure the Dems will succeed in attaching some sort of timetable retreat measure on to the bill, if they do, the President will veto it.


Anonymous Senate Aide: Me too. I think it has kind of snuck below the radar. Sessions is gearing up on this now though. Word is that he will lead the floor fight against it.

John: When is the vote?

Anonymous Senate Aide: Still unclear

John: This week though?

Anonymous Senate Aide: I believe so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It looks like Reid's no-compromise Iraq strategy is back on--or so the Politico suggests. The Democratic Senate leadership is reportedly abandoning some compromise measures and is back to stressing forced-(timetables-for-)withdrawal-or-nothing. Could this unify Senate Republicans? Increase the pressure? Both?
Defense Amendment Watch: Some reports indicate that Webb's troop rotation amendment could be inching closer to the crucial 60-vote mark. It currently has, it's estimated, 57 votes, so 3 more are needed. The measure is backed by most Democrats and a few Republicans, and it sounds like 4 more Republicans are considering switching to back Webb:
“I’d like to find reasonable ways to limit some in a volunteer army on how long our military men and women are expected to serve, but I don’t want to vote for something that will become a backdoor deadline,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who added he was “studying” the Webb amendment to determine whether it could win his support this time around.
The other three Republicans — Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina — all said Tuesday they were considering whether to reverse course and support the measure.
If three of these four switch, Webb's amendment would pass (if nothing else changes)...
UPDATE: But it looks like something may have changed. This Politico story suggests that some of the backers of this amendment no longer believe that Warner (R-VA), who previously voted in favor of this amendment, will back it. If so, that sets Webb and supporters back to 56--and in need of 4 more votes.
For those of you who are interested in some vote possibilities for the DREAM Act, you might check out the NumbersUSA main page, which has a breakdown of how different senators voted on cloture for the "grand bargain" and where they stand on the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act has now been proposed on the Senate floor. Durbin's speaking in support.
Update: And now we're onto some new amendments....
(Via Krikorian), NumbersUSA has some lists of where various senators stand on the DREAM Act. The following have committed to voting against the measure:
Alabama: Sessions; Shelby [Update]
Chambliss; Isakson
Bunning; McConnell
North Carolina:
Burr; Dole
South Carolina: DeMint; Graham
Tennesee: Alexander; Corker
Wyoming: Enzi
That's 17 votes. [UPDATE: 18 votes with Shelby] "Grand bargainer" Graham is against this measure, and Sen. Martinez, who isn't included above, sounds skeptical about it being attached to a defense bill.
It also has a list of those who are not committed to voting against the DREAM Act (though some on this list have declared that they will vote in favor of it--e.g. Durbin).
UPDATE: NumbersUSA has added Shelby (R-SC) to the confirmed "No" list. (H/T a reader)
Cloture vote to move to debate on the DC voting rights measure fails 57-42.
According to CQ, the Department of Homeland Security says that it should get 70 miles of border fencing built during FY 2007. The department says that the construction of the fence is now underway:
At the end of last week, new border fencing was being built at a rate of 2 miles a day, but before the fence could be built, DHS had to acquire land, conduct environmental assessments, design the fencing and follow federal contracting laws, Benson said.
Update on DC Voting Bill: According to John J. Miller, Sen. Brownback (R-KS) is going to be opposed to the bill to give DC a full representative in the US House. Also, Sen. Byrd (D-WV) has come out against the measure (though he's reportedly likely to miss the vote on it today). Both Brownback and Byrd had been lobbied by both sides and were thought to be potential swing votes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The US Senate may soon be holding a hearing on a measure that would propose a national regional rotating primary system:
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill authored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to create a rotating regional presidential primary.

Under the “Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act of 2007,” beginning in 2012, a region-by-region primary would be initiated, taking place after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. The four national regions (West, Midwest, South and East) would rotate going first each cycle, with votes occurring on the first Tuesday of each month running from March to June.
So Iowa and New Hampshire will still get to go first, and then the differing regions will have a shot.
A new UPI/Zogby poll has some interesting results. Many Americans place immigration and border security as the most pressing domestic security policy:
Immigration and border security was far and away “the number one issue facing the United States in terms of domestic security,” the poll results show. Fifty percent of all respondents chose it above port security, at 20 percent, transit security, 10 percent. Aviation security, the final choice, was picked by just 4 percent.
Whom do Americans think is most likely to "solv[e] America's immigration issues"? Guiliani and Thompson are currently leading, but many are unsure:
Thompson was rated that way by 14 percent of the 7,102 adults who responded, Giuliani by 15 -- a difference within the poll’s 1.2 percent margin of error. The third rated candidate was Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., with 11 percent.

But, not unexpectedly given that the election is still more than a year away, the largest group of respondents was the 22 percent who were not sure which of the 16 named candidates would be most capable.

It also sounds like almost 2/3 of Americans would support more "restrictive" immigration policies and believe that such policies would help the US economy, but adherents of different political parties felt a little differently:

The support for more restrictive immigration policies was also more pronounced among Republicans and independents, the UPI/Zogby poll found. GOP supporters favored more restrictions over more open policies 89 percent to seven; Independents by 70 percent to 21. Overall, restrictions were favored 65 to 25.

But among Democrats, a small plurality favored more open policies over more restrictive ones, 46 to 39 percent.

More than a third of respondents, 37 percent, believed more restrictions on immigration would benefit the U.S. economy -- a conviction at odds with the conclusions of most experts who agree with 30 percent of the respondents that the economy would suffer.

The belief that restrictions would be beneficial was especially pronounced among African-Americans (41 percent), independents (40 percent) and Republicans (48 percent), and less prevalent among Hispanics (28 percent) and Democrats (23 percent).
This poll also points to Republican dissatisfaction with their own party's leadership on immigration (e.a.):
Respondents narrowly favored the Democratic Party when asked which they had more confidence in to deal with immigration, 32 to 29 percent who favored the GOP.

Among independents, the gap was even narrower than that, a statistically insignificant 21 percent for Democrats to 20 for Republicans. By far the majority of independents, 57 percent, and more than a third of respondents overall said neither.

The Democrats inched ahead because though 24 percent of their own supporters had no confidence in either party on the issue, that was still better than the abstention rates for GOP supporters, where almost a third, 32 percent, said neither party had their confidence.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The LA Times gives a snapshot of what may be the legislative immigration debate to come over the next few months:
As early as this week, Democratic senators are set to introduce an amendment that would give conditional legal status to young illegal immigrants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) hopes to bring up a visa program for farmhands that eventually would allow them to gain citizenship, while Republican senators are discussing a short-term guest-worker program for low-skilled laborers.

Republicans also are mulling a bill that would overhaul visas for high-skilled foreigners.

In the House, Republicans have been steadily introducing initiatives aimed at ensuring that illegal immigrants cannot gain access to federal benefits.

"We may be heading for another immigration battle," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said of the measures headed for the Senate floor. "Hopefully it can be avoided."
How hot could this "battle" get--or would "battles" be better?
The Washington Post reports that the upcoming (probably on Tuesday) vote over a bill giving Washington, D.C. a full Congressional representative could be tight:
The vote could be a cliffhanger. Almost all of the Senate's 51 Democrats and independents back the bill, as do at least five Republican members.
The vote needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Who's in play?
The bill's supporters are focusing on a small group of senators who are publicly uncommitted, including Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan).
Many opponents of the bill claim that it is unconstitutional--that Congress cannot legislate a seat to the District of Columbia, which is not a state. They cite Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution to support this claim (e.a.):
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States
Some argue that Congress still has the power to grant DC a seat even if it isn't an official state.
Sen. Warner (R-VA) has announced that he will not support this measure--though he is interested in a Constitutional amendment to grant DC a full representative in the House. Other opponents of this bill might be interested in a similar amendment.
A similar bill has already passed the House, and the White House has threatened to veto this bill.
Defense Secretary Gates says that he will urge Bush to veto Webb's troop rotation amendment if it passes. Sen. Reed (D-RI) thinks that Webb's measure has "at least" 57 votes, three short of ending a filibuster. The Washington Post is doubtful that we're on the verge of some grand bi-partisan accord on Iraq.
Drudge offers this cryptic clue:
IMMIGRATION RAIDS: Thousands of people are being detained in homes and deported, sometimes with aid from police and sheriffs... Developing...
We'll see how it develops--especially the part about the "aid from police and sheriffs"....