Monday, June 4, 2012

The Rubio compromise

A DREAM Act with enforcement teeth

In a strongly partisan election year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is trying to build support for a bipartisan compromise on the DREAM Act, a Democratic bill that would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who graduate from college. Some critics argue that the measure is a cynical attempt to build support among Latino voters while offering them little in return.

Rubio's alternative to the DREAM Act would not provide citizenship, but would provide legal status, or a non-immigrant visa, for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were minors. They would also need to have no criminal record, graduated from high school and been accepted for admittance to a college.

"The first step I'm trying to make is to deal with children, basically, that were brought here at a very young age, through no fault of their own, find themselves undocumented. ... All I'm trying to do is help these kids do right where their parents did wrong," Rubio said Saturday in an interview on Fox News' "Wall Street Journal Editorial Report."

Rubio, a Cuban-American, is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This is due, in part, to the possibility that he would help the campaign reach Latino voters. Latino voters have shown strong support for the DREAM Act.

A version of Rubio's bill was introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.). Rivera's bill is called the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act.

Rivera has also introduced the Adjusted Residency for Military Service (ARMS) Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to obtain permanent residency if they serve in the military.

Rubio's Senate version has yet to be introduced, but he hopes to do so by the end of the summer.

Rubio's proposal would also allow permanent residency for military service. That part of the bill, Rubio said, is not controversial. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he would veto the DREAM Act, but supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers who serve in the military. The path to permanent resident status for high school graduates who enter college is the most controversial aspect of the bill, according to Rubio.

After a period of time after graduating from college, the immigrant visa holders would be able to apply for a "green card," or permanent resident status. The amount of time they would need to wait is still being negotiated, Rubio said.

When asked if the legislation amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants (a policy opposed by many Republicans), Rubio said, "there's a difference that we've long recognized in this country ... between people who have chosen to break the law and be here illegally and those who were either brought here by their parents or by circumstances. When you're 12 years old or eight years old, you don't choose to come to this country illegally. Many of these kids don't even know they're undocumented until they graduate and try to go to college."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bob Nelson (D-Fla.) have expressed a willingness to work with Rubio to get the legislation passed, but President Barack Obama had indicated he will not back the bill. In an interview last month on the Laura Ingraham radio show, Rubio complained that the White House was calling Democratic congresspersons to ask them not to support his bill.


Australia's Boatpeople crisis grows as 246 arrive in three days

LABOR'S border security crisis is deepening, with the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat over the weekend accounting for more than half the forecast arrivals for the month of June.

A large boat carrying 150 asylum-seekers and crew was intercepted yesterday north of Christmas Island by Customs and Border Protection officers.

It was the second boat to be detected in Australian waters over the weekend after another vessel carrying 87 passengers and one crew member was picked up on Saturday evening.

It is the third boat to arrive in the first three days of June, and brings the total number of asylum-seekers who have made the dangerous boat journey this month to 246.

This comes after 1176 asylum-seekers arrived last month - the highest number since August 2001, when the Howard government moved to implement the Pacific Solution after the Tampa crisis.

Department of Immigration officials confirmed to a Senate committee last month that Labor's budget is based on estimates that an average of 450 boatpeople will arrive each month over the next financial year.

But since Julia Gillard's bilateral agreement with Malaysia to send 800 asylum-seekers to Kuala Lumpur in exchange for taking 4000 processed refugees was scuttled by the High Court, and negotiations with the opposition to amend the Migration Act to allow for offshore processing broke down in November, an average of 733 asylum-seekers have arrived each month.

The Australian understands the Department of Immigration, along with the departments of Finance and Treasury, will review whether their estimates are appropriate in November's mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.

The opposition blamed the latest boat arrivals on the government's refusal to adopt the Coalition's Pacific Solution.  "Labor is using their Malaysian people-swap as a political shield against their own accountability and responsibility as a government," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen put the blame on Tony Abbott.   "Until the Coalition is prepared to allow offshore processing to occur, the Australian people can only conclude he prefers to see more boats arrive, because it's in Mr Abbott's political interests," Mr Bowen said.

The Law Council of Australia has meanwhile condemned the government for detaining in adult prisons up to 28 Indonesian minors accused of being involved in people-smuggling.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the law council said it was concerned there may be up to 28 cases where Indonesian minors have been held in detention facilities alongside adults.

"These cases, which have been brought to the attention of the public and the parliament by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian government, suggest serious inadequacies in relation to the age determination processes employed by Australian authorities and in relation to the approach taken to prosecuting and sentencing persons who claim to be minors for people-smuggling offences," the submission says.

The law council has raised concerns the government might be in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


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