Thursday, August 8, 2013

Some Democrats Waver on Immigration

In Republican-Controlled House, Certain Democrats Are Skeptical About Immigration Overhaul

Every Democrat voted for the Senate's immigration bill when it passed the chamber in June. That unanimous party support isn't likely to be replicated if the House votes on its own immigration effort this fall.

In the GOP-controlled House, some Democrats, largely from conservative-leaning districts, are set to bolster the ranks of Republican lawmakers skeptical of the Senate's ideas on immigration. As a small faction within the minority party, they won't likely sway key votes, but amid signs that momentum behind the effort might be flagging, their concerns could put the finish line further out of reach.

Like many of their GOP counterparts, hesitant House Democrats worry about how to handle the 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the U.S.

"I'm opposed to granting amnesty," said Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, whose grandparents legally emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon. Creating a separate way this group can gain citizenship "would siphon scarce resources away from our already-overwhelmed immigration system and would be unfair to those other immigrants, past and present, who have dutifully waited for their turn to legally enter our country," he said.

Some House Democrats fret that any new immigration laws could repeat what they consider the mistakes of a 1986 law that legalized many illegal immigrants and included measures to stop illegal crossings.

"I want to be certain that it's not 1986 all over again," said Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, who said he's concerned some lawmakers might be willing in future negotiations to roll back the provisions to beef up border security, which were added to the Senate bill in a bid to win GOP support. "I have concerns about if the federal government will be serious about enforcing immigration law in the future," he said.

The exact number of resistant or fence-sitting House Democrats on immigration is hard to determine. Like many Republicans, some centrist Democrats are reluctant to stake out a firm position before the House strategy is set. House leaders have yet to unveil a bill tackling the issue of legalization, though senior GOP lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation this fall that could include granting citizenship to at least a portion of the population.

"I'm going to wait and see what they come up with and then I'll decide,' said Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), who said Congress needs to come up with a plan to "regularize" immigrants in some fashion. "We're not going to deport them."

The ranks of centrist Democrats in the House have thinned in recent years. The fiscally conservative coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, which played a major role in the health-care debate, has shrunk to just 15 lawmakers, compared with 54 before the 2010 election. Advocates of a broad immigration overhaul, including a new path to citizenship, are targeting the remaining Blue Dogs and the New Democrats, a House coalition of self-described moderate lawmakers.

Earlier this month, 39 of the New Democrats' 53 lawmakers wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), urging him to introduce an immigration bill before the end of September that includes a pathway to citizenship. But some of the group's members, including Rep. John Barrow, a conservative Democrat from Georgia who didn't sign the letter, may still need convincing.

Any such discussion shouldn't begin until employer-verification programs and border security have been strengthened, Mr. Barrow said. "Like a preacher friend of mine once said, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing," he said.

Advocates on both sides of the debate predict Democrats in swing districts will have a tough time embracing any immigration bill unless Republicans first come out in support. Some House Democrats have said their constituents are wary of broad immigration overhaul.

Centrist Democratic think tank Third Way recently targeted Democratic waverers in a memo offering suggestions for what to say if they shift on the issue, including emphasizing the economic effects of an immigration overhaul and the Senate bill's strengthening of border security.

Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, an organization favoring tough immigration curbs, sees a tougher road ahead. "Any Democrat in a district that Romney carried is going to really have a reason to vote against this," he said.


New Australian illegal immigrant message is working, says minister

PEOPLE are getting the message about Labor's tougher stance on boat arrivals, Immigration Minister Tony Burke says

He says he's received reports from Indonesia that there are widespread demands from potential asylum seekers wanting their money back from people smugglers.

Mr Burke says they are realising they would be buying a ticket to Papua New Guinea or Nauru not to Australia.

"When I say the demands for money back are widespread, they are absolutely widespread," Mr Burke told reporters in Sydney.

"They realise that what they have paid for is no longer available to them."

"There is no doubt that the message is getting through."

Mr Burke said the only way to stop people smugglers was to take their product and customers away, and that was starting to happen.

He also said a "very significant number" of people who had been transferred to PNG's Manus Island were now in talks with internationals organisation of migration organising their transfers back home.

He said that could be done fairly quickly if they still had their identity documents with them.


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