Monday, April 1, 2013

A Word of Caution From Rubio on Immigration

As several of the senators taking part in a bipartisan effort to overhaul to the nation’s immigration laws appeared on the Sunday talk shows to sound an optimistic note, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a member of the group, offered a strongly worded note of caution. In a statement released by his office  on Sunday, the headline — in all capital letters — read: “No Final Agreement on Immigration Legislation Yet.”

“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers,” Mr. Rubio said in the statement. “However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.”

Mr. Rubio was referring to news reports on Saturday saying that the nation’s leading business and labor groups had reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled workers — an issue that had been among the final sticking points in the immigration negotiations among the group of eight senators.

“We have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met,” Mr. Rubio said. “However, that legislation will only be a starting point.”

On Saturday, as news of the deal between business and labor broke, Mr. Rubio sounded a similar note of caution, sending a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warning him against “excessive haste” in changing immigration law.

Mr. Rubio, one of four Republicans in the group, was elected in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave, and seems determined to emerge from any immigration bargain with his conservative credentials intact. At the outset, he went on something of a one-man media tour, trying to sell the broad principles behind an immigration overhaul to conservative television and radio hosts. He has recently said that an immigration bill needed to be the result of a deeply deliberate process.

His statement on Sunday seemed yet another attempt to make sure that the immigration talks did not get out ahead of him — and that he remains integral to every step of the process.

On NBC News program “Meet the Press,” two other senators in the bipartisan group — Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, and Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York — were asked about a possible disagreement with Mr. Rubio, and both men scrambled to praise their colleague.

“It’s semantics,” Mr. Schumer said, brushing off the possibility of any tension. “And he’s correctly pointing out that that language hasn’t been fully drafted. There’ll be little kerfuffles. But I don’t think any of us expect there to be problems.”

Mr. Schumer added, “He’s been an active and strong participant, he’s had a lot of input into the bill.”

Similarly, Mr. Flake called Mr. Rubio, “extremely important to this effort,” and he agreed that any immigration legislation should have to go through “regular order” — meaning it will be marked up in committee and then again amended on the floor of the Senate.

But both he and Mr. Schumer said they remained confident that a deal would be happen. “I expect we’re going to have an agreement among the eight,” Mr. Schumer said of the senators.

Speaking on the CNN program “State of the Union” on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the group, said that while the eight senators still needed to sign off on the language of an immigration bill, they had largely reached an agreement in principle, and he was confident that a bill would be introduced imminently.

“I think we’ve got a deal,” Mr. Graham said. “We’ve got to write the legislation, but 2013, I hope, will be the year that we pass bipartisan immigration reform.”

Mr. Graham, offering even more specifics than his colleagues, added: “It will be rolled out next week. Yes, I believe it will pass the House because it secures our borders; it controls who gets a job.”

Mr. Rubio’s statement called for a healthy debate if and when the group does introduce an immigration bill.

He said the process would include “committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments.”

“Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system,” he said. “But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.”


EU hits out at British PM's 'knee-jerk' immigration rhetoric

Laszlo omits to mention Britain's already vastly overstrained public services -- roads, trains, hospitals, schools

David Cameron has been accused of "knee-jerk xenophobia' in his toughened stance on immigration from within the EU.  László Andor, the commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, attacked the British prime minister for his rhetoric against the impact EU migrants could have on the UK's benefits bill.

"Blaming poor people or migrants for hardships at the time of economic crisis is not entirely unknown, but it is not intelligent politics in my view," he told the Observer newspaper.

"I think it would be more responsible to confront mistaken perceptions about immigration from other EU countries and so-called 'benefit tourism', and instead to explain the facts.

"The reality is that migrants from other EU countries are very beneficial to the UK's economy, notably because they help to address skills shortages and pay more tax and social security contributions per head, and get fewer benefits, than UK workers; that free movement of workers is a key part of the EU's single market; that hundreds of thousands of UK nationals work in other EU countries."

Cameron's immigration speech last week announced a series of steps making life in Britain harder for new arrivals from elsewhere in the EU.

From early 2014 EU nationals who cannot prove they looked for work six months after arriving in the UK will lose jobseekers' allowance and other benefits. A loophole allowing them to continue to receive benefits under their previous national insurance will be closed and the 'habitual residence test' will be toughened up.

Local councils will also introduce a new residency test for social housing and NHS services will be charged on a stricter basis for non-EU nationals.

"My view is simple," Cameron added. "Ending the something-for-nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare."

Andor, a Hungarian economist, said the UK government's complaints about 'benefit tourism' had been received by the European Commission for a couple of years.  "But whenever we have asked them for proof about the phenomenon they have been unable to provide it, despite repeated requests," he added.

"People come to the UK from other EU countries to work, not to claim benefits."  [What about proof about that phenomenon?]

Immigration has emerged as a hot topic in British politics ahead of May 2nd's local elections because of anxiety about the impact of a fresh wave of arrivals from Europe in 2014.  The five-year bar on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants agreed when the two countries joined the EU runs out on January 1st next year.

"We do not expect this pattern to change after January 1st, from when Romanian and Bulgarian nationals will also be free to work anywhere in the EU," Andor said.

"Terms such as a 'something for nothing culture' are misleading and very unfortunate."

Pressure from the right of the Conservative party is unlikely to shift the prime minister's hardline approach to the issue, however.

Last week a poll by YouGov put Ukip ahead of the Tories on immigration. It found 24% of members of the public trust Nigel Farage's party the most on the issue, compared to 19% for the Conservatives.

That gap closed significantly because of Cameron's speech, however. Before the prime minister's announcements about restricting migrants' access to benefits the five-point gap between the two parties was as wide as 13%.


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