deferred action

New Immigration Battle: Driver's Licenses

In a sign of growing opposition to President Obama's immigration policy, Iowa has become the latest state to deny driver's licenses to young illegal immigrants who receive deferments from deportation.

Iowa joins Michigan, Nebraska and Arizona in denying licenses or non-operator identification cards because, officials say, Obama's deferred action program doesn't grant legal status in the United States. Officials in each state cite laws restricting the licenses to foreigners who reside here legally.

The program, which began in August, offers a renewable two-year reprieve for qualified young people who were brought to the United States as children. Recipients also gain permission to work here legally. So far, more than 355,000 applicants have been accepted and nearly 103,000 have been approved, according to the latest government figures.

Iowa's Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III said in a statement:

"The Iowa DOT understands the exercising of this prosecutorial discretion by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not grant lawful status or a lawful immigration path to persons granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. Rather, it is prosecutorial discretion extended in a blanket fashion to persons who are not lawfully authorized to be present in the United States."

Republicans have criticized the program as backdoor amnesty designed to boost Latino support for Obama. The four states denying licenses are led by Republican governors. One of them, Nebraska's Dave Heineman, has pledged to deny not only licenses, but welfare benefits and other services to illegal immigrants, unless required by state law.

Washington and New Mexico are among states that issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, although New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who is a Republican, wants her state's enabling law repealed. Illinois could be next to issue licenses after the state Senate recently approved a bill.

At issue is whether the federal program's authorization to stay and work here legally also confers temporary legalized status.

Iowa officials cite the memorandum issued by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that outlines the new policy: "This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship."

Immigrant advocates say people in deferred action status qualify for licenses under the 2005 Real ID Act, which they have used to file lawsuits to overturn the bans in Arizona and Michigan.

The Real ID law, an anti-terrorism measure aimed at creating a national driver's license system, lists people in deferred action status among the authorized noncitizens who are eligible to obtain a temporary license.

Immigrant advocates also say the states are encroaching on the federal government's authority to set immigration policy, a separation reinforced by the Supreme Court ruling this year that severely weakened Arizona's immigration enforcement law.

"Deferred action has existed for decades and decades. It is a form of lawful presence, just like other forms of administrative relief under our immigration laws," says Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is one of the groups suing in Arizona.

"There's really no legal or constitutional support for what these states are doing," says Saenz. "Suggesting that they are not here lawfully is a rhetorical political move that a number of these states are engaging in."
 

Confusion, inconsistency mark driver's license issue for young Oregon immigrants

While President Barack Obama has cleared the way for many young immigrants to remain in the United States legally, Oregon officials are confused about whether to let them drive or not.

In field offices across the state, some recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are getting licenses or permits, while others are being turned away. Obama created the program earlier this year to defer deportations of young immigrants.

Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services said Friday that it would not issue driver's licenses to those recipients. However, officials retracted that decision late Wednesday, saying there is still an ongoing discussion with the Oregon Department of Justice about the issue.

"Apparently those conversations are still going on with the Department of Justice," said David House, public information officer for the DMV. "We were thinking that we had a decision, but they are still chewing on it."

The deliberation makes one thing clear: Oregon could become the fourth state, after Michigan, Arizona and Nebraska, to deny licenses to deferred action recipients.

House said DMV executives began consulting with the Department of Justice in October about the issue. At the time, he said, they instructed field officers to not accept driver's license applications from deferred action recipients. Instead, they were told to come back when there was a definitive answer.

But a number of people have somehow fallen through the cracks. Many received 90-day permits and several received licenses. House said those exceptions are likely due to confusion at the DMV field office level.

Alejandra Nicolas, 20, of Tigard is one such person. She was accepted into the deferred action program two weeks ago and, after getting her Social Security card, went to the DMV on Tuesday to get her driver's permit. She said she passed the written test, but was denied a permit when the DMV employee realized she needed additional verification.

"I'm pretty disappointed in the state," she said. "I have so many hopes and dreams. They are doing a pretty good job of crushing them."

Francisco Lopez, executive director of the immigrant rights group Causa, said the situation is very unsettling.

"The bottom line here is this whole uncertainty is frustrating a lot of people," he said. "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is saying they have a Social Security number, they have temporary authorization to be in the United States. It is frustrating because we don't know what is going to happen."

Further confusion arose Tuesday night when Univision Portland reported that Gov. John Kitzhaber was responsible for the halt on driver's licenses to deferred action recipients.

Tim Raphael, communications director for the Governor's office, said Kitzhaber became aware of the issue Wednesday and asked for legal advice to determine what authority he may have.

"The governor didn't ask the DMV to halt issuing driver's licenses to anyone," Raphael said. "There is not a final legal opinion yet."

House, of the DMV, said that being in the state legally has been required to get a license, permit or identification card in Oregon since 2008.

He cited the Department of Homeland Security website, which says, "Deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status." However, states may interpret that differently.

House said Oregon is not the only state struggling with the issue. Most states require legal presence to get a license, he said, and officials have to follow their legal advice.

"It's been an ongoing learning process for us to deal with federal immigration documents," he said. "We have to go with what our attorney says is legal or not legal."
 

Tuition equity on Kitzhaber 2013 list

SALEM — In a speech to civic leaders and lawmakers last week, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signaled his support for legislation that would make attendance at state universities more affordable for students living in the country without legal permission.

In the 2011 session, proposed “tuition-equity" legislation would have allowed illegal immigrants attending high school in Oregon for at least three years to qualify for in-state tuition at state universities. Similar bills were introduced in previous sessions and all have failed.

But for the coming 2013 session, the governor is outspoken about his support, and Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature.

“It is time to get it done," said Tim Raphael, the governor’s spokesman.

Retired Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, voted against a tuition-equity bill in 2003. In 2011, he sponsored a similar bill, in part because he now believes it’s an education issue rather than an immigration issue.

What sparked his change of heart was a letter from a teacher who described a student who came to the country at a young age with her family — an outstanding student, the letter said, but one who could not afford college tuition.

“What’s really in the best interest of our state?" Morse asked. “To help students improve themselves and, in turn, actually improve the welfare of our state by providing people an opportunity. It didn’t make any sense to deny opportunity."

At the time, the idea met with pushback from lawmakers who said it represents the state encouraging illegal immigration. Others said it was anything but equal: charging students from outside Oregon out-of-state tuition while someone in the country illegally pays the lower, in-state tuition.

Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, said tuition equity fails to address the larger problem. He cautioned he had not seen any specific legislation, but said he believes the federal government should address immigration reform.

“The problem is, the young person didn’t make the decision to come here legally and may not have a realistic option under current law to become legal. It’s not just (the issue) of college tuition," he said.

Even if the students were to graduate, he said, they could not be legally hired.

“Sounds like a great policy, saddle them with whatever (it) costs to go to college and then say, ‘Sorry, your dream is limited to higher education and no career,’ strikes me as shallow," he said.

Federal law mandates that children in the U.S. be educated from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students may not legally be asked their immigration status, so estimating how many illegal-immigrant students are in the school system is difficult.

Morse said he’s encouraged that the governor is taking an outspoken position early on. “I think it has a wonderful chance of passing this time," he said.

Students who live in Oregon illegally are considered out-of-state residents, which means they pay about $20,000 more per year at the University of Oregon than in-state students pay. Specifics on what 2013 legislation could look like are not yet known. The 2011 bill would have required that students intend to become citizens. Whether proposed legislation would clear a path to citizenship is unclear.

Alberto Dorantes graduated from Summit High School in Bend. He’s selling fruit around town with his family, but the 20-year-old would love to study psychology and music.

“There are a lot of young people, I think, that if this passes would be encouraged to go to college," Dorantes said.

Francisco Lopez, executive director of CAUSA Oregon, a human rights organization, said he’s not surprised to hear the governor’s public support.

“I think it reflects the current climate of the country. Latinos and people of color were very influential politically last election," Lopez said. He said that his organization has already been in talks with the governor and lawmakers on the issue.

Speaker of the House-designee Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, the granddaughter of immigrants from Eastern Europe, is on record in support.

House Republican Leader-elect Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, was more cautious, in part because specific legislation has yet to be unveiled.

“Our high school graduates deserve opportunities for employment and higher education," he said in an email. But, he warned, the state should move cautiously to not “cause unintended consequences."

MSNBC profile ignores the influence of Barbara Jordan Commission on NumbersUSA's founding

MSNBC today is suggesting that NumbersUSA's grassroots citizen army very well may stand in the way of the mass media's rush to proclaim "comprehensive immigration reform" (mass amnesty) a done deal in the next Congress. Thanks for the respect.

But the MSNBC article nearly completely neglects to inform readers about why we stand against both a mass amnesty and the current mass legal immigration of a million a year. And it is the "why" that gives us the great influence that MSNBC says we have with Congress.

When the American people realize they have a choice between filling millions of jobs with citizens of other countries or in filling them by putting millions of their fellow Americans back to work, polling shows their enthusiasm is for their struggling fellow citizens -- especially Black and Hispanic Americans who are suffering incredibly high jobless rates. The source of NumbersUSA's influence is that we work around attempts of most of the nation's elites to keep discussions of loosened labor markets out of the public eye.

I spent about 90% of my long interview with the MSNBC reporter talking about how I created NumbersUSA in 1996 to carry out the recommendations of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform that was chaired by the late civil rights icon Barbara Jordan -- and about how that commission was responding to a two-century debate about how loose or tight immigration policy should make the U.S. labor market. Looser labor markets hold down wages, while tighter labor markets push wages up and press employers to greater degrees of efficiency to justify the higher wages.

The Barbara Jordan Commission (video) came down on the side of a tighter U.S. labor market. So does NumbersUSA.

In a nutshell, those entities clammoring for CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) -- whether or not their intention -- are fighting for loosening a labor market that already is awash in excess labor. Some 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one. The CIR supporters are seeking a policy that will further devalue the labor of workers, depress wages and slow down the ability of any other economic efforts to lower the unemployment rates.

No wonder the elites who profit or gain power from high immigration want to nearly always racialize the issue and avoid the economic discussion -- and why they try to pretend that the Barbara Jordan Commission never existed.

The commission found that the renewal of mass immigration over the last 30 years has created great economic injustices against the most vulnerable members of our society. Fighting against those injustices has always been at the heart of NumbersUSA's activism, although neither that nor the commission itself was mentioned in the long MSNBC article.

As I note to nearly every reporter who calls -- and is left out of nearly every story that gets written -- NumbersUSA's goals were not plucked out of the air. They come from the recommendations of the federal commission. Those goals are to reduce annual permanent immigration in the short term from the approximately one million a year to around 500,000 by eliminating chain migration, the visa lottery and taking away the jobs magnet that feeds so many illegal immigrants eventually into the legal channels.

The MSNBC story refers to our "professions of moderation" that "are what’s most striking about Beck and Numbers USA" and says that pro-amnesty supporters say it is our moderation that makes us "so dangerous."

Our position and that of the Barbara Jordan Commission indeed are moderate and balance many interests. There are many reasons why more traditional numerical levels of immigration of around 250,000 a year would be better for the country, but the 500,000 as an immediate goal represents a great compromise with contending interests.

The hard-line ideologues are those who insist on continuing to give out another one million permanent work authorizations each year -- and ask for even more -- to compete directly with our own unemployed. NumbersUSA is always committed to reminding Americans that they have a choice for a different, more humane, immigration policy.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
 

Undocumented youth in Hillsboro weigh in on deportation deferral program

Born in Mexico but raised here, Johan Chavez of Hillsboro says returning to his native country would be like entering a different world.

Now 17 and a student at Hillsboro High School, he remembers traveling at age 7 by bus then car across the U.S. border with his family. Since then, he has lost fluency in his native tongue and identification with a culture that now seems foreign.

As an undocumented immigrant, however, it is he who has remained foreign -- something he struggles with.

"Honestly, in my opinion, I am 100 percent American," he said.

Chavez's status and outlook could merge, though, if he is approved for a renewable work permit through a federal program that would defer his deportation. With a Social Security number, he could get a bank account and a job. With a job, he could pay for college, a necessary step toward his dream of becoming a music teacher.

"I know everything I want to do in life," he said, "but basically I can't do anything without some type of legal status."

Chavez is one of an estimated 16,600 young illegal workers and students in Oregon who qualify for President Barack Obama's executive order program. To apply, they must prove they arrived in the United States before turning 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here for at least five years and are in school, graduated from high school or served in the military. They also cannot be convicted of certain crimes.

There is no data specific to Oregon about how many people have applied in the last three months. But of the 900,000 young immigrants believed to be eligible nationwide, only about 300,000 have so far applied, according to data released earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security.

Luis Guerra, legal coordinator and development associate for the immigrant rights group Causa, said the low number of filed applications can be explained by several factors.

One bottleneck effect, he said, is that many undocumented immigrants are relying on nonprofits for financial and legal assistance with the application process. Many of those organizations are struggling to keep up with demand, resulting in long waiting lists, he said.

"I would estimate the average cost per applicant, including government fees and receiving service from a nonprofit, to be somewhere in the $800 to $1,000 range," Guerra said. "That is not including transportation costs and time off work for many, especially when they have to travel from far places to Portland to either find the large concentration of services or go to a USCIS appointment."

Guerra said applicants may also have trouble submitting proof of identification. He said that for those who don't have passports or licenses, the only proof may come in the form of a consular identification from their country of origin's consulate in Oregon, which adds an extra step to the process.

The last main barrier was removed after the presidential election, Guerra said. Many were concerned that a government headed by Republican candidate Mitt Romney would have resulted in mass deportation, so they are just now coming forward to apply, he said.

For those who have applied, the process can be as short as two months, said Causa's executive director, Francisco Lopez. Many applications received in August have been approved. Some immigrants from around the state have already gotten their work permits and begun to apply for driver's licenses. Most, however, are still waiting for the news that could dramatically change their lives.

Maria Gonzalez, 20, of Aloha is anxious but hopeful that her application will be approved. With her paperwork and fingerprints completed, all that's left is to wait for a response.

"I'm just nervous because basically I'm juggling," she said. "I could have made a stupid mistake on the application and ruined it. It's scary to think that I may not get it."

The Mexico native remembers cautiously walking through the desert border at age 10. Now she is a student at Portland Community College, hoping to attain a career as a nurse or physician's assistant.

For Gonzalez, deferred action is a means to fulfill her potential. Graduating from Aloha High School in 2010 was terrifying, she said, because illegal status kept her from getting any of the scholarships she had applied for.

"Since I live in a single-parent home, once I graduated I was on my own," she said. "All my life, I thought I was pretty smart, but it brought me down to reality knowing that I didn't have the money to go to school, even though I had the head."

Ulises Olvera's status as a gay, undocumented Latino student has afforded him more luck in financing his education.

Olvera, 21, never thought he would get to go to college. Now he attends Portland Community College Rock Creek in Hillsboro, which he has been able to fund through his job as equity ambassador at the multicultural student center. The Pride Foundation, an organization that supports equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, also awarded Olvera a $4,500 scholarship, he said.

"I didn't think I would be able to get into school in the first place," he said. "But anything is possible. I'm pretty successful -- getting my higher education, making a difference at a college setting -- and that's very empowering."

Even so, he said, acceptance into the deferred action program would open up a whole new set of doors for scholarships and work opportunities.

But first things first. If his application is approved, Olvera said, he will break in the new work permit by using it to get a license.

"I depend on public transportation," he said. "I want to drive because right now I live in Beaverton and my parents live in Jewell. I barely get to see them."

Legislative Days are coming

This month (December 10th, 11th and 12th) citizens have a great opportunity to meet, in person, with their elected Legislators. Legislators schedule this time to be in their offices to meet with constituents and attend meetings at the Capitol. OFIR encourages anyone that is able, to call and make an appointment to meet, in person, with your Legislator during those days (or any other day you can get an appointment).

There will likely be two bills we will be working to defeat in the 2013 Legislative session and we need all hands on deck. We are working to stay ahead of the curve and hope to influence Legislators that might be "on the fence" about giving driver licenses to illegal aliens or instate tuition benefits to illegal aliens. Both issues have gotten a lot of attention in past sessions, but OFIR and dedicated citizens have defeated those bills every time. But, the job isn't finished and we must not let up...even for a moment. Our opponents are pressuring (and attempting to guilt) Legislators into passing these two destructive bills. We must not let this happen.

Illegal aliens and their advocates are doing everything they can to get a foothold in Oregon. Unfortunately, there are many Legislators who are attempting to help them, too.

OFIR members and friends, please call and make an appointment with your Legislators and let them know you do NOT support either of these moves to "legitimize" the presence of illegal aliens in Oregon.

If you aren't certain who your Oregon State Legislators are, visit this website http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/home.htm for all the information you will need. If you make an appointment, have a meeting, get a response to an email or any other contact, OFIR encourages you to share your information with us.

If you are uncomfortable or just simply too scared to have a face to face meeting, OFIR encourages you to just go and visit the Capitol. The entire building is open to the public, so you can walk the halls, see the offices, look in the hearing rooms and get familiar with the building that controls our state.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 10, 11, 12 - Legislative Days at the Capitol

Friday, December 14 - Salem City Club - Sound Off! Winners and Losers, Beefs and Bouquets: A Look Back at 2012 ...Friday, December 14, 2012

Alert date: 
December 4, 2012
Alert body: 

For our last program of 2012, a panel of notable Oregon journalists will look back on the past year. They will have an open microphone and free reign to speak their minds on a variety of topics, from local culture to national politics to the state of journalism today. This is the Fourth Estate’s chance to praise and blame, declare winners and losers, to sound off about annoyances, inconveniences, scandals, outrages, contradictions, and seemingly unsolvable problems. Join us for a fun-filled assessment of 2012.

Bill Church, our guest moderator, has been Executive Editor of Statesman Journal Media / Gannett Co., Inc., since June, 2006. Prior to coming to Salem, he served as editor at the Elmira, NY. Star Gazette, the Richmond, IN Palladium-
Item, the Battle Creek, MI Enquirer, and the Wausau, WI Daily Herald.

Emily Grosvenor is a McMinnville, Oregon-based writer and reporter specializing in profiles of people, food and place. She also creates strategic public relations campaigns and writes copy for corporate clients. Her magazine work and commentary has been published frequently in Publishers Weekly, on Salon.com, in Sunset, Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, AAA's Via, The Statesman-Journal, Salem Weekly, Oregon Quarterly, Oregon Humanities Magazine, and Northwest Palate. She is the books editor for Eugene Magazine
 

Dick Hughes joined the Salem Statesman
Journal in 1981. He has worked as a regional reporter, city hall reporter, state government /higher education reporter,as a loaner at USA Today, a night city editor, city editor,and newsroom trainer. He is currently Editorial Editor of the Statesman Journal and is a member of the National Conference of Editorial
Writers.

April Baer reports on government, politics, crime and courts, military affairs and other subjects for Oregon Public Broadcasting. From 2004 to 2009, she was host of OPB’s Morning Edition. In 2007 she was a finalist in the Public Radio Talent Quest. Before coming to OPB in 2004, she'd worked as a studio engineer, host, reporter, and occasional music host at several stations in Ohio.

Hasso Hering served as Editor of the Albany Democrat Herald from 1978 to 2012. In 1964, he enrolled at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge) and graduated in 1967. Hering took a job as a reporter at the Ashland Daily Tidings. In late 1968, he was named Tidings editor, a position he held until August 1977. In 1978, he was named editor of the Democrat Herald. During his prolific career, Mr. Hering is estimated to have written more than 15,000 editorials and columns. He continues to write and speak about issues of the day.

Join us for what promises to be a delightful and entertaining program on Friday, December 14, 2012, at Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill in the Dye House. For lunch reservations email rsvp@salemcityclub.com before noon Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Parking is free. Doors open at 11:30 AM. For more information on this program please go to www.salemcityclub.com.

Join Us!

Friday, December 14
Noon
Willamette Heritage Center
at The Mill
1313 Mill Street, SE
Salem, OR 97301-6351

For luncheon reservations, call 503.370.2808 or email rsvp@salemcityclub.com
by noon, the Wednesday before each program

Register online at www.SalemCityClub.com

Member Lunch, $12
Member No Lunch, No Cost
Nonmember Lunch, $15
Nonmember No Lunch: $5

Vegetarian or vegan entrees are available and must be requested at time of RSVP

Free parking
Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

 

Republicans Leak Draft of GOP-DREAM Act

Last week, a group of Republican Senators working on a GOP-led alternative to the DREAM Act released details of their plan to the Daily Caller. (Daily Caller, Nov. 15, 2012) The draft legislation, entitled the ACHIEVE Act, would put illegal aliens up to the age of 32 on a path to citizenship. (Id.)

This path to citizenship starts through the creation of new non-immigrant visa category, the W-visa. Under the Republican plan, illegal aliens would be eligible for a W-1 visa if they:

  • have either:
    • completed high-school and are admitted to college or earned a college degree, or
    • completed high school and are enlisted in or have completed four years of military service,
  • have entered the country before the age of 14,
  • have lived in the U.S. continuously for five years,
  • have not committed a felony, two misdemeanors with a jail term of over 30 days, or a crime of moral turpitude,
  • are not subject to a final order of removal ,
  • pay a $525 fee, and
  • are under the age of 28 (or 32 if they have a bachelor's degree from a U.S. university).

Once an illegal alien receives a W-1 visa, the alien has six years to obtain a bachelor's, associate's, vocational/technical, or graduate degree, or to complete four years of military service. If the alien meets this threshold, the alien is then eligible for a W-2 visa. Under a W-2 visa, an alien must then either maintain employment for 36 months, or be in enrolled in or complete a graduate degree program within four years.

Then, after the four-year period is up, an alien who has fulfilled the requirements of a W-2 visa becomes eligible for a W-3 "permanent non-immigrant" visa. Although the authors of the ACHIEVE Act say it does not provide a special pathway to citizenship, the W-3 is renewable in four-year increments, and its recipients are free to adjust status to a green card via pathways already set up under current law.

Congressional sources say retiring Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) were working on the ACHIEVE Act with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this summer, but put the plan on hold following President Obama's announcement he would be granting deferred action and work authorization to illegal aliens under the age of 31. (Fox News, Nov. 16, 2012)The text is "a working draft of what Sen. Rubio began working on over the summer," Sen. Marco Rubio's spokesman Alex Conant confirmed with the Huffington Post.(Huffington Post, Nov. 15, 2012)

The same day the GOP draft was leaked to the Daily Caller, Sen. Rubio called for a "permanent solution" for illegal alien minors during the annual Washington Ideas Forum. (Fox News Latino, Nov. 16, 2012) "[T]he issue of kids that are in this country undocumented is not an immigration issue, it's a humanitarian one," Rubio told the audience. (Id.) Sen. Rubio's spokesman indicated he is still finalizing the timing and specifics of the legislation. (Huffington Post, Nov. 15, 2012)

True Immigration Reform Must be Rational, Affordable, and Manageable

H.L. Mencken once observed that “complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.” In the aftermath of the 2012 elections, both political parties seem poised to implement a simple, easy to understand, and disastrous solution to our nation’s complex immigration problem.

There is no disputing that immigration reform is urgently needed. The problem is that the framework for reform, long offered by the Democratic Party and now belatedly embraced by the leadership of the Republican Party in the aftermath of an electoral defeat, is essentially our existing policy on steroids. If we are ever going to have an immigration policy that enjoys broad public support, we must start by making it work for the broader public interest. True reform must result in a policy that is rational, affordable, and manageable.

Making Immigration Rational

A rational immigration policy would select immigrants based on their likelihood to succeed in a post-industrial 21st century economy. We must, therefore, end our current policy of chain migration that results in the admission of millions of people whose skills do not meet the needs of our economy. The system must be redesigned to admit more limited numbers of people who bring unique skills, talents, and education that will expand the productive potential of the American economy.

A rational immigration policy must include a “stress test” that assesses the impact of immigration on American workers and makes adjustments accordingly. Certainly, during times of sustained high unemployment, U.S. immigration policies must have a mechanism for reducing the influx. The impact of perhaps tens of millions more people competing for jobs in the manufacturing, construction, and service sectors would signal the death knell of the blue collar middle class.

Making Immigration Affordable

A more rational immigration policy would also be a more affordable one – an important consideration for a nation with a $16 trillion accumulated debt that grows by upwards of $1 trillion annually. U.S. households headed by immigrants are 50 percent more likely to rely on some form of government assistance than those headed by a native born resident.

Any tax revenues generated by immigrants who arrive here poorly educated and poorly skilled lag far behind the costs required for their education, health care, and housing. When the costs associated with means-tested benefits for their U.S. born children are factored in, the price tag for maintaining the current system is unsustainable. Alternatively, immigrants who are selected based on their skills are far more likely to be self-sufficient and net tax contributors.

Making Immigration Manageable

Future flows of immigration must also be manageable. The sheer volume of today’s immigration flow – more than 1 million legal admissions each year and hundreds of thousands of guest workers – make the system virtually impossible to manage effectively. Only by reducing the influx, establishing clear criteria for admission, closing loopholes or frivolous avenues for backdoor admissions, and streamlining the adjudication process can we once again reassert control over immigration.

Manageability also requires having systems in place that minimize the possibility that people who break the rules can succeed. Most importantly, we must eliminate the strongest magnet to illegal immigration – the availability of jobs to illegal aliens. To accomplish this, all U.S. employers must be required to check the work eligibility of the people they hire using the E-Verify system

Finally, it must be moral. Americans must be confident that all laws will be enforced consistently, and not be held hostage to the political agenda of whatever administration holds office. As we have witnessed in the past several years, the integrity of our immigration policy can be undermined by a president who simply decides he will not enforce laws that do not serve his political aims.

Unfortunately, the deal now being discussed in Washington is neither rational, affordable, manageable nor moral. Its centerpiece is a massive, expensive, and chaotic amnesty plan to be followed by the expansion of family chain migration to satisfy Democratic special interests, while piling on some additional skilled worker visas to appease business interests.

True "reform" means solving today's problems in a manner that prevents any recurrence down the line. Is anyone willing to provide this kind of leadership? After years of fruitless effort to truly reform our nation’s immigration policies, it seems the two parties may find agreement on one idea– a concept that is simple, easy to understand, and wrong.

Denial of driver’s licenses called bias

LINCOLN — Maria Marquez-Hernandez used to collect volunteer experiences for her resume because she couldn’t legally hold a job.

Now the 20-year-old architecture student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is looking to earn real work experience along with a wage.

She is among the first wave of young immigrants brought to this country illegally who have been granted two-year work authorization under a new presidential program.

“It felt amazing,” said Marquez-Hernandez, whose parents brought her from Mexico to Omaha when she was 5 years old. “I no longer have the fear of what am I going to do when I get out of college.”

Her relief was tempered somewhat when she recently learned she won’t be granted a driver’s license in Nebraska, which could make any job search more difficult.

Gov. Dave Heineman wasn’t playing chicken three months ago when he promised to deny driver’s licenses to young illegal immigrants given work authorization under a program called “deferred action for childhood arrivals.”

As of last week, the state had rejected license applications from eight immigrants who qualified under the federal program, said Bev Neth, director of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.

The license rejections have riled immigration lawyers, who called the state’s policy discriminatory.

“It seems pretty clear in our statutes that anyone who has a work permit issued by Homeland Security is eligible for a driver’s license,” said Omaha attorney Mark Curley. “For some reason, this group has been singled out.”

The Obama administration’s deferred action program focuses on immigrants under age 31 brought to the country illegally before age 16. To receive the two-year work permit, the applicants must have no criminal record and must be in school or have a high school diploma.

The president intended it as a step toward the Dream Act, a legislative proposal that sought to put young, educated illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. The proposal has twice failed to gain the support of a majority of lawmakers.

Critics argued the president thwarted the will of Congress by granting deferred action to young immigrants. They also said it represented a political move by Obama to shore up support among Latinos ahead of Election Day.

Heineman has said Nebraska won’t provide state benefits such as driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally.

“It’s not good policy,” Darcy Tromanhauser, with Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, said of the governor’s stance. “We have talented youth who grew up in Nebraska, and they want to work, but they can’t get to work.”

Advocacy groups who support the deferred action program say roughly three dozen immigrants in Nebraska have been approved so far. Federal officials reported, as of Nov. 15, nearly 53,300 immigrants have received the approval nationally out of about 309,000 applicants.

Advocates estimate as many as 1.7 million people could be eligible for the program.

Nebraska is one of three states to declare it won’t grant driver’s licenses to immigrants who obtain deferred action approval. The others are Arizona and Michigan, said Tanya Broder, a staff lawyer with the California-based National Immigration Law Center.

About 15 states have either started granting licenses to deferred action applicants or indicated they will, Broder said. Other states have not yet announced their intent.

Iowa has not decided whether it will issue licenses to deferred action applicants, said Kim Snook, director of driver services for the Iowa Department of Transportation. The state has not received an application, she added.

In Nebraska, a federal employment authorization card represents a valid form of identification when applying for a driver’s license, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website. Once the immigrants receive work authorization, they also are qualified to apply for a Social Security card.

The state runs information from immigrants who apply for driver’s licenses through a real-time database operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applicants who come back with a code denoting their acceptance in the deferred action program are automatically denied licenses, Neth said.

When told that some lawyers have called the denials a violation of state law, Neth replied, “That’s their interpretation.”

State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, an advocate of strict immigration enforcement, commended Nebraska officials for not abdicating their responsibility.

He questioned how illegal immigrants can lay claim to a privilege they are not entitled to receive in the first place.

“What it essentially comes down to is the federal government pushing amnesty on the states,” Janssen said.

Dazmi Castrejon, an immigration attorney from Omaha, said others who came to the country illegally have been able to obtain Nebraska licenses because they had valid work authorization.

Such applicants fall under a category called “cancellation of removal.” They have to have been in the country for at least 10 years and free of serious criminal convictions.

Neth said the assorted classification of immigrants by the federal immigration agency is confusing, but she was unaware of illegal immigrants who obtained driver’s licenses in Nebraska.

Omaha lawyer Sylvia Rodriguez said several categories of undocumented workers have received licenses in Nebraska. She sided with those who think Nebraska’s policy singles out one type of immigrant.

“I don’t think,” Rodriguez said. “I’m sure they’re discriminating against this one group.”

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