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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Senate passes amended reform bill -- Obama and Bush (!) Push House to take up the Senate Bill

Immigration Texas has been on hiatus for the last month, but immigration legislation has moved forward, starting with the passage of the Senate bill, amended to appease Senators who felt the border security measures needed to be more stringent.  However, GOP members of the House of Representatives voiced their displeasure with the Senate bill, even before the final vote:
A group of immigrants and activists for immigration reform, led by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and CASA, gather to march to urge congress to act on immigration reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 26, 2013. REUTERS-Jonathan Ernst

Final passage came on June 27th with a vote of 68 to 32, with 14 Republicans backing the bill:
In the last few weeks, House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said that the House would not take up the Senate bill, and would come up with it's own, and today, GOP House members met to discuss how they would move forward. Some media outlets have gone so far as to say that immigration reform is dead in the House, but that seems to be hyperbole for now as argued by John Ward of the Huffington Post "Immigration Doom And Gloom Is Giving John Boehner Some Room To Operate ":

My own expectation is that the House will work towards passing legislation to give a path to citizenship for DREAMers, a STEM bill that will increase visas for skilled immigrants and allow those who earned advanced degrees to stay in the U.S., and of course, border security. Of course, the House has already voted to stop Obama's DACA executive order: and a DREAM act was supposed to be introduced by democrats in the House earlier this year: (apparently this did not happen) but this legislation would give House Republicans a way to deal with one of the more sympathetic groups of undocumented immigrants, without having to deal with a broader "amnesty."

In the meantime, President Obama is pushing the House to take up the Senate bill ("or similar legislation"):
and former President Bush called for a "positive resolution to the debate":

Monday, June 10, 2013

Discussion in Houston on immigration reform and Senator Cornyn pushes border security amendment

Zocalo Public Square held a discussion on the impact of immigration reform in Houston at Rice University last week:
Macarena Hernandez, Tony Payan, Angela Blanchard, Claudia Kolker

The wide-ranging discussion focused on the differences in the immigration debate between Texas and Washington, and that Texas has generally been welcoming to immigrants, despite being a conservative state.

As the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill works its way through the Senate, Texas Senator John Cornyn has proposed an amendment (RESULTS) that would increase requirements for border security before granting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  In an editorial in USA Today, Cornyn emphasizes the need to guarantee a secure border:

Senate Majority Leader has called the amendment a "poison pill" and other Democratic senators have rejected the amendment, with Reid saying “We have a senator from Texas, Senator Cornyn who wants to change border security, a trigger, saying that it has to be a 100 percent border security, or [there will] be no bill. That’s a poison pill,” Reid said on Univision’s Al Punto."
Read more:

The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on the immigration bill for Monday afternoon.

In the House, the issue of access to healthcare has created divisions in the set of negotiators who hope to complete a bill in the next week or two: 
"But there is a bloc of House GOP members -- including 2012 vice presidential candidate Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- that is pushing for a similar bipartisan approach that the Senate is taking up this week, which includes a path to citizenship. The group represents a minority within the House GOP conference.
That bipartisan effort suffered a significant setback last week. A working group, similar to the Senate's "Gang of Eight," has been on the verge of unveiling legislation for months, according to multiple sources. But Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the four GOP members in the group, abruptly dropped out. Like Rubio, who is needed to attract Republican votes in the Senate, reform backers hoped Labrador would play the same role in the House.
Labrador was frustrated he couldn't get support for his detailed proposal laying out how undocumented workers in the U.S. would be barred from any taxpayer-funded health care benefits."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Immigration reform moves forward in the Senate and a discussion on the impact of immigration reform in Texas

The Senate immigration reform bill crafted by the "Gang of Eight" survived committee hearings mostly intact, with few amendments allowed to alter the carefully negotiated bill. Despite Senator Schumer's confidence that the bill will pass by July 4th, and Harry Reid's statements that the bill can avoid a filibuster, others, including Marco Rubio, are concerned that the bill doesn't have enough votes to make it to a floor vote.

Meanwhile, many Senators on both sides of the aisle are expressing concerns about the border security provisions in the bill and Texas' John Cornyn is preparing amendments to overhaul border security and other sections of the bill.
Zocalo Public Square is highlighting the issue of immigration reform in Texas today with a discussion online, and at Rice University on Thursday, June 6th:
Including my contribution:

Terri E. Givens

Following in California’s footsteps                

Immigration reform will have a significant impact on Texas politics in the long term. If the path to citizenship remains in the legislation, it could lead to large numbers of currently undocumented immigrants eventually becoming citizens. The current efforts of political organizers to mobilize the Latino vote in Texas will be critical, in order to develop a constituency which understands the power of the vote and can put forward viable candidates. Even without a path to citizenship, demographics in Texas are changing rapidly.

The changes which occurred in California politics in the late 1990s and early 2000s are instructive for Texas politicians. I lived in California at that time and saw the mobilization of the Latino vote after the passage of Prop. 187. As noted in a New York Times article from last summer the Republican Party in California holds no statewide offices. It's interesting to note that we have the opposite situation here in Texas, with Republicans holding all statewide offices. However, the Democratic party, in particular the new organization Battleground Texas, is pouring significant resources into the state in a bid to make Texas a swing state by the next decade. We have already seen some changes, as in the lack of harsh immigration control measures being put forward during this year's legislative session. It's clear that many politicians in Texas will have to pay attention to issues that are of concern to a changing constituency, and politicians like the Castro brothers from San Antonio may be harbingers of a new political order in the state.

Terri E. Givens is associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. More information at

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Drug Cartel activity inside the U.S. makes headlines

An in-depth investigation into drug cartel activity in the U.S. by the AP indicates new activity:

The trial of a group involved in laundering drug cartel money through quarter horse racing has made headlines in Austin:
Trial offering glimpse into Zetas’ world

A case last year highlighted the role of brothers who owned several downtown bars in Austin were linked to drugs and money laundering:

Human trafficking has also been a concern as Austin hosts large events like F1: 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Will the Boston Bombing have an impact on Immigration Reform?

Even before the perpetrators were know., Rep. Steve King was calling for a slow-down in the push for immigration reform:

Since then, the fact that the perpetrators were of Chechen origin has led more to call for a close look at the immigration bill:

Some have called amnesty "dead on arrival"

Others argued that the fact that Tsarnaez was a naturalized citizen makes it harder to link the bombing to proposed reforms:

On Thursday the "Gang of Eight" presented an overview of the bill, while Senator Jeff Sessions held his own gathering to oppose a path to citizenship:

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the immigration bill, with Boston a prominent topic: 

Summer Street in downtown Boston is empty as authorities hunt for the surviving marathon bombing suspect on Friday, April 19. Much of the Boston area was closed or in lockdown during the investigation and residents were asked to stay inside.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Senate Immigration bill introduced and reactions

The text of the bill is available here:

The Washington Post lays out key provisions of the bill:

Marco Rubio continues to take a lead in promoting the bill, particularly to conservatives:

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has also endorsed the bill:

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times calls the bill a "breakthrough":,0,7752571.story

NBC news has compiled reactions to the bill:

Elise Foley of the Huffington Post says the bill has much that advocates like:

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post comments on Rubios roll out of the bill:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Senate Immigration Plan unveiled - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

[with a big h/t to Dan Kowalski]

Despite the bombing attack in Boston, the Senate "Gang of Eight" forged ahead with the unveiling of their immigration proposal, but as noted in an article from the Hill "a press event set up with activists, business leaders and other stakeholders will be postponed."

Details were already being criticized by a variety of groups.  The following articles provide overviews of the plan:

From The Hill:  Senate Gang of Eight Reveals Details of Immigration Plan

From Reuters: Senators Unveil Immigration Reform Bill

Key Provisions from the Washington Post:

Not sure of the source, but this document provides an outline of the bill:

Faith based and civil liberties groups are already calling the path to citizenship too stringent:

While civil libertarians were focusing on E-Verify expansion in the Washington Post: Inside the Immigration Bill:  E-Verify Expansion Draws Fire from Civil Libertarians

While the National Journal notes: Deportees Can Come Back under Draft Immigration Bill

The bill also calls for a special path for DREAMers:

Representative Steve King (R-Iowa)  called for immigration reform to be put on hold in light of the Boston bombing:

More to come!