- Durbin vows to pursue DREAM Act
- Citizenship question will not be added to 2010 census
- Vitter amendment on census falls in Senate vote
- White House to Begin Push on Immigration Overhaul in 2010
- U.S. Attorney Nominee Criticized Over Raids
The Associated Press reports that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin will push for legislation that allows high school graduates to continue their education or join the military as a way to become legal immigrants.
The Illinois Democrat has sponsored the DREAM Act, or Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors, since 2001. It applies to illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, are shown to have high moral character and have lived in the U.S. for several consecutive years. 'As long as I'm drawing breath we're going to pass the DREAM Act and make it the law of the land,' he told students during a forum on immigration at DePaul University.
Durbin's comments come as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he is drafting comprehensive immigration reform, which the DREAM Act will be part of. But Durbin added immigration reform won't come until next year because legislators are now focused on health care. The DREAM Act would help illegal immigrants qualify for college financial aid, among other benefits.
Durbin said young should not be punished because of their parents' actions. 'Young people have really been victimized by this situation, they were brought to this country without their vote of approval as children,' he told The Associated Press. 'They've lived here all their lives and all they're asking for is a chance to give back to this country that they call home.'
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The Arizona Republic reports that the 2010 census will not include a controversial question about citizenship that critics said could have led to significant undercounts in Arizona and other states with large immigrant populations. Undercounting could result in the loss of federal money and diminished political clout for a state because congressional seats are apportioned based on population.
On Thursday, Democrats derailed a push by Republicans in the Senate to include a citizenship question on next year's census. The proposal had sparked a contentious debate over whether all people or only citizens should be used to determine how congressional representatives are allocated to states.
The proposal was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Robert Bennett of Utah. They sought to have non-citizens excluded from the population numbers used to allocate congressional seats, saying states with large illegal immigrant populations have an unfair advantage. 'The system is broken, and areas of the country with high illegal populations should not be rewarded with greater representation in Congress,' said Bennett, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
By Constitutional decree, the census is aimed at counting everyone, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. Adding a citizenship question would have heightened concerns among illegal immigrants worried that filling out the forms could give the government information to deport them. Census officials don't share specific household information with other government agencies.
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The Times Picayune in New Orleans, reports that Sen. David Vitter's bid to require the 2010 Census to ask all respondents about their citizenship was killed when the Senate voted to invoke cloture and end debate on the Commerce spending bill without considering the amendment. The Democratic leadership, which had been trying to block the Vitter amendment since early October, eked out a victory with the bare number of votes needed to invoke cloture, prevailing 60 to 39.
Vitter wanted the citizenship count to serve as a predicate to a later proposal that House seats be apportioned strictly on the basis of the citizen population of the United States, and not, as has always been the practice, on the total population.
Without the change, Vitter said that Louisiana will be one of nine states to lose a congressional seat that would not lose the seat if reapportionment were based strictly on a count of citizens, contrary to what is dictated in the Constitution. The vote was preceded by a limited debate, in which Vitter restated the case for his amendment and asked for an apology from Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for suggesting that his amendment was anti-immigrant and akin to past efforts to intimidate African Americans from voting.
Responding to Vitter, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who was guiding the appropriations bill to passage, told Vitter that 'the time to stand up was in April 2007,'' when she said questions for the 2010 census were being vetted by Congress.
Mikulski echoed Census Bureau warnings that adding a question at this late date would wreck plans for a timely Census and be hugely expensive. Vitter said that he agreed that the Homeland Security Committee should have paid more attention to the Census questions when they had the chance, but scoffed at the bureau's cost estimates.
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The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration will insist on measures to give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants as it pushes early next year for legislation to overhaul the immigration system, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Friday.
Ms. Napolitano sought to dispel any notion that the administration — with health care, energy and other major issues crowding its agenda — might postpone the most contentious piece of an immigration overhaul until after midterm elections next November.
Laying out the administration’s bottom line, she said it will argue for a “three-legged stool” that includes enacting tougher enforcement laws against illegal immigrants and the people who hire them, and streamlining the system for legal immigration, but also what she called a “tough and fair pathway to earned legal status.”
Under the administration’s plan, illegal immigrants would have to register, pay fines and all taxes they owe, pass a criminal background check and learn English.
Ms. Napolitano has been leading the administration’s efforts to gather support for the immigration overhaul, meeting in recent weeks with business leaders, faith groups, law-enforcement officials and other groups to gauge their support for the effort.
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The New York Times reports that criticism is mounting over President Obama’s nomination for United States attorney in northern Iowa of a prosecutor who had a leading role in the criminal cases against hundreds of illegal immigrants arrested in a May 2008 raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Those cases were emblems of a crackdown on illegal immigration by the Bush administration.
In supporting the prosecutor, Stephanie Rose, Mr. Obama is following the recommendation of Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa who is an important ally — especially in the health care debate because he is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Ms. Rose, a senior assistant United States attorney in the office she has been chosen to run, garnered support from criminal defense lawyers in Iowa, including at least 11 lawyers who defended immigrants from Postville. In those proceedings, 'she exhibited a level of competence and ability that would be hard to overstate,' the lawyers wrote in a letter in April.
But some defense and immigration lawyers have said that felony identity-theft charges against the immigrants were excessively harsh, that immigration lawyers were not given adequate access to their clients, and that improper contact took place between prosecutors and one judge. They contend that possible civil rights and ethical violations by prosecutors should have been investigated. However, the immigration lawyers’ association has not taken an official position on the nomination.
In May, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the identity-theft law could not be applied to prosecute immigrants only because they used false Social Security or visa numbers, as it was in many Postville cases.
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