Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Perry challenged to act on immigration proposal

Texas Tea Party leaders, challenging Rick Perry to dispel doubts about his stance on illegal immigration, on Monday demanded that the Texas governor call lawmakers back to work to enact a controversial "sanctuary cities" bill and other major immigration measures.

The sanctuary cities bill would freeze state funding for local governments that prohibit officers from asking detainees about their immigration status. The measure provoked one of the Legislature's most contentious debates this year and failed to survive the 140-day regular session and a subsequent special session.

Although Perry proclaimed the bill a top priority, the measure drew behind-the-scenes resistance from influential business leaders, including Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, one of the governor's biggest individual political donors. Hispanic lawmakers openly assailed the bill, saying it would lead to racial profiling.

A half-dozen Tea Party leaders urged the front-running Republican presidential candidate to either call a special session to enact the sanctuary cities bill or issue an executive order that would have the same effect. At least two of Perry's Republican presidential opponents have sought to portray Perry as being weak on immigration because of his support of a 2007 Texas law that grants in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

"Gov. Perry needs to clarify his position on illegal immigration," said JoAnn Fleming of Tyler, chair of the Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee. "He needs to come back to Texas and finish this unfinished business."

The Tea Party representatives presented Perry's office with stacks of letters containing more than 3,000 signatures.

"Although we do not necessarily hold you completely responsible for the inexcusable actions of the House and Senate members during the regular and special sessions, the ball is now squarely in your court," said the letter. "It is solely within your power as Governor to call the legislature into session and demand they complete the important work that they promised their constituents they would do."

The letter cited a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showing that Texas voters consider illegal immigration the most important problem facing the state. Inadequate border security ranked second.

"We welcome support for efforts to outlaw sanctuary city policies and encourage those interested to communicate their concerns to members of the Texas Legislature.," said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed. "Gov. Perry already agrees that sanctuary city policies must end.

Perry designated the sanctuary city bill as an emergency item that made it a fast-track priority. After it collapsed during the regular session, Perry included the measure among several items for consideration in the special session that he called to deal with unfinished budget business.

Perry's support of the in-state tuition measure drew national attention in a Republican debate last week when Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann charged that the Texas law gives "taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who vetoed legislation providing instate tuition for illegal immigration, has also seized on the issue as part of his effort to retake the lead from Perry in the Republican nomination race.


Tough talk on immigration a boost for Australia's Leftist government

JULIA Gillard could be forced to accept onshore processing of asylum-seekers because of a political deadlock over legislation to revive Labor's Malaysia Solution.

Yesterday, Tony Abbott crushed the Prime Minister's people swap deal with Malaysia by saying he would process asylum-seekers in third countries only if they were signatories to the UN convention on the treatment of refugees.

The Opposition Leader's stance ruled out Malaysia but allowed him to cling to his alternative proposal of processing asylum-seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru using facilities built by the Howard government.

As the impasse continues, a Newspoll indicates Ms Gillard's battle for offshore processing has coincided with an increase in her personal popularity among voters.

After two weeks of daily battle over her plan to circumvent last month's High Court ruling, which scuttled her Malaysia Solution, voter satisfaction with the Prime Minister's performance lifted from her lowest level on record.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard jumped from 23 per cent to 27 per cent and dissatisfaction fell seven percentage points from 68 per cent to 61 per cent.

As the Coalition stridently opposed the Malaysia Solution, Mr Abbott's personal approval fell five percentage points to 34 per cent and his disapproval rating climbed from 52 per cent to 54 per cent.

The government's bid to revive offshore processing remained deadlocked last night, as neither major party has the numbers to prevail, while the Greens, who control the Senate, oppose offshore processing in any form.

Last night, as he attacked the Coalition's position, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded that if Labor's amendments, to be introduced to parliament tomorrow, were not passed, offshore processing would remain unlawful - the Greens position. "Therefore the obvious result of that is onshore processing," Mr Bowen said.

Last week, Ms Gillard, determined to press ahead with the Malaysia plan to deter people-smugglers from bringing asylum-seekers to Australia by boat, proposed an amendment to the Migration Act that would allow offshore processing in a location to be determined by the government of the day.

Yesterday, responding to concerns from the opposition and Labor's Left faction about the human rights of those sent to Malaysia, Ms Gillard proposed new amendments that would clearly specify that Malaysia could not send any asylum-seekers back to their country of origin and that would guarantee asylum claims would be processed in Malaysia, which is not a signatory to UN conventions.

She later told parliament the changes delivered on the "basic tenets" of the UN convention and, when coupled with agreements between the Australian and Malaysian governments, provided ample protection for the rights of the asylum-seekers.

"The eyes of the Australian community are upon us," Ms Gillard said during question time. "At the end of the day, this is not a debate between two competing policy positions - it is about executive government having the power to put in operation arrangements it sees as appropriate.

"Australians want us to resolve this issue and put it behind us. Australians want us to find common ground on this and get this done."

Mr Abbott said he was not prepared to back the Malaysia plan because it was bad policy. He said offshore processing only in those nations that had signed the UN refugee convention would "restore offshore processing, while retaining offshore protections". "It's a much superior proposal to what the government has put forward," he said. "Our proposal is a win-win."

Mr Abbott said the Coalition's policy position had been "crystal clear" for a decade. He invoked former prime minister John Howard's declaration that "we will determine who comes to this country and the circumstances under which they come".

Last night, Mr Bowen said the opposition wanted to stop the Malaysia agreement being implemented because Mr Abbott feared it would work.

But a meeting of Coalition MPs endorsed Mr Abbott's position. "If Julia Gillard wants to stop the boats she should support the Coalition's proposed amendments," Mr Abbott said after the meeting. "The right way to stop the boats is the combination of Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it's safe to do so.


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