Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Senate wrapping up amendments, preparing to vote

This week the Senate is wrapping up debate about amendments to the Hagel-Martinez Compromise Bill. Some of the amendments are bad and would toughen the legislation. Other amendments would take out some of the sharpest (and unjust) teeth in the legislation (like the ones listed below by the Rights Work Group).

Today the Senate voted on Senator Dianne Feinstein's "orange card" proposal, to treat all undocumented immigrants the same rather than arbitrarily breaking them into three groups. Feinstein doesn't find it feasible that guest workers will go home to apply for the program or that it is possible to deport a third of undocumented immigrants (under the Hagel-Martinez plan). Many senators thought Dianne's plan was a deal breaker and as a result her amendment went down in flames.

You can see other votes by reading the Senate Roll Call.

On Monday Bill Frist filed for "cloture" which means that there will be soon be no more debate on the bill. It's not clear if this means that the Senate will vote on the bill and the approved amendments on Wednesday or Thursday.

Listen to some choice quotes from senators on National Public Radio: Senate May Vote on Immigration Bill This Week


More on up-coming amendments from the Rights Working Group:

"..We are forwarding an urgent request for action in support of the following amendments. Votes could take place as early as this afternoon on these amendments. Please call your Senator and ask them to support these amendments:

1. Feingold # 4083: This amendment would eliminate Section 227(c) of the Senate immigration bill, a provision that would make it difficult for individuals in removal proceedings including citizens, lawful permanent residents, asylum seekers, torture survivors and others to stay in the U.S. while their immigration case is appealed.

2. Durbin Amendment #4142: The Durbin amendment would provide a humanitarian waiver so the government would have discretion to consider an individual's personal circumstances and hardship when it determines whether to allow certain non-citizens to stay in the U.S.

3. Lieberman # 4036: The Lieberman amendment would protect asylum seekers from prosecution for using false documents.

4. Leahy Coleman amendment #3974: Amendment seeks to restore protection to refugees who are prevented from resettling to the United States based on the material support definitions in the PATRIOT Act and the REAL ID Act. See more information from a LIRS Action Alert

5. Brownback-Lieberman: This amendment would implement the findings of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding parole of asylum seekers and immigration detention conditions.

Please visit the Rights Working Group website for more information about amendments and howto contact your Senator."

ACTION STEP: Call your senators and ask them to support the amendments above. Give their staffer who answers the phone the names and numbers listed above. Click here for a list of Senate office contact information.


LIST OF AMENDMENTS from the National Immigration Forum
5/23/2006, 7:10pm EST (PARTIAL)

Questions or Corrections? Contact Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia (ssivaprasad@immigrationforum.org)

Action Taken

1. Isakson Enforcement Only- mandates an “enforcement only” approach by delaying the implementation of a legalization program until the borders are secure- VOTED DOWN 55-40

2. Salazar Side by Side (to Isakson)- provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security must certify that the land borders are secure and that enforcement authorizations are met and operational before a program to legalize unauthorized aliens can come into effect. PASSED 79-16.

3. Dorgan-Stabenow Elimination of Temporary Worker Program: MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 69-28 (which means the amendment is dead)

4. Bingaman-Feinstein Reduction of Temporary Worker Visas: Lowers the number of temporary workers authorized for “essential” jobs to 200,000, and eliminates the market-based cap adjustment in the Senate bill. MOTION TO TABLE REJECTED 18-79. ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE.

5. Kerry Increased Border Equipment: Amendment to increase border security and related equipment. ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE.

6. Kyl-Cornyn Bars to Participation: would make the following aliens ineligible: (a) subject to final orders, (b) failure to depart under VD, (c) been convicted of a serious crime here or believed to have committed serious crime abroad, danger to national security, etc., and (d) 3 misdemeanors or 1 felony. Includes a limited discretionary waiver. PASSED 99-0

7. Obama-Feinstein-Bingaman Guestworker Proposal on Prevailing Wage and Protecting Unemployed Americans: would establish a prevailing wage for all occupations ...directs the employer to use Department of Labor data for calculating a prevailing wage in cases where neither a collective bargaining agreement exists nor the Service Contract Act governs. …The bill currently bars use of the program if unemployment rates for low-skilled workers in a metropolitan area average more than 11%. Obama amendment lowers that to 9% of workers unemployed with a high school diploma or less. ACCEPTED ON VOICE VOTE

8. Sessions – Fence- Border Fence- PASSED 83-16

9. Stevens amendment extending the deadline given to the Secretary of Homeland Security for the implementation of a new travel document plan for border crossings to June 1, 2009.PASSED BY VOICE VOTE

10. Santorum – to allow additional countries to participate in the visa waiver program under section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act if they meet certain criteria. PASSED BY VOICE VOTE

11. Vitter-Grassley: Strike Earned Legalization and AgJOBS: This amendment strips the heart of this bill's provisions that deal with undocumented immigrants. It strikes the bipartisan compromise proposal to legalize millions of undocumented workers. It also strikes the AgJOBS legislation that so many members of Congress from both sides of aisle, support. In short, it guts real immigration reform. - VOTED DOWN 66-33

12. Kyl-Cornyn: Strike Self Petition: This amendment would prevent temporary workers from petitioning for legal permanent residency on their own. Right now, the Senate compromise allows H-2C temporary workers to apply for a green card if their work is needed long-term. Access to legal permanent residency—independent of an employer—is a key labor protection for these workers. PASSED 50-48

13. Kennedy-McCain-Graham Side by Side to Cornyn Amendment Striking Self-Petition: This amendment would restore some options for temporary workers to self petition for lawful permanent resident status. PASSED 56-43

14. Ensign Social Security: This amendment is designed to prevent lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security based on earnings credited before they were authorized to work in the United States. Taking benefits away from workers who pay into the system is unfair and un-American. MOTION TO TABLE AGREED TO 50-49

15. Inhofe-Sessions English Language and Naturalization Requirements: OPPOSE. This amendment is unnecessary and divisive. Immigrants want to learn English, and Congress should create more opportunities for them to take English classes rather than impose English-only requirements and make the bar for citizenship even higher. PASSED 63-34

16. Kyl-Cornyn: Strike Path to Green Card for Temporary Workers: This amendment strips any opportunity for a temporary worker to adjust to a permanent residence. Many jobs may become permanent, and employers may want workers to stay permanently. Workers may decide to remain in the U.S. permanently. This bill does not provide them with that choice. Rather, it creates an underclass of temporary workers that can not become full participating members in U.S. society. We must provide temporary workers with the opportunity to obtain permanent legal status. MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 58-35

17. Clinton Amendment- To establish a grant program to provide financial assistance to States and local governments for the costs of providing health care and educational services to noncitizens, and to provide additional funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. REJECTED 43-52

18. Cornyn Amendment- would require aliens seeking adjustment of status under section 245B of the Immigration and Nationality Act or Deferred Mandatory Departure status under section 245C of such Act to pay a supplemental application fee, which shall be used to provide financial assistance to States for health and educational services for noncitizens. PASSED 64-32

19. Vitter Document Requirements– would modify the document requirements for showing employment eligibility under earned legalization; would strike the “intent of Congress” clause that takes into account the difficulty in obtaining and providing documents - PASSED ON VOICE VOTE

20. Nelson Detention- Increase in Bedspace- PASSED ON VOICE VOTE

21. Akaka – Veteran Related Amendment – would exempt certain children of Filipino WW II veterans from the family cap- PASSED ON VOICE VOTE

22. Chambliss Amendment to the AgJOBS Farmworker Immigration Compromise- would lower the wages of agriculture workers and undercut the AgJOBS compromise. MOTIONT TO TABLE PASSED 50-43

23. Senator Ensign – would authorize the use of the National Guard to secure the southern border of the United States. PASSED 83-10.

24. Feinstein Orange card program: legalization program that applies uniformly eligible applicants. REJECTED 37-61

25. Leahy-Coleman Material Support: This amendment creates a limited exception to the terrorist related grounds of inadmissibility for aliens who provide involuntary material support. MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 79-20

26. Grassley Title III- PASSED 58-40

27. Kennedy- Enhanced Labor Laws—MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 56-41

28. Durbin Amendment on Humanitarian Waiver – Provides a limited humanitarian waiver for some immigrants who are subject to deportation under the new penalties in Title II of the bill. Lessons from 1996 teach us that creating broad new immigration penalties without any discretion to consider the facts of particular cases hurts well-intentioned immigrants, and leads to permanent separation from their families. The waiver would not be automatic, but instead provide the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security with the discretion to waive deportation for those with compelling equities. Specifically, the immigrant would have to show that his lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen spouse, child or parent would face “extreme hardship” if he were deported. MOTION TO TABLE PASSED 63-34.

29. Lieberman – Asylum --protects certain vulnerable populations from prosecution under new document fraud provisions. PENDING

Lined Up for Consideration

1. Gregg - would require that aliens with higher educational degrees receive the majority of the diversity visas

2. Hutchison: SAFE Visa Program: This amendment creates a new temporary work visa (SAFE visa) without any path to permanent residency. Also has a return requirement.

3. Burns

4. Chambliss – modifications to AgJOBS program

5. Sessions - denying immigrants access to the Earned Income Tax Credit

6. Feingold- strikes the provision that would virtually eliminate the ability for immigrants to obtain a stay of removal while their cases are pending in federal court

7. McConnell amendment --would require, by January 1, 2008, that voters at polling places show federally-mandated photo identification, pursuant to the “REAL ID Act of 2005”

8. Cornyn-Kyl: Strike Confidentiality Provisions: This amendment strikes provisions that would preserve the confidentiality of information furnished by applicants for legalization. This will serve as a disincentive for undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows.
Other Democratic or Bipartisan Amendments that May Come Up (Random Order)
1. Brownback-Lieberman: Restore Protections for Asylum Seekers and Detention: This amendment would provide important protections for asylum seekers and help to ensure an effective and humane system of immigration detention.

2. Biden – ensures that victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable populations are still given access to removal relief under cancellation, etc.

3. Kerry Unchecked Power Amendment: Would strike or amend various provisions in Title II of the Judiciary bill regarding detention, deportation, and naturalization of immigrants in order to protect against the concentration of unchecked powers in the hands of unaccountable executive branch employees. For example, it would prevent the use of secret evidence in determining whether a person has “good moral character” for immigration or naturalization purposes.

4. Document Fraud Exemption: The bill contains internally inconsistent “document fraud” penalties that have the potential to destroy the very foundation of the new structure. The compromise applies these new penalties to conduct following enactment and could impact (unintentionally) those who use a false document or omit or make a false statement in an I-9 form in order to work after enactment. This could cover individuals who presented the false document or made the false statement to gain employment prior to enactment and who continued to work pursuant to such false statement or document post-enactment. We need a special rule for individuals eligible to apply for relief under this Act.

5. Improvements to the DMD program for undocumented immigrants with less than five years in the U.S.

6. Title III substitute

7. NCIC provisions elimination (Lieberman): Strikes the provision in the bill that would mandate DHS to input immigration information into the NCIC. ICE opposes this provision.

8. Strike “continuing offense” language in criminalization provision/EWIs (Durbin) would delete a backdoor criminalization provision. It amends a provision in the Judiciary bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for the crime of entry without inspection. Under current law, entry without inspection is subject to a 5-year statute of limitations.

9. Leahy Injunctions: Deletes severe limitations on court relief for constitutional or immigration law violations.

10. DOL enforcement

11. Advertisements with inclusion of health insurance benefits

12. Altering definition of individual contractor

13. Labor laws applied in Mariana Islands

14. Obama amendment would authorize a small amount of money to the FBI to improve the speed and accuracy of the background and security checks conducted on behalf of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Other Republican Amendments that May Come Up (Random Order)

Note, some of these descriptions came from the Republican Policy Committee, so we encourage you to read the amendments on Thomas (search on S. 2611 and go to bill status/amendments).

1. Senator Burns - This amendment would prohibit the counting of illegal aliens for reapportionment purposes.

2. Senator Grassley - This amendment would require that unauthorized aliens pay all back taxes before legalization (Note: S. 2611 only requires that Group 1 aliens pay taxes for 3 of the 5 years that they were a resident in the United States).

3. Senator Santorum - This amendment would provide that to obtain a visa under the H-1B visa cap, a foreign professor who intends to teach at an American university must speak understandable English.

4. Senator Sessions - This amendment would clarify that unauthorized aliens who are legalized are prohibited from public benefits.