Sunday, November 11, 2012

Republicans may drop opposition to granting illegal immigrants residency

Republican leaders and prominent Right-wingers are abandoning their long-standing opposition to granting 11 million illegal immigrants the right to stay in the United States after Barack Obama's overwhelming victory among Hispanic voters in last week's election.

Remarks by John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, which appeared to break a major conservative taboo on immigration, set up a fierce debate within party rank and file, which is still reeling from the president's re-election last Tuesday.

Without giving specifics, Mr Boehner said that "a comprehensive approach is long overdue". He added: "What I'm talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system. It's just time to get the job done."

John Fleming, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, expressed concern that Mr Boehner had not consulted colleagues before "making pledges on national news".

But Mr Boehner's comments raised hopes in Washington that one of the most divisive issues in the country could be resolved after years of bitter debate.

Senator Charles Schumer, the Democratic chairman of a Senate subcommittee on immigration and border security, called Mr Boehner's comments a "breakthrough".

In a sign that grassroots opposition to immigration reform may now change Sean Hannity, an influential conservative media commentator, also said that his views on the subject had "evolved".

Mr Hannity, a Fox News and talk radio host with the second highest national ratings after Rush Limbaugh, said he no longer believed that Hispanics who came to the US without paperwork should be kicked out if they are working, raising families and not committing crimes.

Instead, he said, they should be offered "a pathway to citizenship", a phrase regarded on the Right as a dirty word and a euphemism for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

An attempt by Mr Obama to "fix our immigration system" - promised in his victory speech last week after he won 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote - is likely to be the biggest social issue he tackles in his second term.

The president's immediate task however is to steer the country clear of the so-called fiscal cliff that would automatically trigger $607 billion of cuts and tax increases on January 1 if he and Congress cannot agree on longer term solutions for controlling the spiralling deficit and debt.

Mr Boehner has hinted that he is also ready to compromise on deficit control, but, given that his party kept its hold on the House of Representatives and remains implacably opposed to tax rate increases, his room for manoeuvre is limited.

Numerous conservatives have said the party now requires an extended period of self-examination, especially about how to attract women and minorities.

Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, summed up fears that the party was alienating Hispanics, the fastest-growing ethnic group, as well as other minorities.

"Our party needs to realise that it's too old and too white and too male, and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it's too late," he said.

In a sign of the enduring antagonism in some conservative quarters towards the president, a coal mine owner quickly blamed the president's environmental protection policies for 156 redundancies announced the day after the vote.

Robert Murray, the chairman and chief executive of Murray Energy Corp, who made regular media appearances denouncing Mr Obama before the election, read a prayer to workers as he attributed their job losses to the president's "war on coal".

Meanwhile, Freedom Works, which supports Tea Party groups, issued a list of companies it said would have to shed workers because of costs and new taxes it associated with the forthcoming implementation of the president's health reforms, commonly known as Obamacare.


Number of unprocessed immigration cases in Britain is same as population of Iceland: Border chiefs accused of 'camouflaging' the issue

Border chiefs were today accused of ‘camouflaging’ the true scale of an immigration backlog that was ‘spiralling out of control.’

The total number of immigration and asylum cases which have not been processed by the UK Border Agency now stands at more than 300,000 - the equivalent of a city the size of Sunderland - or the entire population of Iceland, the Home Affairs Committee said.

And it has also emerged that the UK Border Agency is set to grant an ‘amnesty’ to some 80,000 migrants as it struggles with a spiralling backlog of immigration cases.

Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman,  yesterday demanded bosses at UKBA ‘get a grip’ on the scale of the backlog - and accused them of trying to disguise the problems from the public.

Mr Vaz said: ‘Entering the world of the UKBA is like falling through the looking glass.  ‘The closer we look the more backlogs we find, their existence obscured by opaque names such as the ‘migration refusal pool’ and the ‘controlled archive’. ‘UKBA must adopt a transparent and robust approach to tackling this problem instead of creating new ways of camouflaging backlogs.  ‘They need to get a grip.’

Mr Vaz added: ‘There are now about the same number of cases awaiting resolution by UKBA as there are people living in Iceland.  ‘The backlog is spiralling out of control.’

The UK Border Agency is set to write off around 80,000 cases where they have been unable to track missing migrants for more than six years.  The cases are what remains from nearly half a million found abandoned in boxes at the Home Office in 2006 in a major scandal.

The controlled archive was created to hold what remains of Labour’s asylum backlog. It was intended to hold cases that had not been concluded, so they could be re-opened if the person was found.  Since then UKBA officials have been tracking them down - but recently admitted they would abandon those they couldn’t find.

In September, Border Agency chief executive Rob Whiteman said it was ‘not in the best interests of taxpayers’ to carry on looking for them, and the cases would be closed.  Around 80,000 are expected to be written off in the New Year.

The committee said they were ‘concerned’ that the closure of the 80,000 files would result in ‘a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case.’

At the end of June this year, the UK Border Agency had a total of 302,064 cases outstanding, today’s report shows.  That includes 25,000 current asylum cases, 3,500 current immigration cases, and 95,000 archived cases.  Worryingly, the numbers within the Migration Refusal Pool reached 174,057 - a rise of 24,057 in just three months.  The pool is made up of legal migrants whose work or student visas have expired and who cannot be found.

The Border Agency has awarded a £30million contract to outsourcing firm Capita to help track them down. It began work at the end of October.

Also within the backlog are 3,954 foreign criminals who cannot be deported and have been released on bail by the courts.

Overall, the backlog grew by nine per cent in the three months to June this year.

Six years ago the asylum backlog scandal prompted then Home Secretary John Reid to brand the immigration system ‘not fit for purpose’.

Border officials claim that in many of the cases which remain the individuals will have left the country.

But the MPs said they were ‘not convinced that the agency’s limited checking regime will have picked up all of the applicants who remain in the country’.

‘For this reason we are concerned that the final checks made on these cases should be thorough and that they should not be rushed to meet an artificial deadline.’

Of the asylum archive cases that have been processed, fewer than one in ten have been removed.  More than 180,000 have been given the right to stay in the country, while just 41,300 have been kicked out or left voluntarily.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: ‘This report raises some legitimate concerns but we are taking robust action and it is working.

‘Every day it gets harder to live illegally in the UK - we are tracking people down and taking action against them. We are restricting access to benefits, free healthcare and financial products, and businesses can be fined up to £10,000 for every illegal worker they employ.

‘We are winning more deportation cases in the courts, exceeding visa processing targets and have introduced interviews to test whether foreign students are genuine - all of which are praised in this report.’


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