Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain reiterates his support for "comprehensive immigration reform" and pledges to make this reform a top priority of a potential first term:

After several of the business leaders complained about the difficulty in obtaining temporary H1B visas for scientists and engineers, something the Senate immigration bill was supposed to address, Mr. McCain expressed regret the measure did not pass, calling it a personal “failure,” as well as one by the federal government.

“Senator Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through the Congress of the United States,” he said. “It is a federal responsibility and because of our failure as a federal obligation, we’re seeing all these various conflicts and problems throughout our nation as different towns, cities, counties, whatever they are, implement different policies and different programs which makes things even worse and even more confusing.”

He added: “I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.”

So McCain emphasizes his opposition to local measures in order to deal with "illegal immigration" and, seemingly, piecemeal federal measures.
(H/T: Hot Air)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reid pulls the AgJOBS amendment from the Iraq supplemental. But one immigration measure remains attached to the legislation. Via NumbersUSA:
The H-2B provisions still in the bill, which were sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), would exempt from the annual cap of 66,000 any H-2B nonagricultural seasonal workers who were admitted during the previous three years. This could increase the annual number of H-2B workers to over 400,000 by FY 2011.

UPDATE: Reid has now also removed the H-2B provisions from the bill.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A group of ten senators writes a letter to Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) over the Feinstein/Craig Ag-Jobs measure. The press release announcing this letter:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter today joined fellow immigration reform-minded colleagues in a letter to U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid expressing disappointment in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s inclusion of the Feinstein AGJobs language to the Iraq War emergency funding bill and urging for the controversial provision to be removed. Vitter joined U.S Sens. Jeff Sessions, Charles Grassley, Tom Coburn, Johnny Isakson, Saxby Chambliss, James Inhofe, John Barrasso, Elizabeth Dole and Jim Bunning on the letter.

“The Democratic leadership is building a reputation for sneaking unpopular provisions that would never see the light of day as stand-alone bills into larger necessary pieces of legislation, like the Iraq War supplemental funding bill,” said Vitter. “When will the amnesty proponents learn that the American people want border security and enforcement as their immigration reform policy, not sweeping amnesty for millions of illegal aliens? I join my colleagues in urging the Democratic leader to remove the Feinstein AG Jobs provision.”

Vitter also announced that he will introduce an amendment today to strike that Feinstein AGJobs language from the Iraq War emergency funding bill.

“My clear and concise amendment will simply state that the immigration amnesty language should be removed. We need to fight this bad policy and raise the awareness of the American people,” added Vitter.

The letter pledges a "vigorous debate on immigration policy" if Feinstein/Craig remains in the bill.
NumbersUSA has a more detailed analysis of Feinstein/Craig. In order to qualify for the amendment's visas, a worker would somehow have to show that he or she had worked "863 hours or 150 work days (defined as 5.75 hours of work per “work day”), or earned at least $7,000 in agricultural employment between January1, 2004, and December 31, 2007." Workers would not, it seems, be required to pay back taxes on this money earned; they will only be required to pay taxes on the money earned once they've been legalized. Once legalized, workers may be joined by their family members. In order to maintain this legal status, visa-holders would have to work in agriculture at least 100 days a year. Feinstein/Craig visas are applicable for five years.
NumbersUSA also brings out another interesting aspect of this amendment. It claims that Feinstein/Craig would bring "virtually all immigration enforcement to a grinding halt": if passed, the legislation would allow any apprehended "illegal immigrant" 30 days to file an application for legalization (assuming he or she could make a "nonfrivolous" claim) and could not be deported until after this claim is adjudicated.
Ira Mehlman of FAIR reports on some of the details of the immigration-related measures attached to the Iraq funding supplemental, bringing out the numbers that may be involved in these amendments. He thinks at least 2 million individuals could have their statuses changed:
In one afternoon, the Appropriations Committee approved amnesty for 1.35 million illegal alien agricultural workers, and made available an additional 650,000 skilled and unskilled foreign guest workers over the next three years.
The 2 million figure does not include the dependents of the amnesty recipients or new workers who could be admitted under existing agricultural guest worker programs. Under the agricultural amnesty – written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at the behest of the California agricultural lobby – the spouses of amnesty recipients will also be authorized to compete with American workers for jobs in any sector of our labor market. Nor does it include the potentially unlimited number of new guest workers agricultural employers will be able to import under a “streamlined” H-2A program that requires the Department of Labor to issue visas within seven days of an employer’s request.

In addition to Feinstein/Craig, other immigration measures were tacked on to the Iraq supplemental for both "skilled" and "unskilled" workers (e.a.):
The Maryland fishing and tourism industries also want a ready supply of cheap foreign labor, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was happy to accommodate by offering an amendment that exempts returning unskilled or low-skilled H-2B workers from counting against the caps for that category. (Never mind that there are fewer Maryland crabs to harvest each year, and that with the skyrocketing price of gas people may not be able to afford to drive to the Eastern Shore.) Over the next three years, the cumulative number of H-2B workers admitted could reach 432,000.

And while the Appropriations Committee was piling on goodies for the low-skill industries, they found time to take care of the lobbyists for the high tech industry as well. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Microsoft/Wash.) added a provision to “recapture” 218,000 visas for skilled foreign workers. These visas didn’t really “escape,” so much as they just went unutilized between 1996 and 2004, especially during the years immediately after the high tech bubble burst. But now high tech employers and labor contractors want those visas back, because foreign guest workers tamp down labor costs for the industry.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a leading opponent of the "grand bargain," is mobilizing against the Feinstein/Craig amendment. (H/T Michelle Malkin)
Mickey Kaus outlines some of the political aspects of the Feinstein/Craig Ag-Jobs amendment. A few of his points:

a) Bad for McCain, right? Just when he's papered over his split with the right on immigration, this would reopen the wound. Maybe that's the Dems point. ...

b) Bad for Rahm Emanuel's swing-district Democratic first-termers who campaigned on tough-on-illegal-immigration platforms, no? If it ever comes to a vote, will they reveal to their electorates that it was all just a pose? ...

c) But not an unclever strategy, if you are a pro-legalization Congressperson and want to strike while Hispandering Season is at its height. ...

d) Presumably McCain is now honor bound to oppose this, having pledged to push legalization only after "widespread consensus that our borders are secure." (If he sticks to his word, it might actually wind up helping him in November, you'd think.)

e) Can you pass a big bill like this in a presidential election year? Well, welfare reform passed in 1996. The key difference? Welfare reform was overwhelming popular, virtually across the board. The fight was largely over who could claim credit for it. Congressmen weren't worried that someone might run an ad accusing them of making welfare recipients go to work.

f) Is this a tacit admission by the legalization caucus that a semi-amnesty might not be as easy to pass in the next president's first two years than you might think (given that all three contenders are formally pro-legalization). ...