Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rubio outlines immigration proposal

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., outlined his proposals for immigration reform in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in a plan that is sure to upset some within his own party. But Rubio argues that immigration is an important issue to Hispanic voters, a voting bloc that the Republicans lost ground with in 2012.

"[T]he immigration issue is a gateway issue for Hispanics, no doubt about it. No matter what your stance is on a number of other issues, if people somehow come to believe that you don't like them or want them here, it's difficult to get them to listen to anything else," Rubio said.

The Republican Party's struggle with Hispanics in the 2012 elections was most glaring at the top of the ticket as Mitt Romney only received 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Party leaders now admit that they have to do more to reach out to the growing demographic.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said he would like to propose a "comprehensive package of bills", which would include increased access for high-skilled workers, such as engieneers and doctors, a guest worker program for low-skilled workers, including farm workers. He supports workplace enforcement and stronger border security.

But the real challenge revolves around what to do with the up to 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

He says his plan for that group "is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship." Instead, they would have to get in line to apply for legal status and adhere to challenging requirements, but no immigrant would have to leave return to their home country to start the process.

The waiting time for a green card "would have to be long enough to ensure that it's not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way," he told the Wall Street Journal. "But it can't be indefinite either. I mean it can't be unrealistic, because then you're not really accomplishing anything. It's not good for our country to have people trapped in this status forever. It's been a disaster for Europe."

Potentially signaling a shift within the party, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Romney's running mate last year and, like Rubio, is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, came out in support of Rubio's general proposal. On his Facebook page, Ryan wrote, "Senator Rubio is exactly right on the need to fix our broken immigration system. I support the principles he's outlined: modernization of our immigration laws; stronger security to curb illegal immigration; and respect for the rule of law in addressing the complex challenge of the undocumented population. Our future depends on an immigration system that works."


Labour party leader needs bolder answers over the European Union and immigration

While, in normal circumstances, the EU may be as inflammatory as mashed potato, immigration is anything but. Soundings this week by the think tank British Future ranked it as the greatest cause of social division in Britain, in a verdict consistent with what voters have told pollsters and politicians for years. With the imminent arrival of Bulgarian and Romanian incomers entitled to work here, the debates over Europe and immigration are about to collide, and the fallout will be toxic.

Fears of mass immigration, when travel restrictions on the two newest EU member states are lifted next January, have been heightened by warnings of housing problems from Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. The PM’s reluctance to speculate on the numbers expected has been exploited by Ukip, which supplied its own estimate of 350,000 to 400,000.

Wild exaggeration as that may be, Ukip has seized on a potential vote-winner. Private polling suggests that any party successfully linking EU withdrawal and immigration could potentially appeal to 80 per cent of the electorate, leaving Mr Cameron in double trouble. Take Europe first. The Netherlands speech, which may boast the longest gestation period in oratorical history, signifies his reluctance to be the PM who takes Britain out of Europe. The paradox is that by playing a long game, Mr Cameron will make exit more likely.

Sources close to Angela Merkel’s administration are adamant that the four EU pillars of freedom – goods, capital, services and movement – are “sacrosanct”. Should we prove obdurate on any one, then Germany will, with regret but no demur, let Britain go.

One senior figure says that the Merkel government is increasingly alarmed by Mr Cameron’s tactics. “We are worried that things will get out of hand,” this source tells me. “We agree with Miliband; we’re fearful Cameron could sleepwalk out.” Leading Labour strategists calculate that, even if the Tories win in 2015, he is “a seven-year PM” likely to bequeath the referendum to a more Eurosceptic successor (the choice is ample), who would lead Britain out of the EU.

Nor are Mr Cameron’s delaying tactics likely to repel the Ukip advance, pacify his hardliners or satisfy Fresh Start, a Tory faction which sounds like a January detox and which, in the way of crash diets, will be doomed in its bid to rid Britain of the excess weight of EU treaties. As Douglas Alexander wrote recently, the Europe speech “reveals more about the PM’s weakness at home than his agenda abroad”.

On migration, the Tories are also ensnared. The aim of bringing net migration to below 100,000 is misconceived and – irrespective of how few Bulgarians turn up – scare stories are already rife. Yet in the face of Tory disarray, Labour seems oddly silent, even allowing for some powerful interventions from Mr Alexander and Labour’s big beasts, such as Lords Kinnock and Mandelson. Mr Miliband, for example, contrived to get through his speech to the Fabians on Saturday without a single mention of the EU.

Asked by a delegate from Brussels to explain this omission, he offered a stout defence of Britain in Europe, echoing his speech last year to the CBI. None the less, One Nationism, Mr Miliband’s Fabian topic and defining creed, is susceptible to tipping into an insular doctrine in which Britons appear to have some privileged monopoly on universal values such as decency and kindness.

While Mr Miliband, the son of refugees, would never intend his new brand to be so construed, Labour’s sudden reverence for tradition demands the constant caveat that what was good for Disraeli’s Britain has little relevance in a globalised world and a Europe where, as one senior Labour figure says, reform is “perfectly possible without using the politics of blackmail”. That is the settled view within a party that, contrary to rumour, is not full of Eurosceptics. Though many Labour figures want a referendum, the issue is consent, not exit.

Mr Miliband should profit from that relative consensus to drum home, from now to the election, that any exit from Europe would be outweighed by a catastrophic slump in influence and a fall in trade with a market that accounts for half our exports. Those cities dependent on the motor industry would become as desolate as Detroit, as carmakers disappeared, and the City would be recast as a mausoleum to a lost financial services industry.

Stridency is vital to Labour, not least because the EU debate risks being further poisoned by the migration question. The Opposition still bears the scars of its decision to open our borders to Polish workers because Tony Blair insisted that a seven-year transition period was unfair – a move that helped ordain Labour’s defeat in 2010. Mr Miliband has conceded that his party got it wrong and promised measures ranging from curbs on agencies recruiting cheap foreign labour to an emphasis on English teaching.

He knows that tackling the housing shortage, low pay and integration is a better answer to resentment over immigration than a numbers game – not least because Labour’s polling reflects public dissatisfaction with Tory immigration policies. A much-needed report to be published tomorrow by the Institute for Public Policy Research on the principles that should underpin a fair and democratic immigration policy is likely to be welcomed by many across the political spectrum.

It will not, however, stop those Labour figures who counsel increased toughness. Mr Miliband, who has not yet ruled out a migration cap, may believe he can sit back while the Tories indulge in internecine war. An electorate spooked by Europe and enraged by immigration is unlikely to accord him the luxury of time.


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