Monday, September 3, 2012

The GOP’s new immigration solution

The Republican Party achieved two major victories at the GOP convention in Tampa this week that will have a lasting impact on the immigration debate. It passed a temporary guest worker plan in its national platform, and Russell Pearce — the author of the Arizona’s controversial immigration bill — suffered a double-digit election loss in his comeback bid.

Pearce’s decisive defeat means that the hot anti-immigrant rhetoric has proved to be a political loser. Conservatives are instead embracing a market-based approach to immigration

This move is a major victory for the GOP’s new leaders: vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other forward-looking conservatives who want solutions to the immigration crisis we face.

It also means that the voices of discord and inflammatory rhetoric are losing their grip on the party. The strong support of the temporary worker program, in both the subcommittee and in full committee, shows that anti-immigration reform groups are losing the ability to drive a wedge into the conservative wing of the GOP.

With Rubio’s star rising (he spoke Thursday night at the GOP convention) and Ryan’s support of a guest worker program, Republicans are finally facing and discussing an issue that has been described by so many as a “third-rail political issue” inside our party.

As the economy continues to stagnate, any incentive to boost growth and economic activity should be welcomed. It’s time that we returned to a free-market approach to labor and put an end to our nation’s broken immigration system — which drives honest workers and employers into the underground economy.

Texans, in a border state, are confronted daily with our nation’s failed immigration policies. Texas Republicans decided to step up and lead on the immigration issue at the Republican Party of Texas convention in June. Texas delegates overwhelmingly supported a solution to restore law and order rather than complain about a list of problems.

The Texas Immigration Solution reallocates our law enforcement resources to focus on securing our borders and defeating the drug cartels and human traffickers. The Texas Immigration Solution also proposes a 21st-century temporary worker program.

This temporary worker program addresses the problem at its root. It seeks to first protect U.S. workers by requiring employers to verify that no U.S. worker is available before hiring a person with a temporary worker permit. The program is set up to be self-funded, through fines from and taxes on the temporary workers. The program will also require workers to purchase private health insurance, so they are not dependent on Medicaid. They must also be proficient in English.


Obama is accused of inflating his deportation numbers. What’s really happening?

By the Department of Homeland Security’s official count, President Obama is deporting more illegal immigrants each month than President Bush averaged over the course of his presidency. But Republicans say those official figures are misleading:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is accusing Obama and his administration of having “fabricated” and “falsified their record to achieve their so-called historic deportation numbers…illegitimately adding over 100,000 removals to their deportation figures for the past two years.”

Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, points out the Obama administration has decided to include removals under a new border security program called the Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP) in the official deportation statistics beginning in 2011, citing internal documents his committee has recently obtained. He believes this practice is illegitimate because “there are no penalties or bars attached when illegal immigrants are sent back via ATEP and they can simply attempt re-entry,” according to his Aug. 24 statement. The ATEP removals accounted for about 37,000 of the approximately 397,000 immigrants who were deported in 2011, Smith continues. Without them, the deportation numbers for 2011 would actually by lower than 2008′s numbers under Bush.

What’s the real story behind ATEP? It’s a program that started under Bush in 2008 but was ramped up significantly under the Obama administration. The program repatriates certain Mexicans who are caught by border agents “to border ports hundreds of miles away, typically moving people from Arizona to Texas or California,” according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report. It’s meant to break the “smuggling cycle” in which border-crossers were simply turned around the the spot where they were caught,” allowing them “to easily reconnect with smugglers who would try to bring them across again, sometimes within hours,” as the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2011.

By deporting immigrants 1,200 miles or even 2,000 miles away from where they crossed, ATEP is intended to be a deterrent to discourage multiple attempts to cross the border. The border-crossers are also fingerprinted, so if they’re caught again trying to cross, the “consequences go up”—they can be repatriated even farther away, to the interior of Mexico, and face “increasingly severe penalties,” says Doris Meissner, who was President Clinton’s commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and is now a senior fellow at the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.

So there are more potential consequences than Smith suggests for border-crossers who attempt re-entry after being removed through ATEP. The program is part of a larger effort by the Department of Homeland Security “to ensure that virtually everyone who is apprehended faces ‘some type of consequence,’ including criminal charges, formal removal, or one of the remote repatriation programs,” according to the 2012 CRS report.

That’s among the reasons why Meissner believes that it’s legitimate for the administration to count the removals under ATEP in the deportation statistics: There is the immediate consequence of being repatriated hundreds of miles away and the threat of further penalties if they try to re-enter, and the program requires far more extensive involvement by immigration officials than the old practice of simply being turned away at the border.

ATEP, however, isn’t the only Obama administration deportation strategy that has raised questions. As the Post explained in 2010, immigration officials have resorted to short-term fixes to break annual deportation records, like temporarily extending repatriation programs to meet year-end targets.


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